You know what time it is. January is coming to an end, and everywhere you look is slowly turning red in anticipation for Valentine’s Day. In the midst of all the commercialized love in the air and on my Instagram feed, I stumbled across a simple love story that proves once again the power behind true romantic gestures, no matter how small they may seem.
Deep in Brooklyn, NY, a software engineer named Josh Wardle was, like all of us, going through yet another year of the pandemic. What better way to kill time than playing games? Wardle decided to use his talents to create a crossword-like word guessing game for his partner, who loved puzzles, and cleverly named it “Wordle” as a spin on his last name. What started as a romantic gift only shared by the two of them quickly evolved into one of the most popular games on the Internet in just the span of a few months.
Now you might be wondering, what’s so special about a word-guessing game? There are thousands of them on the Internet, and even more in print. This game, however, is not designed to suck your time away. The game asks for only five minutes of your day. Unlike nearly every other online alternative to the game, Wordle creates a sense of scarcity by limiting players to one game per day, a genius move that leaves its users wanting more. More importantly, it gives us the opportunity to do more with our day and doesn’t leave the opportunity to develop a time-consuming addiction. What adds even more to its appeal is how simple the game is. With only five letters and six tries to get it right, Wordle, unlike many crossword puzzles, is not designed to make you feel stupid or frustrate you, but rather pass the time.
When it comes to the user interface, Wardle was keen on keeping it as uncluttered as possible to add to the “back to basics” feel of the game. No ads, no logins or sign ups, no annoying audio that is near-impossible to turn off. In fact, all Wordle consists of is a text logo, a grid, a keyboard, a settings button, a player statistics button, and a help button (that, thankfully, doesn’t open up seven more web pages in your browser). The icing on top, though, is the lack of tracking cookies. In Wardle’s own words, “It’s not trying to do anything shady with your data or your eyeballs. It’s just a game that’s fun.”
Wordle is a quick and easy study break, and it gives you a small sense of achievement when you guess it correctly each day. It’s a game that, despite being fairly easy to win, stimulates the brain to think instead of silently consuming different iterations of the same three TikTok sounds for hours on end. What started as a romantic gift didn’t just evolve into one of the most-popular games on the Internet, but managed to remind people of the beauty in simplicity.