My favorite tweet of February might be, “Brother, I thought things would look like in February but first thing in the morning Wordley sold out.” A reply came, “Westland also shut down.” The exchange revealed something about our cultural sphere (a mystery five-letter word—not capitalism).
Some of the things that made Wordle popular are things that have been missing from mainstream culture of late.
First of all, Wordle was made for love. Its inventor Josh Wardle made it for his partner who loves word games. This isn’t something we can say for most movies, web series, or even books that we’ve been manipulated to consume by marketing—or social prestige—a version of love-bombing.
The main purpose of Wordle is fun. You must guess a mystery word in six tries—usually you can, because it’s a common word. In fact, if you try unusual words, you need more efforts. There’s the perfect combination of luck and skill – your first guess is completely random and then its elimination and knowing how English spelling works. Within the world of English speakers, this makes the game relatively inclusive. There is no culturally divisive wisdom or snobbery involved.
Contrary to the pornographic push of the Internet, moving on to the next thing in search of an extreme gratification that never comes, provides you with sensations that make you feel emptier and thus continually reach for more, Wordle Days Happens only once. It doesn’t send you any fake intimacy notifications. It doesn’t call you part of its ‘fam’ or give dire warnings like “Hey Paromita, we’re missing you” ie your credit card PIN, or “Your profile is about to be hidden”.
Initially I confess that I followed one of the people who own the full works of Pink Floyd (a complaint for another time), on a site where you can play unlimited games.
But I soon realized that familiar sick feeling, tension and dullness, consuming meaningless things, eating without appetite. In a way, a few minutes of verbal time is a fleeting glimpse of being online, but not being hostage to social media can be like.
But, of course, it is social media that made Wordle go viral. Wordle integrates its two million users into a common experience – one word (who is being unified by the coronavirus?) You can share not only your scores, but also your in-game journey, thus with other players Share experiences and enjoy the casual fun of the playground. Recently, I guessed the word on the first try and went through a day of fake-hatred and unsatisfied jealousy, entertained by passion and sports-competition.
Score-sharers have haters. Fatima Bhutto recently tweeted, “No one cares about your word score.” OK sister, there are more joys in the ages, but just to say that an 80-year-old Chicago woman imprisoned in a house by an intruder survived because her daughter became anxious in Seattle when her mother posted her Wordle Didn’t score on his customary time.
But trouble has come in paradise. Now that the New York Times has bought Wordley, Love Wants Money Wants the feeling of betrayal is being channeled through a proxy fight through the English versus American spelling response. Let’s say we have to play our senses of humour, sorry, humor and so on for as long as we can.
Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org