Why this simple pun adds meaning to our pandemic days

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The popular word puzzle game has captivated mobile users for its simple interface and addictive gameplay, while courting copycat apps looking to cash in on Wordle’s popularity.

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  • Grey, yellow and green wordless boxes connect a community across social media.
  • The game can be played on most web browsers or desktop smartphones.
  • Waiting 24 hours for the next Wordle puzzle may be the calm we need right now.

Every day, it seems, many of us struggle with the same word. Social media is littered with images of gray, yellow and green boxes. Why? In a word, Wordle.

Those of us who play all play are a bit obsessed with it. The free game, developed by software engineer and New York resident Josh Wardle, is quite simple: you have six chances to solve the five-letter word of the day, with each incorrect answer giving you a clue as to which letters are correct and those that are not. .

When the British-born puzzle enthusiast created Wordle for him and his partner to enjoy together, Wardle told TechCrunch he had no idea the project would amass 2 million players in just a few weeks.

Tracking the game’s success is as nebulous as anything going viral, and when Wardle shared the game with his family and a few friends, he was as shocked as anyone to learn that it’s made its way to the Twitter feeds of academics, scholars, journalists, and gamers who loved puzzles.

After shelving a prototype of the game in 2013, Wardle returned to it during the pandemic and honed its features to the version we’re all feverishly playing today. The New York Times said it had gone from 90 people playing on November 1 to recently over 300,000 about two months later.

Competition is fierce on social media, with users en masse copying their Wordle du Jour results – small green, gray and yellow emojis communicate fury or favor from players trying to be the sharpest blacksmith.

How you won Wordle: Share your best result with us on Twitter @usatodaytech

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Writer and professor Roxane Gay has done the unthinkable and repeatedly solved the Wordle of the day in two tries. Twitter spaces have been created for users to post their Wordle results and respond directly to each other. Some have achieved reputations of mythical proportions for simply solving the word immediately, an achievement a Twitter user indicated as possible after reviewing the game’s JavaScript source code.

While many of its users pushed Wordle into the realm of strong competition, the game also courted several copycat apps, so much so that tech giant Apple began removing Wordle clones from its App Store.

The cultural conversation born out of a simple play on words continues to transform. Gamers around the world are sharing their tips for consistently solving the Wordle of the Day, others have pointed out that being bad at games like Wordle doesn’t make you stupid, and a copycat creator has publicly apologized after his monetized clone received an immediate backlash online.

Word games have stood the test of time as engaging, low-stakes entries into a space often occupied by avid gamers of the medium. Wordle leaves plenty of room for newcomers and word enthusiasts to co-exist, all vying for the same rewarding green and sometimes yellow squares to nudge them in the right direction.

It’s the talk of the town now because of the players – grandparents and their grandchildren playfully blame each other for missing the Wordle du Jour, while reporters jokingly throw shade on their colleagues who guess once too often. It invites all age groups and skill levels, while requiring very little equipment; the game can be played on most smartphone web browsers.

The best part is that it’s totally free.

Working on one puzzle a day feels disappointing at first, but only having access to one puzzle a day takes us back to a time when popular things like serialized TV were also to be expected. We’ve reached near critical mass with bingeable content, and waiting 24 hours for the next Wordle helps stave off our insatiable desire to consume popular things at the same time.

Wordle’s charm is not just in its simplicity, but in its contributions to public discourse – that actors from different spaces can engage and encourage conversation despite the specter of the pandemic still looming. Wordle’s success is reminiscent of the days of Flappy Bird and Pokémon GO, with the latter maintaining its upward trend since its inception. Mobile games have the ability to include both casual and avid gamers, and Wardle’s hit puzzle game is proof that the reach of the medium continues to have a significant impact.

Jamal Michel is a game editor for color nerds. You can follow him on Twitter at @jamalnoc.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

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