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Wordle, the online game — a puzzle that tasks players with working out a mystery word — has quickly become a viral sensation, with around 300,000 players at the start of 2022. By late January, that number had surged to nearly 3 million. It’s been deemed a “drug” and an “obsession,” and was recently bought for at least $1 million by the New York Times. Wordle’s now-iconic grid has been used in ads for Domino’s Pizza and Guinness beer alike. It’s even inspired imitators, like the cheekily-named BRDL, which asks players to guess the correct “banding code,” or four-letter nicknames for birds.
The game’s concept is simple enough: Once a day, players are given six chances to guess the correct five-letter mystery word. (If you guess a letter correctly, one of the tiles in the game’s grid turns yellow; if you guess the right letter in the right place, it turns green.)
The same word appears for every player, anywhere in the world.
And much like its game design, Wordle’s appeal might seem similarly straightforward — a dependable diversion for our pandemic-addled brains, releasing a rush of dopamine each time the game’s coveted green boxes pop up.
As we get closer and closer to the answer with each new guess, we get a little bit more confident that we’re on the right track.
Our brains are probably computing the likelihood that the next guess is right. Then, when those five green letters are revealed at the end of the puzzle — even if you didn’t guess them correctly — it gives players a boost that psychologists call a sudden influx of fluency. In other words, that satisfying ‘aha!’ moment that feels so good, and that we’re hard-wired to chase.
Another of Wordle’s uniquely compelling aspects is that a new puzzle is only offered once a day. That helps keep the experience fresh and novel and allow players to really relish the experience.
Because you know that there’s only one [puzzle a day], maybe there’s some scarcity involved.
This may be the only fun little thing you’ll do today, so maybe people savour it.
Those grey, green and yellow boxes populating your social media feed aren’t just visual clutter — they’re a testament to the game’s built-in shareability. Since everyone is trying to guess the same answer, Wordle has quickly become a virtual water cooler, allowing players to share scores with colleagues, friends and family members with ease. In short, it creates a common in-group identity, which helps us forge stronger bonds with others.
There’s another reason that sharing our Wordle grids with others — and seeing them shared back — feels so good.
It’s a striking example of what psychologists call the shared reality theory, or our need to align our own internal, subjective experiences with the experiences of others.
We want verification that our experience is similar to the experience of those we care about.
Self-help | Positivity | Grace
All about the viral word game.
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