Let’s Talk About Wordle and the Backlash Effect

The canvas is yours.

Have you guys heard of Wordle? No?

Just kidding, if you’re on Twitter, you probably have at least. For weeks now, I kept wondering why I was seeing those weird colored blocks in people’s Tweets and thought, “This looks like something out of Web 1.0,” because of how rudimentary it seemed.

Then a friend explained it to me, so I pulled up the website and felt like a jabroni (thanks, Rock!). I didn’t get how to play. Seriously. I thought you were supposed to go up and down and whatnot to try to make as many words as possible.

Reading directions is hard, okay.

Another friend then explained it explicitly to me and showed me how it worked.

NOW, I AM HOOKED.

I did today’s and got the “word” in four out of six tries.

So, the general concept, is that each day, there’s a word to uncover. You guess, say, “break.” Since “r” and “a” are part of the word to uncover, those letters will highlight in, say, yellow. Yellow means it’s part of the word, but not in that spot. If it’s green, that means it’s part of that word and in that spot. If it doesn’t highlight at all, then you know those letters aren’t part of the word.

And you keep going down the grid until you guess the correct word, with six chances to get it right.

I love word games. One of my fondest memories growing up was playing a word game on the computer with my great grandmother. It was one of those scrambler games. I forget what it was called, but the concept was that you’d have a six-letter or seven-letter word and try to input as many words as you could from those letters. The bigger and/or more obscure the word, the better. That one was timed, too, making it all the more intense.

Since the pandemic began, I’ve played the mobile app word game Wordscapes religiously. That game is similar to the scramble concept, except thankfully without a timer: You get four-, five-, six-, seven-letter words and have to find every word combination for the puzzle to get points. Each day, there’s also a specific daily puzzle geared toward a monthly point total. It’s addicting. I’m on level 3,839. *insert nervous smile sweating emoji here*

It’s a fun way to orient my brain toward something intelligent instead of always scrolling Twitter.

The genius of Wordle is that there’s a new word every day. Instead of people binging dozens (or more) word puzzles a day and burning out on the concept, the intrigue continues because you have to actually be … patient! What a concept.

Harmless, but fun, right?

What’s interesting about Twitter, which I know it can be fraught to try to extrapolate what happens on Twitter to any Greater Meaning™, but, I do think the backlash effect is something that happens outside the Twitter bubble, too.

The backlash effect is simple enough: Something new drops that gains traction with people, to where suddenly it seems like everyone is doing it. Maybe it’s Beanie Babies, or Pokémon (as two examples from my youth), or the “water cooler” talk around Game of Thrones, or whatever the example.

But then, there’s always the curmudgeons who come out in two forms: 1.) Those who have to announce that they are begrudgingly taking part in the new thing; they’re doing it, but they’re not happy about it, by god!; and 2.) Those who go “viral” on Twitter for announcing that they are “muting” the word “Wordle” and therefore, will not be partaking in the new thing.

Why does this backlash effect happen? Explain yourselves, curmudgeons. As I said, Wordle is quite literally harmless. It’s a fun word game that is bringing a momentary blip of joy to people to solve a word puzzle each day.

Why does it annoy you, Mr. Curmudgeon, that people are enjoying it? And sharing that joy with others?

I just find it quite bizarre myself. As I’ve written about before, why yuck someone’s yum? There’s not even some constructive criticism to be had here that would make any kind of “backlash” to Wordle legitimate. To be fair, there was some constructive criticism and backlash to be had about Beanie Babies, so maybe that one wasn’t the best example, but I digress.

Perhaps the backlash isn’t so much centered on the thing itself, but that it’s gaining mass appeal. Some people seem to have an aversion to things that gain mass appeal. If the masses are enjoying it, then it must suck. Sort of like the cliché about how you love a band, but once they make it big, they suck now.

But look what’s happened. The chain continues: New thing drops, backlash ensues and now I’m responding to the backlash of the new thing that dropped. I got sucked in! I’m part of the problem. The curmudgeons have won. Dangit.

I’m gonna go eat a donut (or eggs, we shall see if I’m good).

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