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What is Wordle? A viral word game everyone’s playing

Polygon logo Polygon 12/29/2021 Nicole Carpenter
© Image: Wordle

For the past week, my family and I have started a new text message thread. It’s a sacred space. Each message is typically three words long, something like “Wordle in three.” Yes, like plenty of others on social media and beyond, we’ve discovered Wordle, a simple word game that’s got one puzzle — the same for everyone — to play daily. You just have to guess a single word, and you’ve got six tries.

The game’s been running for almost 200 days, but it’s really taken off over the past week, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s hard, but not too hard. You don’t necessarily have to be particularly smart to be good at it, but it absolutely makes you feel like the smartest person ever. There’s nothing to download, either. You just open it in your browser. Because it’s the same puzzle for everyone, there’s a way to directly compare yourself to others: A low stakes competition that’s delightful and not demoralizing. A lot of Polygon staff discovered the game today — you’re welcome — and we’re all eagerly awaiting tomorrow’s word.

© Image: Wordle

Here are the rules:

  1. Just guess a word. Any word with five letters.
  2. Hints will appear after each word guess, showing whether letters are in the right spot, in the word but in the wrong spot, or not in the word at all.
  3. Using these hints, make another guess and repeat until you’ve got the word — or don’t get the word, and lose.

There’s a hard mode, too, for players that want more of a challenge: On the top, right side of the in-browser screen, there’s a cog. Click that, and then click the slider to toggle on hard mode, which means you have to abide by the hints you’ve uncovered — and can’t just enter random words to figure out more letters or spots.

Creator Josh Wardle added a clever share button that makes it easy to share your guesses without spoilers, creating those cute emoji boards you’ve probably seen on social media. Clicking share simply saves these emojis to your clipboard, and you can then boast about your word game skills on social media or in Wordle text threads. The one puzzle a day thing is both a bummer and the most important thing about it: It makes each morning special, like the time playing Wordle a little event we’re all waiting for.

Anyway, Wordle in four.

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