Wordle, the brainchild of an OU alum, is sweeping the world

On the eve of the month of love, roses, and cheesy rom-coms, an OU alum is enjoying viral success with an app designed as a love letter to his partner.

Josh Wardle, who graduated with an MFA in Digital Arts in 2011, has created three viral digital projects since 2015. His latest sensation is Wordle, a play on the British software engineer’s last name, and it is currently sweeping global social media and phone conversations. , with 2.7 million users and growing rapidly.

Wardle, a software engineer in Brooklyn, created the game for his partner, Palak Shah, as a digital love letter to his interest in word games. Their growing interest in the New York Times Spelling Bee game and daily crosswords led Wardle to dust off an old idea from 2013.

And its success is now complete. The publication whose games inspired Wordle has taken ownership of the viral hit. As reported on January 31, The New York Times acquired the program for an undisclosed price in the low seven-figure range.

“The New York Times Games plays a big part in its origins,” Wardle said in the Times statement, “and so this step feels very natural to me.”

When the game moves to The Times, it will remain free for new and existing players with no changes to its gameplay.

The game gives players six chances to guess the five-letter word of the day. After entering their five-letter guess, the sleek user interface examines each letter and informs players how well their entry matches the word of the day.

Players who correctly guess the letters are rewarded with green or yellow boxes, possibly a sneaky nod to their alma mater as well as a subtle identification system that lets players know they’re on the good way to identify the word of the day. Yellow boxes identifying correct letters but wrong position in word and green boxes indicating correct letter and placement. The gray boxes indicate a letter not found in the word of the day.

Once players have solved the word of the day or used their guesses, they have the option to share their results on social media with a collection of green, yellow and gray boxes, the number of the puzzle and the number of attempts out of six . This simple post, inspired by players trying to share results on social media without spoiling the puzzle, is a way for the game to stay loyal to players and build intrigue. The experiment of guessing five-letter words in six guesses or less is another way.

When a green or yellow box rolls over on a letter, it can create a double sense of anxiety and accomplishment, getting a little closer to solving the puzzle but also having a lesser chance of solving it.

Wardle said the game’s rejection of common free-play strategies and separation from data mining helps encourage repetition, daily play, and lends a layer of innocence to the project.

“It’s something that encourages you to spend three minutes a day,” Wardle told The New York Times. “And that’s it. Like, he doesn’t want any more of your time than that.

Wardle prototyped a similar game in 2013, but ultimately scrapped the idea due to lack of interest from friends. The prototype originally featured an endless game and a truly overwhelming word list for the app.

“I just dumped every five-letter word of the English language from any dictionary I found online,” Wardle told Slate.

With Shah’s help, Wardle was able to make a few changes, including drastically reducing the program’s wordlist from 12,000 to 2,500. enjoyable that encourages repeated play through its rejection of mobile gaming standards.

While the game is now a viral sensation, it’s worth noting that the app was a labor of love by the UO alumnus. No matter how much attention the app will receive over the next few months, Shah enjoys being the main inspiration for the game.

“It’s really adorable,” Shah told The Times. “That’s definitely how Josh shows his love.”

By Nick Noyes, College of Design

Comments are closed.