Wordle Me This: How Can a Mini-Game Build Community?
One writer examines how the daily word game has unexpectedly brought students together.
No matter what I’m doing, when the clock strikes midnight, I drop everything and open up the day’s Wordle. The premise of the online word game is simple: A player has six tries to guess one five letter word, which changes every day. After each guess, the player learns how close their word was to the answer, and they can use that information to guide their next attempt.
I know I’m not alone in my fascination with the game; according to the New York Times, over 300,000 people play daily — and at least a few of those hundreds of thousands of players are Dartmouth students. June Dong ’22 began playing during winter break after her friend sent her the link, and Dong “immediately became addicted.”
“I think that it’s honestly the perfect game,” Dong said. “This game feels so genuine and simple.”
Everybody has the same word to guess each day, and when a player correctly guesses a word, they have the option to share their results in the form of a blank colored grid, revealing how successful each player’s guesses were without spoiling the day’s answer. Dong was particularly drawn to Wordle by how easy it was to connect with others through their shared experiences playing.
“There’s something so satisfying about sharing your score and seeing how other people did also and just talking about it, even if it’s just for a minute or two,” Dong said.
Many students have formed group chats dedicated to sharing their Wordle results with friends or family. Jake Hanssen ’22 began to “get into” playing Wordle because he liked to send his results to someone he had “gone on a few dates with,” and he eventually began sharing his results regularly with a group of his friends. This gave him a glimpse at his friends’ playing habits, which he found entertaining.
“I ended up getting a group chat of four or five people … where we would all just send [the results] every day, and it would be really funny to see whether it was at 12:05 in the morning or 8 a.m. or way at night at 11 p.m. when you almost missed it.”
Hanssen is far from the only student to be in such a chat; Wordle group chats became so popular that Alex Aronow ’23 formed a campus-wide GroupMe for any Dartmouth student to share their Wordle successes and failures.
Before Wordle’s popularity peaked, Aronow was in a campus GroupMe in which members shared their solve times for the New York Times Mini Crossword. After Aronow saw a friend playing Wordle, he asked the crossword chat if anybody else was playing. After receiving several positive responses, Aronow was inspired to form a dedicated Wordle GroupMe. The chat originally had about seven people in it; now, that number is approaching 300.
“It’s half people I don’t even know and half people who I know pretty well, and we all just send in the Wordle every day and it’s kind of a lot of fun,” Aronow said.
Aronow did not anticipate that the GroupMe would attract so many people, but he said he is “pretty happy about it” because “it’s a very cool way for people to interact.”
“I’d really just done it because it’s a fun thing to do; it’s like a fun little competition between friends,” Aronow said. “Then after like, two weeks, I started to realize that this is going to become a lot larger than I ever expected it to.”
Hanssen noted that sharing the Wordle in the campus-wide GroupMe gives him a connection to many Dartmouth students that he may not have otherwise had a reason to communicate with.
“I think the GroupMe is really cool because it’s kind of an eclectic collection of people from around campus,” Hanssen said. “I wouldn’t interact with these people on a normal basis, but now I get to look into their lives. It has become sort of an experience, something that has brought a lot of people together who wouldn’t otherwise be together.”
Beyond just sharing the day’s grid results, players have found other ways to use Wordle to connect with others. Dong, for instance, has begun creating personalized Wordles with her friend and “sending those to each other randomly.”
Although the game is simple, students have appreciated that Wordle provides a small pocket of happiness in otherwise troubling or stressful times. Dong is grateful that people are willing to take time out of their fast-paced lives to play the game.
“I’m very happy that so many people play it,” Dong said. “In a time when there’s so much going on in the world and so much going on in everybody’s individual lives, we can still find time every day to come together and do this simple little word game and find joy in doing it together as a community.”