Wordle: the game that needs no introduction. According to the New York Times, it was originally created by software engineer Josh Wardle for his wife and has grown to millions of users per day. Wordle’s popularity made its way into the Rowland Hall community several weeks ago; it is now impossible to go a day without hearing some Wordle jargon in hallways or classrooms. But what has led to its rapid growth in popularity, and will we see the fall of Wordle occur as quickly as it rose? Avid Wordler and Rowland Hall teacher Dr. Kogan provides his input on these questions and more. 

The following are Dr. Kogan’s transcribed answers to Wordle-related questions: 

  1. How did you get into Wordle in the first place? 

I read an article about it [in] the New York Times and how it was this creative game this guy made for his partner, and that it had 90 users in November and has grown exponentially and so I thought I would check it out, so I just looked it up and started playing. I really like crosswords, so it had some natural appeal to me. 

  1. What is so appealing about the game, and how does it differ from other online puzzles?

I like the fact that there’s one a day and that it’s not this endless pit that you can fall into and will suck up all your time; I like the simplicity of the interface and that it’s not hyper-stimulating with crazy colors and noises; I like that it has the ability to share and be a talking point. My mom plays, and she was sending me insights about her game yesterday, and I talk with Evan, Boden, Macy, and other students who all play and so it’s a cool, unifying game that seems to be appealing to all sorts of different folks. 

  1. Do you have any strategies that help you solve the Wordle? 

I start with a different word each day just to keep my life interesting, and then depending on the number of successful or unsuccessful first guesses I really just think about potential vowel and consonant combinations, where they’re likely to appear, and what seems viable. Of course I try as much as possible in future guesses to use letters that haven’t been used. I hate duplicating letters in a guess, so it's always a little concerning when you get a word like “Elder” and then it’s like “oh no, is this really going to be a repeated vowel?” Essentially I already play with the rules of hard mode in place [hard mode means you must use all the information from the previous guesses] because I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t use information you’ve gained on previous guesses to make future guesses. That’s sort of my general approach. 

  1. How does Wordle allow you to better connect with your students? 

It started a month ago and is now just a fun, daily conversation. Boden and I now have a heated g-chat exchange going on to share results, so that now feels like a mandatory part of my daily routine. There was one where I had just one yellow tile after my second guess and ended up getting it on my third guess, and that was a great point of pride. Anything to impress my students with my lucky word guessing. 

  1. Do you find Wordle helping you with other aspects of your daily life?

It’s a more appealing distraction than falling down the doom-scrolling pit of the internet, looking at depressing New York Times articles or upsetting developments in academia that you read about on Twitter, so it’s a nice productive way to burn a little time, and then fulfills that “I need a break from grading, or planning, or whatever I’m doing” and then I can back to it but without all the emotional scarring of doom-scrolling. 

  1. So you see it as a more productive distraction than other forms?

Yeah, and it doesn’t have the addictive qualities of everything on the phone. I play it on my computer, so it helps keep me away from the phone. So I don’t know if it’s productive necessarily, but it’s a nice change of pace from other downtime activities. 

  1. I know you had mentioned the day where you had one yellow tile and then got it; do you have any other memorable Wordle moments? 

Yeah, I blanked out on the first one, yellow in the middle on the second, and then got it right on the third; that was pretty clutch. I got my first in two this week; that was pretty good luck. My son on Saturday got it in two, also incredibly good luck, so for a ten-year-old to have more rapidly gotten to a score in two [than me], that was pretty memorable. And then the other memorable ones are where you screw up and you don’t get it in six—that was really frustrating, and then [I thought], “no, my streak!” I don’t normally care too much about that stuff though. I feel pretty content if I get it in three or four. 

  1. As you may have heard, the New York Times recently purchased the rights to Wordle. How do you think this will affect the game? 

I don’t know. I hope it doesn’t. We already subscribe to the New York Times crossword puzzles, (my wife is an avid player of those), but it would be unfortunate if they put it behind a paywall, because it’s such an elegant, small game; however, I fear that might be how it goes. But I hope that they keep it open and have it as the “gateway drug” for people who’ll then pay for their other word games rather than them hiding behind the Wordle paywall. 

