I am rather hit and miss with fads. I bought a hula hoop as a kid and demanded a skort, but I never tried swallowing goldfish. In more recent years I have passed on Rubik’s cubes, Candy Crush and the Ice Bucket Challenge. However, in the last week, I have stumbled upon Wordle, the free daily on-line word puzzle.
In November 2021 the game had 90 users. Recently that number passed 3 million and the developer sold his game to The New York Times for a seven figure amount. What could account for such a meteoric rise in players? I had to find out, so I went to try it out for myself.
The game is blessedly simple. In six chances you try to figure out a five letter word. If the letter in your guess is incorrect it, and the corresponding spot on the keyboard, turn gray. If the letter is correct but in the wrong spot it turns yellow. If it is correct and in the right place it turns green. It took me about 10 minutes to learn it, most of the time spent not understanding I needed to press Enter after a guess.
What then is the appeal? Unlike many on-line games this one can’t suck you into an endless mindless playing rut. There is only one word a day. Once you solve it or don’t solve it you have a chance to return to your “regular” life. Solving a simple, free, concrete challenge is satisfying. Getting better as you remember which letters commonly combine takes you happily back to elementary school with its diphthongs and digraphs. (Don’t worry; they come pouring back.)
Free, fun and fast. What is not to like?