Dissecting the Wordle bug

What’s so fascinating about the word game?


Sumayia Asif January 31, 2022

In screenshots, memes, tweets or on Instagram stories, even the most reclusive amongst us will have chanced upon the term ‘Wordle’. The sharers of these snapshots will either have been griping, or triumphing about their scores in the aforementioned word game.

The daily word puzzle has millions pre-occupied every day. Searches for Wordle on Google hit the roof in January, spiking not just in Pakistan but all over the world. What’s currently being enjoyed by various sects of the internet though, was originally created by software engineer Josh Wardle as a gift for his partner.

Reminiscent of Mastermind, in which players are required to correctly guess a color code, in a set number of attempts, Wordle also requires some code-breaking. Players get six tries to guess a five-letter-word in this website-based game. You can only solve one Wordle per day, and the result – whether you want to boast or cry about it - is shareable on social media, albeit without revealing the solution.

So why does everyone love the game?

One reason is that humans love puzzles, be it Sudoku, Scrabble, crosswords or the Rubik’s cube. People who are obsessed with Wordle likely have a greater than average ‘Need For Cognition’ (NFC). Coined by Cohen et al (1955) the term refers to an individual’s need to make the world understandable in coherent, meaningful, ways. Further study in 1982 by Cacioppo and Petty reinterpreted NFC as the “tendency to engage in and enjoy thinking”.

It’s highly likely, therefore that you’re more inclined to apply knowledge to solve problems because you have a greater NFC. Wordle is definitely challenging. The daily puzzle will force you to dive deep into your five-letter-English-word repertoire and test your linguistic flair.

Other than satisfying our cognitive needs, Wordle also speaks to our love of mystery since there are no spoilers. The solution, when shared only displays the number of attempts it took a user to solve the Wordle. Its minimalistic interface and accessibility are also big wins for the game.

The fact that you can only solve one puzzle a day, which doesn’t and shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to solve, is really its crowning glory and a relief for our screen-tired brains and eyes.

In a way, Wordle is your daily dose of dopamine, which is of course if you’re not terrible at it.

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