Welcome to the world of Wordle, friends. Yes, you’re missing out if you’re not playing.
Wordle, the online word game with eye-catching green and yellow boxes, has become a viral success thanks to the fact that your friends are probably oversharing their scores.
You get six chances to guess a five-letter word once a day. Your score is sharable. And if you’re trying to ruin someone’s day by sharing the answer, then stop right there. The free game is so popular that Twitter has blocked an account that revealed the answer.
We asked UNLV social media experts to understand why the word puzzle is trending. Benjamin Burroughs is a professor of emerging media in the Hank Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies. Natalie Pennington is a professor in the communication studies department.
What makes Wordle unique?
Burroughs: Five letters, one word a day. There is a schedule and kind of consistency since the game keeps track of your scores each day and if you have maintained a streak. All of this, however, is reinforced by the connection of the game to social media.
How has social media helped contribute to the popularity of this game?
Burroughs: Wordle figured out how to facilitate the posting of your own score for the day easily on multiple social media platforms. The green Wordle squares are now so recognizable and popular to post that there has even been a backlash of those who are anti-Wordle, filtering it out of their posts and feeds.
Social media is the driver of Wordle because it makes the game communal – the daily digital ritual connects users in the joy of playing together. It makes for social capital (who is the smartest wordsmith) and competition as social media users try to display their expertise (I have yet to get the elusive two-word score…).
Wordle intentionally made it very easy to share those results without directly spoiling the daily game for others.
Pennington: I think Ben put this very well, but would reiterate that the social media component is what really helped here; being able to share (but keep secret) really helped to pull folks in. That it is also limited (one a day) helps to make it easy to do, share, and then go about your day. I have enjoyed seeing folks celebrate getting a Wordle in two (I still haven’t accomplished that feat!) but also lamenting missing the word that day, too.
The game is on a website and not an app.
Burroughs: There is no lack of available mobile games to play on phones and social media platforms, but Wordle has been able to burst into the vernacular of everyday popular culture. Wordle is very basic, easy-to-grasp and play – helping to make it ubiquitous with those old and young. It is more accessible than other social games because of the design.
Pennington: I think this goes back to the ease of technology; as someone who plays, I just have a tab on my phone for Wordle. I can play, shift to a new tab, and go about my day. The added feature to share results through social media allows it to transcend traditional bounds, so folks can share in their victory (and loss).
How does this game contribute to creating a community?
Pennington: Twitter in particular has been a big force — it is where I first learned, and I see the most sharing. It’s easy, quick, and helps to make Wordle communal without giving it away. It has all those elements for content that goes viral — people like to be in the know, they like to show their intelligence, they like to brag, etc.
What are some of your strategies to play the game?
Burroughs: One of the most important strategies for me is being able to nail that first word. I have thought way too long about what should be the perfect first word — not only with consonant and vowel usage but also with the placement of the letters. I’ve used STARE a good bit personally (STR as popular consonants and two vowels), in a kind of Wheel Of Fortune strategy. But I have heard other strategies like using the word ADIEU to know what vowels you are using from the jump.
Pennington: Love this question, I have seen it hotly debated. I know folks who say you should start with common letters like in Wheel of Fortune (RSTLNE), so I’ve seen many people say “raise” is their word. Like Ben, I have also seen friends who swear by the as-many-vowels-as-possible strategy with “adieu.” I’ll be honest, I try to just pick a new fun random word each day. My sister told me she starts with W words a lot because her name is a five-letter W word (Wendy). For me, the random word choice is fun because I’d rather catch and find consonants first, but to each their own. It hasn’t steered me wrong yet, I’m on an 18-day streak!