A few weeks ago, a simple internet game took the world by storm. Almost everyone started getting hooked to Wordle - a word game where players guess a five-letter word in six attempts. Each day, there is a new word to be guessed, and a player can attempt guessing the word only once a day. If you finish guessing the right word, you can post your results and win on any social media platform of your choice. What's more is that the game is free, allowing anyone and everyone to take a shot at playing.
When the pandemic began, all kinds of trends lasted for some days, weeks, or a month. However, Wordle seems to have a universal appeal. For starters, it appeals to people who want to flaunt their achievements on social media. Also, it's fun for people of all age groups - parents, for instance, don't mind their children joining the bandwagon as it still counts as learning and improving vocabulary. In a world where we are constantly in love with solving challenges, craving connections and seeking pleasure, Wordle checks all boxes simply and effectively.
Why has this simple game become so popular? Why are there thousands of Twitter conversations around #wordle? Experts who have played the game and even those who haven't share their opinions about this trend.
Shared experiences and simplicity
With most of us being in limbo during the pandemic, platforms for networking and shared experiences have become limited, to say the least. Mumbai-based counselling psychologist and founder of Silver Lining Wellness Center, Divya Srivastava, believes that Wordle presents before everyone the opportunity to have a shared, common experience or struggle. "Since we are all trying to guess the same word, it creates a sense of community and sparks our curiosity. We wonder how long others took to guess the "word. We also become competitive and want to get it in fewer turns than others," she muses.
Srivastava also believes that the simplistic design of Wordle is another factor that contributes to its popularity. Divija Bhasin, a New Delhi-based counselling psychologist, concurs. "One major reason I see for its popularity is that people post it on their social media accounts, and more people get curious about it and try it out. I think the charm of the game is that anyone can enjoy playing it."
The neurological boost
With the design being such that people have to guess a word each day, everyone has one thing in common that they look forward to daily. And that's a rewarding experience in itself, leading to neurotransmitters being released while playing the game.
Srivastava shares that it's only one puzzle a day attracts people, for it also triggers the release of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that causes the brain to expect a reward from a particular experience and therefore keep returning to it to experience the same. The reward mechanisms being triggered while playing Wordle are further fuelled while solving the puzzle and getting it right. As Bhasin mentions, "It gives people something to look forward to each day, thereby giving your day some form of meaning. And once you get the puzzle right, you get a serotonin boost."
A feeling of collectiveness
The game became popular when Omicron cases were on the rise, and people were restricted to their homes all over again. Infected patients were quarantined with nothing much to do. People needed something to do with all the time they had at home, and Wordle ended up acting as a nice break in the middle of the workday or even post-work hours.
Srivastava attributes the popularity of Wordle to the pandemic saying, "Since 2020, all of us have been struggling with isolation and feelings of loneliness at varying degrees. This feeling of community that Wordle generates could be a major reason behind its popularity. The fact that Wordle lets you share how you did without giving away the day's word makes it a perfect game for an era of instant, social communication, even over long distances (and across many time zones)
In Bhasin's opinion, Wordle has gained popularity because it isn't 'mindless' and makes you think, so maybe it gives a feeling of doing something productive even during your free time. “It seems to create a feeling of collectiveness where so many strangers have this one thing in common with each other," she concludes.