Oh My Word — The Simplicity & Benefits of Wordle

Picture of a mobile user playing Wordle

It all started with a boy, standing in front of a girl, asking her to love…his word game. I am, of course, talking about Wordle.

Initially created earlier this year by British software engineer Josh Wardle for his partner Palak Shah, who struggled with boredom during lockdown, Wordle is now a sweeping worldwide hit. It could even become the most popular puzzle game of all time. Sudokwho? The game is free to play, and this reportedly won’t change for now despite its recent purchase by the New York Times for an undisclosed sum in the “low seven figures”.

Simplicity

One of the key reasons for Wordle’s widespread success is its simplicity — catnip for someone like me, whose career in UX involved the design of intuitive, easy-to-use digital products.

The game involves players attempting to guess a five-letter word in six tries. They’re presented with an empty block of five rows by six columns, starting by entering a word of their choice (various theories exist as to the best word to kick off the game) in the top row. The tiles then change colour: letters in the target word and in the right place turn green; letters in the target word but in the wrong place turn yellow; and letters not in the target word at all turn grey. Each subsequent play is informed by what the player learned from the last.

If you’ve never heard of Wordle, first, may I ask: under which pile of Scrabble tiles have you been hiding? And second, as an example, below you’ll find my go from the day I wrote the first half of this blog, which unusually took the maximum number of tries to win. A pox on your house, Wordle!

My Wordle game ending in the word ‘shake’

Wordle is accessible only using a web browser, not via an app, and there’s a single solution per day, which resets at midnight. Thank the dictionary gods for both because the game is so enjoyable it could easily become oh-so addictive — and in today’s digital age, the last thing we need is more time with our heads buried in wifi-connected devices.

On that note, I wonder if I should also tell you about the legions of wacky Wordle alternatives and spinoffs rapidly filling up cyberspace — such as Worldle (look again), Subwaydle, Absurdle, and Nerdle. Or the versions challenging players to multiple Wordles at once — like Quordle (four), Octordle (eight), or even my mind-boggling, absolutely-not-easy-to-use-in-any-shape-or-form nemesis, Sedecordle (16). No, it’s certainly wise to keep those to myself. And don’t get me started on the low-grade clones!

Other benefits

Ahem…back to the real deal itself. I don’t just love Wordle for its simplicity. The fact that everyone plays the same word each day also seems to have united people across the globe (in joy, when we correctly guess the word, or frustration, when we don’t) at a time of growing division and hardship. The game shows that, despite differing wants and needs and thoughts, we’re all looking to connect with each other in some way. It reminds us of our humanity.

Further, Wordle is doing wonders for mental health, with scores of users reporting a boost in mood since making the game a part of their daily routine. Unsurprising really — we’ve long known that solving puzzles (especially those with some novelty element) is great for cognitive health, helping to stimulate and challenge various parts of the brain. The more exercise our brains get, the healthier they are, but in no way is this a suggestion you quit your job and spend all day every day playing Wordle and the cornucopia of alternatives and spinoffs I definitely didn’t tell you about above.

It appears Wordle has also made a name for itself in the business world, with leaders turning to the game as a team bonding exercise. In a recent Twitter post, EY’s Global Chairman & CEO, Carmine Di Sibio, explained that he’s a Wordle fan. He wrote: “At a recent meeting with our leaders, we had some fun with our own version of everyone’s new favorite word game, Wordle”. Carmine even shared his go to starter word: “ADIEU”.

Adieu

It turns out that ADIEU is a fairly popular (and contentious) starter word. One Twitter user called it a “terrible first guess”, while another joked: “On the day that the wordle answer is ‘adieu’, social media will implode”. Before I bid you adieu myself, I’m happy to report that I’m finishing this blog the day after I shared the Wordle above, so we can have another shot. Let’s kick off today with Carmine’s fave starter word.

Another of my Wordle games, this time ending in the word ‘dodge’

Well, well, well. Some may scoff at ADIEU, but it served me well here — certainly far better than yesterday’s WEARY. With both of those words highly representative of my current state (it’s 11pm on a week night), I shall leave you with another you can try sometime: ADIOS!

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Behavioural psychologist; AI-quisitive; EY UK&I Client Technology & Innovation Officer. Views my own & don't represent EY’s position. catrionacampbell.com

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Catriona Campbell

Catriona Campbell

Behavioural psychologist; AI-quisitive; EY UK&I Client Technology & Innovation Officer. Views my own & don't represent EY’s position. catrionacampbell.com

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