'How Josh Shows His Love': The Backstory & Rules of the Viral Game Wordle

Wardle, a software engineer, initially made the game just for his wife. It is now being played daily by thousands.

5 min read

With COVID cases surging across the world, and restrictions imminent in places that don't have them already, the internet has provided a new activity for users to engage with in order to pass their time.

Wordle, developed by a Brooklyn-based software engineer named Josh Wardle, is a once-a-day word game that is simple but keeps you wanting for more.

It is totally free of cost, and can be played by anyone who has access to the internet, just by googling it.

Before I make the reader familiar with the history and the development of the game, a brief introduction to the rules is merited.


The Rules

When you go to the Wordle website, you'll see that there is no other page but the homepage.

Therein lies the simplistic genius of the game. Everything about the game is right there in front of you, in one click.

Designed like a grid with five columns and six rows, the objective of the game is to guess the five-letter word of the day.

You have only six guesses.

There are no clues to find out the word, as one would see in crosswords. The game does, however, provide hints.

Of course, it's next to impossible to guess the word on your first try, so you put a random word in.

For example, you put down 'PARTY'.

Now, if your word has any of the 5 letters that are present in the word P-A-R-T-Y, then the box containing that letter will either turn yellow or green.

It will turn yellow if either of the five letters is present somewhere in the word, but has been placed in the wrong position.

The box will turn green if that is where that letter is in the word of the day.

Finally, the box could also turn grey, which means that letter doesn't exist in the given word.

An Example

Let's assume the word of the day is GLOBE.

Say, the first word you type in is BLAZE (afterall, you would want 5 different letters and some common vowels on your first try).

Then, B will turn yellow (since it exists in GLOBE but not in the first position), E will turn green (because it exists, and that too, right at the end of the word), while the three letters in between will turn grey (as L, A, and Z are not part of GLOBE).

This will continue until you either find the word or run out of attempts (there are six attempts in total).

A Strategy 

A game like Wordle can have countless strategies that are equally effective.

What I try to do is find out in my first two attempts, either the vowels or the frequently used consonants like T and S.

Therefore, the first word, depending on your intuition, can be something like AUDIO, STEAD, or ABETS.

The point is to simultaneously eliminate common letters and find those letters that can really narrow down the options within the first two moves.

After you have your common letters inside yellow or green boxes, try creating words using the letters that you haven't used till now.

Once you keep eliminating the letters, you'll be left with very few letters, and your mind should automatically start forming words in your head consisting of the letters that are either green or yellow, and those that haven't been crossed out.

Unless you're really unlucky or unless the word of the day is a rarely used one, you should be able to solve it every time.

Something to Look Forward to 

Certain elements of the game make it particularly attractive.

Firstly, it doesn't take too long to solve, since there is only one word and six attempts.

Secondly, there is only one word per day. If the player enjoys the game, he or she can't play it again until the next day.

That waiting period creates an excitement that simply isn't present in a game that one can endlessly play. In fact, as I type these words, I can't stop thinking about how far away midnight is.

Then, there is an element of competition.

Not only does the game allow you to share your results, but there is a win percentage and a streak tracker to show off to your friends.

Wardle, a software engineer, initially made the game just for his wife. It is now being played daily by thousands.

Additionally, the results that are shared are presented in a very cool manner.

For example, this is how it looks if you tweet your results.

Wordle actually did not have the ability to share the player's results until very recently.

The creator of the game noticed that players would type out their outcomes with a grid of green, yellow, and black emojis.

That led him to create this automated system of sharing results.

The results can be shared in an identical way on WhatsApp as well.

Now that you know pretty much everything there is to know about the game, how and when did this game come about in the first place?

'How Josh Shows His Love'

Josh Wardle, who used to work as a software engineer for Reddit, created the game with his partner, Palak Shah, in order to escape the boredom caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I think people kind of appreciate that there’s this thing online that’s just fun," Wardle told the New York Times in an interview on Monday, 3 January.

"It’s not trying to do anything shady with your data or your eyeballs. It’s just a game that’s fun."

He had created a similar type of game eight years ago.

Since Wardle's friends weren't too keen on that game, he let go of it. He did not, however, let go of the idea.

Sometime during the pandemic in 2020, he and his Indian-American partner became super enthusiastic about solving the New York Times Spelling Bee and the daily crossword.

This gave Wardle the idea to create a game only for her, that she would enjoy playing.

While Palak Shah was the first-ever player of Wordle, it has now exploded on the internet, with hundreds of thousands of daily players.

Wardle believed that the scarcity of the game is an important part of its success.

Limiting players to one game per day, he believes, "leave people wanting more."

Shah continues to play the game every day. She starts her day with the NYT Spelling Bee before moving on to Wordle, since she considers the former to be her warm-up.

"It's really sweet. This is definitely how Josh shows his love," the NYT report added, quoting Shah.

(With inputs from the New York Times.)

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Topics:  Wordle   Josh Wardle