If you are unfortunate enough to be an active user on the hellscape that is Twitter, you have undoubtedly seen those ominous gray, yellow and green squares with a foreboding label: Wordle 226, 4/6. If you know, you know, and if you don’t know, your life is about to change.
Although it looks like thousands of Twitter users have started speaking in code, the answer to the Wordle’s mystery is simple: every 24 hours, you have six chances to guess a five-letter word.
Upon submitting your initial guess, a gray square means the character is not in the word; a yellow square means the character is in the word, but in the wrong placement; and a green square means that the character is in the word and in the right placement.
When you open the website, all five-letter words seem to disappear from your brain’s vocabulary when you have a mere six chances to one up your friends. Alongside a score-sharing feature that entices friends to compete with one another, these features have enabled Wordle to capture the attention of internet users across the world.
Created by Josh Wardle — and named after an ingenious riff on his last name — the game was originally made for his partner, a lover of word puzzle games. Seemingly overnight, the game exploded; it made its way into casual conversations, social media feeds, and yes, even The Hoya’s office.
But what makes the game so addictive? Presumably, it’s a sly way of flexing our lexicons and linguistic knowledge, a humble brag of being a secret English major-in-training. Guessing the word in the least amount of tries is ideal, though consistent low scores might warrant suspicion and accusations of cheating from your peers.
Example A: You guess the Wordle in one try — no one is that lucky!
Example B: You fail the Wordle on your phone, only to magically solve it in two guesses from your computer. You are not fooling anyone.
Example C: You see a peer playing Wordle, note that they already have some correct guesses down on their screen, and start from there. This author is guilty as charged.
Very quickly, one must develop strategies. Do you always start with the same word, trying to shove as many vowels into it as you can? Popular favorites for this strategy include “adieu” and “irate.” Or, do you proceed to risk guessing a word with a letter already thrown out in hopes of getting a different placement correct? There is no correct answer, but the prize of joining an imaginary circle of winners is always the same.
Moreover, your Wordle results tell an intricate story. You can tell when someone struggled to find the first letter of the word, guessed until a character stuck or clutched at the last possible chance. Every day, every Wordle, is a new tale to investigate.
As a daily Wordle player, I have yet to decipher its secret formula. For me, it’s merely a bite-sized treat in between classes, a break during homework assignments and closure at the end of a long day. With Wordle’s daily release, I can always look forward to the next day of play; life becomes blissful and beautiful.
At this point, anything can be Wordle-inspired. Take your pick from this exhaustive list of clones: Taylordle (Taylor Swift-themed Wordle, a personal favorite), Hogwardle (Harry Potter-themed Wordle), Dordle (guess two words at once, if you’re brave enough), and Letterle (I just have to ask — why?).
In addition, Wordle’s square template has reached beyond clone games. Organizations have begun to use the easy-to-recognize formula for political flyers, and one organization used the Wordle template to promote awareness of climate change.
Unfortunately, Wordle’s unprecedented rise has brought the attention of corporate America, the killer of all trends. Featuring pervasive images of Wordle’s group of squares, the Wordle-inspired meme format these brands have co-opted follows a “not a Wordle, but [sic]” formula. McDonalds, Buffalo Wild Wings and OREO Cookie are all culprits of this stale-on-arrival trend, using the phrase to promote an aspect of their brand.
On Jan. 31, 2022, it was announced that the original Wordle was sold by Wardle to The New York Times. While it’s promised that Wordle will remain free-to-play after the full transfer and acquisition, there is no telling if this promise will be broken years down the line.
Is Wordle going to become the next forgotten online game, or will it become a proud notch on our New York Times leaderboards?
Despite its lack of immunity from the greedy hands of Corporate Twitter, it is hard to deny Wordle’s towering presence. Is it a genius online game, short-term trend, or the newest casualty of corporate involvement? At this point, everyone will probably give you a different answer — and Wordle’s future is only just beginning.
The future of Wordle’s grip on our lives is unclear. Alas, until its dying breath, I will await the flood of social media notifications at midnight: Wordle in four. Guess what, Twitter? I got the Wordle in three tries, and my green squares look like a staircase — beat that.