If this summer has taught me anything, it’s that games have great power to help us manage our mental state during difficult times.
With news that The New York Times Company has purchased the wonderfully simple web-based Wordle, it felt like something of a bookend to falling in love with the game during my COVID isolation in December.
The game is simple, it’s limited, it’s contemplative, and its explosion coincided with its addition of a simple way to share your path to a solution without spoiling the puzzle of the day.
More than the game itself, the emoji grid was the innovation that deserved to see Josh Wardle earn his million dollar payday.
That grid is such a perfectly formed conceptual unit. A ‘together alone’ moment that helps us connect around a game without ruining the game for others. That last part – the ability to avoid ruining the fun for others – is solved by Wordle in a way that is impossible if you wanted to share something about that movie or TV show you just watched.
Of course, we’re also in the midst of megascale game industry consolidation. Take Two is buying Zynga. Microsoft is buying Activision Blizzard. Sony is buying Bungie. Everyone is screaming ‘METAVERSE!!!’ and the pandemic is no small part of the reason why. More than just gamers now grasp why virtual spaces driven by powerful game engines will play a big role in our social and work futures.
If you control technology that can create beautiful spaces you want to spend time in, you have a better foothold on the future of our social lives when we can’t be together in person.
But Wordle is a reminder that simple things also have a place in the 21st Century. If you’re worried about the NYT buyout ending your Wordle fun, you should remember that the entire game is just a webpage. You can save Wordle to your computer and play it until it runs out of words (there’s over 8 years of answers in there). You could even edit the word lists and make your own private Wordle to share with friends or family if you wanted to.
Change an answer to MARRY for a word nerd proposal.
Wordle was made as a love letter to Josh Wardle’s partner because she loved word games. He then landed on a share function that made his game explode for no other reason than the ability to share in the joy of a once-a-day word game.
I get that some folks were upset the game has been sold after he suggested the game was something of a gift to the world. But without some kind of backer it would have simply shut down one day due to hosting costs or some other hassle for him to keep serving it up to millions of players for free.
I prefer to take the optimistic view. It’s lovely when something so simple, so uncommercial, and so elegant gets a chance to shine, and that its creator is rewarded for making it for us.
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