Wordle clones are missing what makes the original great: its unifying power

Wordle clones

The game that brings us together

Wordle was one of those things that kind of snuck up on me. I heard whispers of it on social media, but didn’t actually give it a try until a few days after we actually covered it on the site. I love word games though, so once I finally decided to jump in, I was hooked. It’s such a fun concept to me, having the puzzle reset with everyone doing the same word.

For one thing, I know for a fact that it wouldn’t be as fun for me if I had access to a ton of different levels. I’ve done this with plenty of other word games I love — I would play through a ton of levels, and then never touch it again. Only having access to one a day makes me pace myself in a way that I really appreciate. I always appreciate a new spin on the word game genre, and Wordle manages to feel simple and streamlined while also providing an engaging challenge.

Naturally, after the game found success, there have been a ton of copycats that have cropped up online or on the App Store. Some actually put a fun twist on the Wordle formula, like Absurdle, the version that “fights back” as you play, or Sweardle, which, you guessed it, has you guess a swear word every day instead. There are plenty of other knockoffs, though, that all go for the trappings of terrible mobile games that we’re used to: putting ads everywhere, or charging you for other mechanics like lives or hints.

It’s obviously pretty cool of the creator of Wordle to not add any cheap ploys for monetization (apparently he created it for him and his partner to play together because she loves word games, awww), and his decision to do so is one of the reasons the game has been successful. However, there’s another reason why very few of the Wordle clones will survive, and beautifully laid out by Alex Blechman on Twitter.

If you’ve been on Twitter at all this month, you know that Wordle has become something of a cultural phenomenon, not only because people enjoy playing the game, but because they enjoy sharing how they did that day and discussing strategies. The game has simple rules, so it’s easy to relay the strategies one used in surmising the answer. What really made it gain traction, though, was how easy it was to show our results using the colored square emojis.

But these are only small factors as to why the game has become the massive success that it is. I think Blechman is spot on, because it gives us all one common activity that we’re engaging in together and can discuss on any given day. That immediacy really makes us feel like we’re connected to something bigger than ourselves.

I think Wordle would have always been a hit because it’s a fun, well-designed game, but the fact that it hit its stride while we’re all still dealing with the pandemic isn’t a coincidence. We want to connect with each other, and having something light-hearted to talk about that we all participated in has been harder and harder to come by these days. That couldn’t happen if the game was designed differently, and we weren’t all playing the same puzzle day in and day out.

Logging on and solving the puzzle du jour while drinking my morning coffee has become one of my favorite parts of the day, and I think many others can say the same. In the midst of continued tragedy, if this one thing can help us all feel a little more together, a little more connected, a little more human, then please, by all means, keep posting those little squares on Twitter.

[Featured Image Source: USA Today]
Noelle Warner