The world owes Josh Wardle, creator of the daily word game Wordle, an enormous debt of gratitude. First, let’s just pause and acknowledge that he created this game for his partner who loves word puzzles. Through this act, he provided her with a daily gift of mystery and fun, and a small reminder of his love. As someone’s whose love language is through acts of service, I’m swooning!
For those of you who haven’t surrendered to the Wordle experience, it’s a simple game of guessing a 5-letter word. A new word is given each day. You start with any 5-letter word and you have 6 attempts at reaching the word of the day. With each attempt, letters that are correct and in the right space are coded in green; letters that are in the word, but not in the correct space, are coded in yellow, and letters that aren’t in the word are coded in grey. Through a process of elimination and deduction, the aim of the game is to guess the word with as few attempts as possible.
Those of you who have been seduced by this addictive game might resonate with how this has become a daily ritual for me. I’m fascinated by the process of how this game has spread, why it’s become the global phenomenon that it has, and what this says about those of us who have embraced it as part of our daily existence.
This ongoing global pandemic that is entering its third year of disruption has created huge voids for so many of us. Families are still unable to gather in many parts of the world and travel restrictions are still in place for many countries. In Hong Kong, my elderly parents have been under isolation protocols since November 2019 when the virus first made its appearance. Right now, travel restrictions require all passengers from incoming flights to quarantine for 21 days in a hotel. No exceptions. This means that I would need to take a minimum of a month away from the farm in order to visit them – which just isn’t possible. I know that I’m not alone. Friends in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Africa are all experiencing similar challenges.
For me, Wordle has captivated the world during this time of disconnect and isolation. Seemingly overnight, my daily routine includes hearing from friends and family about their Wordle experience of the day. The adoption of a social contract that values another’s experience (so as not to spoil the game for someone who hasn’t played yet that day) that is built into the game itself via how results are shared without revealing the answer speaks to our ability to prioritize others in a communal way that has felt so lacking during the pandemic. And in the connections with other players, it has sparked a sense of shared joy, triumph, and celebration. The daily words themselves have prompted conversations about cultural differences (usage, spelling, context). Conversations about the strategies employed as part of the game have illuminated the neurodiversity of thought processes and an understanding that there are so many ways to arrive at one destination. It is through this process that I think Wordle is providing us hope: That we can agree that our intention is the same and that we can achieve our goal in different ways and honor the other’s experience. There is no right or wrong. There is no one way. Instead, we can embrace and marvel at our collective creativity, ingenuity, determination, and enthusiasm, while supporting and commiserating each other in moments of misguided attempts, bad luck, and missed opportunities.
There’s also something about beginning the day with a new word, reminding me to be clear about my intentions for the day. New day, new word. Plus, it’s a blank slate every day, allowing for equal opportunities. Perhaps my attachment to Wordle reveals my optimistic nature and desire for diversity, equity, inclusion, and a sense of belonging more than anything else? As always, I’m curious about how we can translate this learning into our everyday lives. All I know is that I am grateful to Josh Wardle for his gift of love and connection to the world.