Wordle, a puzzle in which the player has six chances to guess at a new five-letter word each day, is sweeping the internet. It’s been called the “perfect game” for the pandemic, with an enthusiastic fandom praised for its wholesomeness. But that’s not quite the full picture.
Because haters walk among us.
One of my group chats is hopelessly split where it comes to Wordle: Some of us share our scores (in the form of green, yellow and neutral-colored tile grids), while others are infuriated by the fad, refusing to learn even the basic concept that underlies our obsession. At home, talk of Wordle is met with total hostility — the last time I brought it up, my partner replied, “I’m actively not listening.” We are doomed, I suppose, to remain a Wordle bf, anti-Wordle gf relationship.
There is a fantastic irony to all this, of course. The game is a collaboration by a Brooklyn couple, Josh Wardle and Palak Shah, and the New York Times went so far as to call the project a “love story.” Yet the harmless fun provokes surprisingly heated commentary on Twitter, even among devotees. There is fury at difficult-to-deduce answers, accusations of lying about wins and episodes of culture clash, like when Brits missed a solution that called for an American spelling.
The critics, meanwhile, are incensed by the format of Wordle or the sudden ubiquity of those green and yellow squares on their feed. Or both. Some just loathe any verbal brain teaser.
As a fiend who sometimes plays right after the puzzle resets at midnight, I’m probably biased, but I don’t think Wordle itself is to blame for this feud. If anything, the sharp divergence of opinion is more proof that online conversation inclines toward the formation of rival camps, no matter how inconsequential the subject. Being mad about the popularity of Wordle is like getting angry that people shop at Trader Joe’s and listen to Drake. It’s not something you can realistically shape into a hardline position — unless the challenge of doing so is the point. As a result, the take is exaggerated unto absurdity, and defenders have to raise the stakes in kind.
There’s always a tinier schism to exploit for the discourse. Wordle grids happen to expose, via white or black squares, whether your phone is in light or dark mode — yet another polarizing choice on which we cannot find a consensus. You can say the game went viral because of its its unmonetized accessibility, the addictive fun of linguistic play, the welcoming community or the state of the world at large. But it might never have taken off if it weren’t fun to fight about.