Over the space of just a few short months, the internet-based word game Wordle has become the latest online pandemic craze. Involving the seemingly straightforward task of guessing a five-letter mystery word, players are required to break down the probability of the differing letter combinations to guess the daily target word, having six chances per day to do so.
Uniquely, the game came only be played once a day, with the daily word resetting every 24 hours along with players six daily attempts to decipher it.
Wordle is often compared to crosswords, but according to Erin Sebo, a scholar of Medieval Literature at Flinders University, the mental processes required to successfully solve the daily word are more akin to 'code-cracking' than the purely linguistical nous required by many other word puzzles.
In a recent article published in the Conversation, Sebo suggests that along with guess work and a bit of luck, one's knowledge of 'spelling conventions' and 'sound patterns in English' are crucial to their Wordle success.
By applying these principles, players are able to draw on their linguistic skills to narrow down word possibilities, by calculating the probability of different letter combinations.
Interestingly, these are a set of linguistic skills that were often drawn on by allied codebreakers who successfully deciphered enemy codes during the height of the Second World War.
It is through these cognitive processes that Wordle activates both the language and logic parts of the brain, and irrespective of one's success in solving the daily puzzle, provides players with a nice hit of dopamine in the process.
Adding to this psychological appeal, Wordles popularity has been enhanced by the game's presence across different social media channels, as people proudly (or despondently) share their daily fortunes around solving the word of the day.
Indeed, immediately after completing a game, players are given the option to 'share' their successes or failures on their social media platforms in a way that does not give away the results of the days puzzle to others.
This sharing option is significant, as it provides us with further insight into the psychology behind the success of online game such as Wordle in capturing mass people's attention.
This online sharing function can be contrasted with the humble newspaper crossword or sudoku puzzle, enduring word games that remain popular for people even in this digital age, and yet which are largely individual pursuits, and offer little to no space for competition or validation from others.
Via its online sharing option, Wordle on the other hand provides an outlet of online community for players all around the world, with sense of community irrefutably linked to the game's success.
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