By Griffin Schmoyer
Since the start of the year, Wordle has been one of the hottest topics across social media. In just a few months, this five-letter word-guessing game has gone from 300,000 players in January to now more than 2 million worldwide , spawned many spinoffs and even led to a sale to The New York Times for a price “in the low seven figures.”
The brainchild of Josh Wardle, a software developer from Wales now living in Brooklyn, Wordle was a labor of love. Wardle made the original prototype of the game while working at Reddit in 2013. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Wardle revisited the prototype to create a new word game for his partner with whom he played similar games during the lockdown.
The game became available to the public in October 2021 before skyrocketing to popularity a few months later, yet ties to loved ones remain strong in the player base.
For Maddie Perkins, 19, a Hofstra University TV and film major, Wordle is a family affair. “I had heard about it, seen it on Twitter, knew about it, and then my dad mentioned playing it, so I was like, ‘Okay, I guess I’ll check it out since my dad is playing it,’” she said.
A native of West Chester, Pa., Perkins uses the game to stay connected with her family while at school. “…It got to the point where my family would send the picture of their score every day, and it was something we talked about and played together, even though I’m at college and they’re at home.”
For many like Max Sacco, 21, a Hofstra public relations major, the rush of getting all five tiles colored in green lights a competitive fire that keeps him coming back for more daily.
“It’s just that joy of ‘I got it, I got the word!’” he said. “…and you want to try and get as many less guesses as you can, like you get it in four and you’re like, ‘Oh, I have to share this right now. I’m going to beat everyone else.’”
Although it may seem like an unassuming word-guessing game, Wordle can get competitive — really competitive. Battling with friends and family for the best score is another one of the primary reasons people keep coming back to the game.
“Everybody keeps pretty to themselves about it until everyone’s done it,” said Shelby Greenslade, 21, an international student at Hofstra studying biology. “You only discuss it when everyone’s done it, and it’s also funny to watch some people try and cheat.”
But those are the lengths that some, like Greenslade’s housemate Camille Coelho, 21, are willing to go to in order not fall behind. “I would rather cheat and Google the Wordle than have the embarrassment of needing more than six [attempts] to do the Wordle,” she said. “I’ll never not get the Wordle. I’m not losing.”
The New York Times swooped in to purchase Wordle in late January, leading to some mixed reviews from players regarding the difficulty of the words used. Some, like Perkins, voiced concern over the difficulty level affecting the entertainment of the game.
“…[The] New York Times will post puzzles where they’re really challenging and really require you to think, and that’s not what people are looking for in Wordle,” Perkins said. “Wordle before was just a fun little challenging game to play with your friends, but when The New York Times bought it and started doing these super-hard words and really challenging you, that takes the fun out of it.”
Others, like Sacco, relish the challenge. “I don’t like it when it’s harder, but I feel a sense of accomplishment when I get the harder words,” he said. “Honestly, I would say it’s even made it a little better.”
Perkins also raised concern over The Times potentially putting the game behind a paywall, as it does for much of its online content. “When The New York Times bought it, they released an article saying that it was going to be free to everybody ‘for now,’ so I wonder when that ‘for now’ is going to turn into monetization,” she said. “And they’re going to require a New York Times subscription to play it, and I think nobody is going to play it after that.”
In just half a year, Wordle has gone from a game meant for a loved one to a game loved by many that dominates the Twitter trending page. And if you haven’t tried Wordle yet, it’s not too late to join in on the fun.
“Get on the hype train, it’s real,” Sacco said. “Get on the hype train for Wordle.”