Critical Play: Puzzle

Wordle by The New York Times is a word-based puzzle game that blew up this year. Each day, the player has six tries to guess a specific 5-letter word. Every one gets the same word each day so it becomes a global competition of who can guess the word in the least number of tries. The component that made the game go viral was the ability to share your results with your social network, using columns of emojis to show your progress towards the final word.


The game has a very simple UI and a user-friendly “how to play” card that provides instructions, making it accessible to a wide audience. I would say the target demographic are ages 12+ and the power users likely like between 18-35 as they are more likely to frequent the web.


The game uses color to provide hints about the word. The color yellow indicates that the word contains the letter but it is not in the right location. The color green indicates that the letter is in the correct position. Finally, if the letter is grayed out then it is not in the word at all. One drawback of using solely color to make this distinction is that the game is not color-blind friendly. There is a “high contrast” mode for improved color vision. Nevertheless, the improvement I would make is to have an audio or text-based indication.

As a general strategy, most people like to start out choosing a first word that contains many vowels. I went with “CRANE”. From then on, they need to think of words based on the hints or continuing eliminating letters. I tried the Wordle for today (May 17th) and I failed to guess the right word, despite it being a fairly common word. I think the New York Times does a good job at controlling the difficulty in most cases where the average person would know the 5-letter word.

The type of fun that this game aims to achieve is challenge and fellowship. I think the word puzzles do make you think and it provides just enough hints to make it fun. Moreover, I’ve seen how people also bond over guessing the daily word as well especially since it’s such a universal experience and competition.

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