  1. Have you heard about spin-offs of Wordle such as dordle (7 guesses to guess 2 words), quordle (9 guesses to guess 4 words) and sweardle (swear words)? Do you think these games are furthering the fun of Wordle or negatively impacting the point of the game? 

I don’t know, I guess I’m an originalist in this regard. Those haven’t been appealing to me; I sent you that podcast and I don’t know if you listened to that interview but they talked about Queerdle, and—what was the other one?—I think it was lewdle, with lewd, inappropriate words. I thought that was amusing; I did not seek either of them out to play. Or there’s other versions that you play endlessly, I mean for me the limitations of it are appealing. The notion is okay, but it’s essentially the same as the game mastermind, which is like guessing the color. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen [it]: you have [four] colored pegs and you have a whole slew of guesses to get them, and it’s the same thing. You set up your peg guesses and then your opponent says “right color, wrong space,” “right color, right space,” “wrong color, wrong space,” and then you end up getting the feedback over time and then having to logically adjust, so it’s the same general premise. I like words more than I like other, sort of, strategy or interactive games, but the others haven’t drawn my attention, so no. 

  1. Do you think the fall of Wordle is inevitable, or will it stick around for a while? 

I don’t know, I think trends are inherently fleeting, right, like its number of players will drop off, but these things see weird resurgences, right, like I never played Pokemon Go in either [surge], but isn’t Pokemon Go like super cool again, or something, where everyone is doing it? So, it has these peaks, you know, 3 years ago, drops down to the core user base, and picks back up. But I think [Wordle] has enough, sort of, elegant simplicity that it has the good potential to be pretty durable, but it probably won’t be like the rage phenomenon that it is right now. 

  1. If Wordle does become less popular, would you continue to play it?

Yeah, I think it fulfills all of those short needs, it’s not too intensive like a full-blown crossword puzzle, and it’s satisfying when you get, yeah, so probably so. It’s a nice part of my daily routine at this point. 

Dr. Kogan, like many others, worries for the future of the game. Perhaps the game’s fleeting nature and inevitable downfall is part of its beauty and appeal. But for now, the Rowland Hall community will continue to enjoy the once-a-day puzzle that puzzles us all. 

  • Profiles
A Word With a Wordler
Evan Jahn

Wordle: the game that needs no introduction. According to the New York Times, it was originally created by software engineer Josh Wardle for his wife and has grown to millions of users per day. Wordle’s popularity made its way into the Rowland Hall community several weeks ago; it is now impossible to go a day without hearing some Wordle jargon in hallways or classrooms. But what has led to its rapid growth in popularity, and will we see the fall of Wordle occur as quickly as it rose? Avid Wordler and Rowland Hall teacher Dr. Kogan provides his input on these questions and more. 

The following are Dr. Kogan’s transcribed answers to Wordle-related questions: 

  1. How did you get into Wordle in the first place? 

I read an article about it [in] the New York Times and how it was this creative game this guy made for his partner, and that it had 90 users in November and has grown exponentially and so I thought I would check it out, so I just looked it up and started playing. I really like crosswords, so it had some natural appeal to me. 

  1. What is so appealing about the game, and how does it differ from other online puzzles?

I like the fact that there’s one a day and that it’s not this endless pit that you can fall into and will suck up all your time; I like the simplicity of the interface and that it’s not hyper-stimulating with crazy colors and noises; I like that it has the ability to share and be a talking point. My mom plays, and she was sending me insights about her game yesterday, and I talk with Evan, Boden, Macy, and other students who all play and so it’s a cool, unifying game that seems to be appealing to all sorts of different folks. 

  1. Do you have any strategies that help you solve the Wordle? 

I start with a different word each day just to keep my life interesting, and then depending on the number of successful or unsuccessful first guesses I really just think about potential vowel and consonant combinations, where they’re likely to appear, and what seems viable. Of course I try as much as possible in future guesses to use letters that haven’t been used. I hate duplicating letters in a guess, so it's always a little concerning when you get a word like “Elder” and then it’s like “oh no, is this really going to be a repeated vowel?” Essentially I already play with the rules of hard mode in place [hard mode means you must use all the information from the previous guesses] because I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t use information you’ve gained on previous guesses to make future guesses. That’s sort of my general approach. 

