Like millions of people worldwide, you may have caught the bug – not COVID, but the highly-addictive online word puzzle, Wordle, that has recently soared in popularity, popping up in daily social media feeds and connecting people across the miles. Any activity that challenges your memory and reasoning is beneficial for brain health – but the addiction lies in the ritual and patterns that provide a sense of routine and control for people during uncertain and stressful times.
Wordle was created by Josh Wardle during the pandemic for he and his partner who both enjoy solving puzzles. The simple online word puzzle grew from 90 players last November to an estimated 2 million in recent weeks. Each day there is a new word to guess, and players have just six attempts to work out the word of the day. There is only one puzzle each day and no ads, making the game a quiet space away from the noise of daily life. With the ability to share your successes (or failures) without giving away the answer, friends, families, and acquaintances can connect without getting into a deep discussion about politics or the pandemic.
To play the game you start by guessing a five-letter word. If a letter is correct and in the right spot it will appear as green, a yellow box indicates the correct letter but in the wrong spot and a grey box indicates the letter is not in the word of the day.
Solving the puzzle in three guesses or less gives people a boost and when the word is especially tricky, players can commiserate with one another through their socials. Whether you are a word person, or a numbers person, solving the puzzle is incredibly satisfying. The best part? The creator isn’t trying to monetize the puzzle, and if the game is to evolve, Wardle told The Guardian in a recent interview, he would “like to think they are changes I would have made even if it was just (my partner and I) playing”.
Wordle is not an app, it doesn’t need to be downloaded. You can visit the website here to play, but watch out for imposter sites. If you are color blind, there is a high contrast color feature in the settings as well as a Dark Theme and a Hard Mode in which any revealed hints must be used in subsequent guesses. The daily puzzle not only provides a space for mental exercise and peace, but it also connects people without conflict or a huge time commitment. While the world waits for another season of Ted Lasso, Wordle is a bright spot in each day that so many people needed right now.