Wordle Creator Overwhelmed By Global Success Of Blockbuster Puzzle | Mind games
Wordle, a deceptively simple online word game, has seen a meteoric rise since its launch last fall, from 90 daily players in November to 300,000 in early January, to 2 million last weekend. But, for its creator, the game’s rapid success aroused both anxiety and excitement.
The game became an unexpected popular success for Josh Wardle, who developed it for his puzzle-loving partner. The pair played it for fun on their couch, and other users slowly started to join them.
Every day there is a new word to guess, and players only have six chances to identify it. Part of Wordle’s popularity is believed to be due to the fact that in an age when apps aggressively competed for your attention and time, the game was purposely designed to be played once a day, and without features designed to promote its growth such as push notifications and email registrations. .
As his popularity snowballed on social media, Wardle, a Brooklyn-based software engineer from Wales, began to feel overwhelmed by the response. “It’s going viral, it’s not great to be honest. I feel a sense of responsibility towards the players. I think I really owe it to them for making things work and making sure everything is working properly.
But he takes comfort in knowing that his game brought joy to people at a difficult time. “I get emails from people saying things like ‘hey we can’t see our parents because of Covid right now but we are sharing our Wordle results every day’. During this weird situation, it’s an effortless and frictionless way for people to connect. “
The game really took off when a user in New Zealand (where the game is particularly popular) posted their results in a sequence of emojis on Twitter, prompting Wardle to create a feature that would make it easier for users to share theirs. , in a visually appealing way. Rubik’s Cube style grid setup.
Wardle also thinks the game is so popular because it’s easy and accessible, but also challenging. “Even though I play it every day, I still get a sense of accomplishment when I do it – it makes me feel smart, and people like it.”
Part of the appeal of Wardle’s game is that it is reminiscent of a more innocent internet age, according to gaming experts. Users have grown cynical about the ethically questionable use of their data by many apps and attempts to monetize gambling or promote addictive behavior.
“The internet is in a terrible state right now, but it’s great because it doesn’t do all of these nasty things. This is what the web looked like when we first got it, it was a lot more fun, ”said Adam Procter, who leads the game design course at the University of Southampton.
Professor Chris Headleand, head of game design technology at the University of Staffordshire, added that Wordle may have benefited from his timing as well. A daily little game is a welcome reminder to take a break for those who work from home. Likewise, people have been missing out on opportunities to connect with family and friends during in-person games during the pandemic.
The rules were also intuitive for people who grew up playing word games like Scrabble or a code breaking game like Mastermind, said Steve Bromley, author of How To Be A Games User Researcher. Wordle combined this familiarity with an opportunity to show mastery and improve performance over time, a mix that allowed players to enter a “state of flux.”
The game has also proven popular among mathematicians, who like to apply information theory to develop the best strategies for success. A tweet shared algorithm he said would result in the answer 50% of the time, or a choice of three 90% of the time.
Others have found which words are the best to start with to maximize your chances of success. One suggestion is to start with farewell, which has a lot of vowels. Tim Gowers, professor of mathematics at Cambridge, suggested choosing two words with many commonly used letters where none is reproduced, for example “tripe” followed by “coals”.
Gowers explained that the game dabbled in the theory of entropy, which is a measure of the amount of information needed to specify a particular object (Wordle’s word of the day) from a collection of objects (all five-letter words from Word’s dictionary).
The question Wardle is currently grappling with is whether to evolve the game further. “I have to be really thoughtful. It’s not my full time job and I don’t want it to become a source of stress and anxiety in my life. If I make any changes I would like to think those are changes I would have made even if it was right [my partner and I] playing.”