  1. How does Wordle allow you to better connect with your students? 

It started a month ago and is now just a fun, daily conversation. Boden and I now have a heated g-chat exchange going on to share results, so that now feels like a mandatory part of my daily routine. There was one where I had just one yellow tile after my second guess and ended up getting it on my third guess, and that was a great point of pride. Anything to impress my students with my lucky word guessing. 

  1. Do you find Wordle helping you with other aspects of your daily life?

It’s a more appealing distraction than falling down the doom-scrolling pit of the internet, looking at depressing New York Times articles or upsetting developments in academia that you read about on Twitter, so it’s a nice productive way to burn a little time, and then fulfills that “I need a break from grading, or planning, or whatever I’m doing” and then I can back to it but without all the emotional scarring of doom-scrolling. 

  1. So you see it as a more productive distraction than other forms?

Yeah, and it doesn’t have the addictive qualities of everything on the phone. I play it on my computer, so it helps keep me away from the phone. So I don’t know if it’s productive necessarily, but it’s a nice change of pace from other downtime activities. 

  1. I know you had mentioned the day where you had one yellow tile and then got it; do you have any other memorable Wordle moments? 

Yeah, I blanked out on the first one, yellow in the middle on the second, and then got it right on the third; that was pretty clutch. I got my first in two this week; that was pretty good luck. My son on Saturday got it in two, also incredibly good luck, so for a ten-year-old to have more rapidly gotten to a score in two [than me], that was pretty memorable. And then the other memorable ones are where you screw up and you don’t get it in six—that was really frustrating, and then [I thought], “no, my streak!” I don’t normally care too much about that stuff though. I feel pretty content if I get it in three or four. 

  1. As you may have heard, the New York Times recently purchased the rights to Wordle. How do you think this will affect the game? 

I don’t know. I hope it doesn’t. We already subscribe to the New York Times crossword puzzles, (my wife is an avid player of those), but it would be unfortunate if they put it behind a paywall, because it’s such an elegant, small game; however, I fear that might be how it goes. But I hope that they keep it open and have it as the “gateway drug” for people who’ll then pay for their other word games rather than them hiding behind the Wordle paywall. 

  1. Have you heard about spin-offs of Wordle such as dordle (7 guesses to guess 2 words), quordle (9 guesses to guess 4 words) and sweardle (swear words)? Do you think these games are furthering the fun of Wordle or negatively impacting the point of the game? 

I don’t know, I guess I’m an originalist in this regard. Those haven’t been appealing to me; I sent you that podcast and I don’t know if you listened to that interview but they talked about Queerdle, and—what was the other one?—I think it was lewdle, with lewd, inappropriate words. I thought that was amusing; I did not seek either of them out to play. Or there’s other versions that you play endlessly, I mean for me the limitations of it are appealing. The notion is okay, but it’s essentially the same as the game mastermind, which is like guessing the color. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen [it]: you have [four] colored pegs and you have a whole slew of guesses to get them, and it’s the same thing. You set up your peg guesses and then your opponent says “right color, wrong space,” “right color, right space,” “wrong color, wrong space,” and then you end up getting the feedback over time and then having to logically adjust, so it’s the same general premise. I like words more than I like other, sort of, strategy or interactive games, but the others haven’t drawn my attention, so no. 

  1. Do you think the fall of Wordle is inevitable, or will it stick around for a while? 

I don’t know, I think trends are inherently fleeting, right, like its number of players will drop off, but these things see weird resurgences, right, like I never played Pokemon Go in either [surge], but isn’t Pokemon Go like super cool again, or something, where everyone is doing it? So, it has these peaks, you know, 3 years ago, drops down to the core user base, and picks back up. But I think [Wordle] has enough, sort of, elegant simplicity that it has the good potential to be pretty durable, but it probably won’t be like the rage phenomenon that it is right now. 

  1. If Wordle does become less popular, would you continue to play it?

Yeah, I think it fulfills all of those short needs, it’s not too intensive like a full-blown crossword puzzle, and it’s satisfying when you get, yeah, so probably so. It’s a nice part of my daily routine at this point. 

Dr. Kogan, like many others, worries for the future of the game. Perhaps the game’s fleeting nature and inevitable downfall is part of its beauty and appeal. But for now, the Rowland Hall community will continue to enjoy the once-a-day puzzle that puzzles us all. 

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