Sunday, January 16

Wordle creator overwhelmed by the worldwide success of the blockbuster puzzle | Puzzle

Wordle, a deceptively simple online word puzzle, has seen a meteoric rise since its launch last fall, from 90 daily players in November to 300,000 in early January, to 2 million last weekend. But, for its creator, the rapid success of the game has generated as much anxiety as excitement.

The game has become an unexpected hit for Josh Wardle, who developed it for his puzzle-loving partner. The pair played for fun on their couch, and other users slowly began to join in.

Every day, there is a new word to guess, and players have only six chances to identify it. Wordle’s popularity is believed to be partly due to the fact that, in an era of apps aggressively competing for your attention and time, the game was deliberately made for once-a-day play and without features designed to promote growth, such as notifications. automatic and email logs. .

As his popularity soared on social media, Wardle, a Brooklyn-based software engineer originally from Wales, began to feel overwhelmed by the response. “To be honest, going viral doesn’t feel very good. I feel a sense of responsibility for the players. I feel like I really have to keep things running for them and make sure everything works properly. “

But he takes comfort in knowing that his game has brought joy to people at a difficult time. “I get emails from people saying things like ‘hey, we can’t see our parents because of Covid right now, but we share our Wordle results every day.’ During this weird situation, it’s a way for people to connect with little effort and little friction. “

The game really took off when a user in New Zealand (where the game is especially popular) displayed their results in a sequence of emojis on Twitter, prompting Wardle to create a feature that would allow users to share theirs more easily, a visually appealing way. Rubik’s cube-style grid settings.

Wardle also believes that the game is so popular because it is simple and accessible, but also challenging. “Even though I play it every day, I still feel a sense of accomplishment when I do it – it makes me feel smart and people like that.”

Part of the appeal of Wardle’s game is that it dates back to a more innocent era of the internet, game experts say. Users have become cynical about the ethically dubious use of their data by many apps and attempts to monetize the game or encourage addictive behavior.

“The internet is in a really bad place right now, but this is great because it’s not doing all those nasty things. That’s what the web was like when we first had it, it was so much more fun, “said Adam Procter, who leads the game design course at the University of Southampton.

Professor Chris Headleand, head of game design technology at Staffordshire University, added that Wordle may have benefited from his opportunity as well. A short daily game is a welcome reminder to take a break for those who work from home. Likewise, people have missed the opportunity to connect with family and friends during in-person games during the pandemic.

The rules were also intuitive for people who grew up playing word games like Scrabble, or a code-breaking game like Mastermind, said Steve Bromley, author of How To Be A Games User Researcher. Wordle combined this familiarity with the opportunity to demonstrate mastery and improve performance over time, a combination that allowed players to enter a “state of flux.”

The game has also proven popular with mathematicians, who enjoy applying information theory to devise the best strategies for success. a tweet shared an algorithm That said would result in the answer 50% of the time, or a choice of three 90% of the time.

Others have figured out which words are the best to start maximizing your chances of success. One suggestion is to start with adieu, which has many vowels. Tim Gowers, a professor of mathematics at Cambridge, suggested choosing two words with many commonly used letters where none are reproduced, for example, “tripe” followed by “coals.”

Gowers explained that the game was referring to the theory of entropy, which is a measure of how much information is needed to specify a particular object (Wordle’s word of the day) from a collection of objects (all five-letter words in Wordle). dictionary).

The question Wardle is currently grappling with is whether the game should evolve further. “I need to be really thoughtful. It is not my full time job and I do not want it to become a source of stress and anxiety in my life. If I make any changes, I would like to think that they are changes that I would have made if only [my partner and I] Playing.”

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