The "Wordle" Phenomenon—and What We Can Learn From Its Wild Popularity
Inspiration
3
min read

The "Wordle" Phenomenon—and What We Can Learn From Its Wild Popularity

What does the internet's latest craze say about people and culture? Find out (kinda) in this post.

At this point, you couldn't avoid Wordle if you tried. You may be wondering what it has to do with custom t-shirts, and the answer is: mostly nothing. But we think t-shirts are really about something bigger than t-shirts, and Wordle is about something bigger than Wordle—and maybe that "something bigger" is a shared "something bigger." Just keep reading, and we promise it'll start to make sense (I hope).

Where there was once a Tiger King, Wordle now stands 

You may have come across the internet’s newest pandemic craze amid your daily scroll down the social media rabbit hole - perhaps a friend (or six) shares an image of the newly popular five by six multi-colored grid. Peppered with yellow, green and gray squares, the image shows off just how many tries it took them to conquer the daily beast that is Wordle. 

Or perhaps you have a life, and have absolutely no clue what we’re talking about. Well, buckle up. 

2021 brought us many things, including but definitely not limited to, a pandemic that just won’t end, sweet freedom for Britney, and the inception of Wordle. Simple by nature, the popular word game generates a puzzle once daily on a minimalist website. No apps, ads or distractions. Just you, the grid, and your strategy for the day. 

Created by software engineer, Josh Wardle (ha - we see what you did there, Josh!) as a gift to his partner, Wordle has exploded in just a matter of months. In November of 2021, the game had a mere 90 players, but at the end of January 2022 nearly 2.7 million people are participating in the highly addictive craze. 

You begin the game by typing an initial five letter word into the first row of the grid. After pressing enter, each letter will be ensconced in a gray, yellow, or green box. A gray box means the letter does not belong anywhere in the word. A yellow box means the letter is in the word, but is in the incorrect place. A green box means you’ve nailed one - now go figure out the rest. Be careful though, you’ve only got six guesses to get it right. 

While this is similar to many other word games available, Wordle’s “one-a-day” platform seems to shine above the rest. Once you’ve completed the daily puzzle, you have to wait for the following day to get back on the proverbial horse. But it’s what happens in the 24 hours in between games that really has the world fascinated. A collective community forms and the dopamine hit that follows after solving the puzzle gets a tiny boost when you press that “Share” button. The competitive urge to beat not just your friends, but also yourself, takes over. 

Winning together goes way beyond Wordle

Strategy games have been quietly building communities for decades, and it is not out of the ordinary for people to unite against a common enemy. These tactics often get used in team building scenarios - challenging how groups use their individual strengths to band together and defeat their rival. For some, those adversaries come in the form of trivia teams, murder mysteries, or a five letter word. 

Before you let things get out of control with competitive team building (one person temporarily loses vision in their eye and now we can’t have Nerf guns in the office anymore, how lame), it’s important to note that these strategies can also be used to create camaraderie and empathy within the group as well. Let’s say, for instance, your team is coming together to design a super soft custom t-shirt to wear out at the next trivia night. A great way to encourage a little group bonding could be to have each person build off of the suggestion of the last person. One person suggests a cat, the next person puts that kitty on a skateboard and before you know it, The Wordle Turtles trivia team is rolling into game night with the coolest feline you’ve ever seen doing a kickflip over the Statue of Liberty. Nothing brings people together quite like that. Happy Wordle-ing!

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