comscore Game made for love: Wordle and its origins

Game made for love: Wordle and its origins

How the NYT's Spelling Bee and crossword concocted the now-popular online puzzle game.


Two weeks away from the day that celebrates love and sees couples scrambling to find the perfect gift, none likely will match the gift-creating ability of Josh Wardle. Also Read - Wordle's migration under NYT sees players lose out on streaks

Wardle, famous for Wordle, created the now-popular game for his partner, Palak Shah, who loves word games. A play on his last name, the game was limited to the couple for the first few months in 2020. Then it became a family obsession in a WhatsApp group. It was then Wardle realised he might have struck gold and released it globally in October. On November 1, only 90 people played. Three months on, the game has more than 3 million players globally. Also Read - Wordle has a secret hard mode for players who find it too simple

It isn’t the first time that Wardle’s creations have captured widespread attention. The software engineer worked for Reddit, previously, where he created two collaborative social media experiments: The Button and Place. Both gained worldwide popularity. Unlike while working in Reddit, Wardle didn’t have a team of engineers to support him with his word game, though. It was just him and Shah finding ways to kill time during the pandemic. Also Read - Saving Wordle for offline use is as easy as pressing right click on your mouse

Wardle initially dabbled with the idea in 2013. He created a prototype but his friends weren’t impressed. And that was it. In 2020, though, the couple got into the New York Times Spelling Bee and the daily crossword. It was then Wardle decided to go back to his seven-year-old prototype to create a game his partner could enjoy. The key to success, Wardle told the NYT earlier this month, was limiting players to one game per day. The strategy, partly inspired by the Spelling Bee, leaves people wanting more.

Since the game was just for the couple, its design is very novice and leaves out features that are expected of games today. For instance, it doesn’t send notifications to players asking them to return to the game for the day’s word. Wardle designed it to not take more than three minutes of your day, and that’s how he wants it to stay. He has added the sharing feature for players to share their results in a spoiler-free way, but in its crux, the game remains the same. It is meant to be enjoyed once a day while providing some exercise for your grey cells.

Though Wordle is now a global phenomenon, Shah said she appreciated that it was originally meant for her. “It’s really sweet, this is definitely how Josh shows his love,” she told the NYT. And therein lies the beauty of it; a game designed for love receiving love around the world.

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  • Published Date: January 31, 2022 9:19 PM IST

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