Why the Wordle online game went viral, according to Psychology | Smart News


This image shows Wordle’s instruction page.
Photo illustration by Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Twitter users may have noticed more and more people posting gray, green and yellow squares in a grid on their feeds this month. On other platforms, memes, art and even the cross stitch inspired by these matrices have appeared on the Internet. The source is the latest pandemic craze: an online game called wordle.

The goal is to guess a five-letter mystery word in as few tries as possible. “After each guess, the color of the tiles will change to show how close your guess was to the word,” the instructions say. The simple premise is reminiscent of the color guessing game, Brain.

Green means the letter is in the right place. Yellow means the letter is in the word, but in the wrong place, and gray means the letter is not in the word at all. The game can only be played once per day and the answer – usually a common word in English – is the same for everyone. Players have six chances to solve the puzzle. Then they can share their game as a colorful grid without letters, which does not spoil the answer for others.

Wordle exploded in popularity as the new year dawned. In November, the game had 90 players, but now it has more than 2 million, reports Kyle Chayka for the New Yorker.

Thi Nguyen, a philosophy professor at the University of Utah and an expert on games, wrote a Twitter feed offering his opinion on why the game went viral.

“The smartest thing about Wordle is its social media presence,” he said. writing. “The best thing about Wordle is the graphic design of the shareable Wordle board. There’s a huge amount of information – and drama – packed into this little graphic.

He describes each game of Wordle as an “arc of decisions, attempts and failures”.

“I don’t know of any other game that has such a neat synopsis graphically, where you can see the whole arc of another’s attempt so quickly,” he wrote.

A screenshot of a Wordle game, with the solution "Robot"

Green means the letter is in the right place. Yellow means the letter is in the word, but in the wrong place, and gray means the letter is not in the word at all.


Play stimulates both the language and logic processing areas of the brain, says psychologist Lee Chambers Initiateds Sian Bradley, and this leads to the release of dopamine, a chemical that causes people to looking for a positive experience again.

Wordle’s creator, Josh Wardle, originally made it as a gift to his partner, who loves word games like New York Times‘ Spelling bee.

Because all users try to guess the same word, everyone shares a common experience and struggle.

“The fact that we’re all trying to solve the same puzzle brings us closer together,” Chambers said. Initiated. “There’s both a sense of community in terms of ‘How hard did people find it this time around? and a competitive angle in terms of ‘How did I manage to come up with this word compared to everyone else?'”

In the beginning, the game used all five-letter words as solutions, says Wardle Slateis Nicole Holliday and Ben Zimmer, but he says it wasn’t very fun.

“Think about it, if the first time you play Wordle, the answer is a word you’ve never heard of, I think you’ll feel cheated,” he said. Slate.

So Wardle’s partner ranked about 13,000 five-letter words using another game he created, indicating whether she knew a word, didn’t know it, or might know it, for example. Slate. This process reduced the list to a subset of approximately 2,500 solution words.

Wardle originally created the game for himself and his partner, so he has no ads or any other monetization. It also only requires a web browser to play.

“The game is really human and just enjoyable.” he says Slate. “And that really resonates with where we are right now in the world and with COVID.”


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