Commentary: The New York Times acquisition of Wordle feels like the end of something. But it's been my favorite part of this year.
Scott SteinEditor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
ExpertiseVR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tabletsCredentials
Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Someday, years from now, we'll look back and remember social media feeds dense with Wordle grids. They'll pop back up as reminders or Facebook memories, like the sourdough bread we all made in the first year of the pandemic. Our omicron winter sea shanty.
Wordle rapidly took over and filled my feeds with scores. It seemed like it would be annoying, but I never got angry. I loved it. I like seeing my friends solve puzzles. I like seeing strangers solve puzzles. I never felt rage or envy or disgust or depression -- which is sort of miraculous, considering I feel those emotions all the time now. Wordle is just fine. I look forward to talking to others who play it. I don't get upset at seeing it in my feed. I'm more upset about everything else, most days.
The last two years have blurred, bent, swirled, melted, extended on and on. I haven't seen colleagues in years. I haven't seen many family members, still, for years. I don't see most people around my town. I lean on social media and video conferencing, just like everyone else. And I've had a hard time finding a place of comfort in my relationship with a world I'm not in enough.
Last year, I found a weird pocket of existence and community sharing my passion for chili crisp. Wordle brings back those feelings, but without any need for condiments. It's nothing but simple score-sharing. We're all just grids of colored dots blinking to each other. I don't feel like I need to judge how good their dinner skills are, or their home crafts. I just like they did this little web puzzle thing too.
It didn't matter what device anyone had, or what their beliefs were. Time and space seemed to pause in the Wordle bubble. Just sharing scores.
I think about social media and my dumb sense of connection to it, and remind myself to spend more time away. Or just use social media as a basic tool. Posting a Wordle score isn't a brag to me. No matter how brilliant or vocabulary-enhanced some friends seem to me, everyone seems to solve Wordle in about three to five guesses (or maybe that's the people who choose to share). There's something encouraging about this. Anyone can give it a try. And when we talk, we're just talking about this silly game we're playing. We just like each other's messages, and move on till tomorrow. I gave up on strategy. I just start with any word and I see what happens.
There have already been plenty of analyses of Wordle, what made it so successful, so brilliant, so addictive, how it side-steps platforms and app stores, or how it's a great indie success story. Sure, that's fine. I don't care. I just like that it's there, and we all played it.
These moments are rare. Viral games tend to disappear as fast as they start. And I'm ready for these days to vanish, too, or just fade into the background. It makes a lot of sense that the Times acquired Wordle. Daily players of all those NYTimes puzzle games have been doing this for years, and will keep doing it. I slipped sideways from Wordle into crossword puzzles, and am now temporarily experiencing the Daily Crossword rush. Am I a word puzzle guy, now?
I introduced my mom to Wordle, but she doesn't share her results on Facebook or anywhere online. She texts the results to me, each day. I tell her how I did too. We have a little something more to talk about. None of this is bad.
I know many people play Wordle and don't share their scores at all. I like the sharing because it makes it into a game within a game. One old friend started trying to guess my words by working backwards from my grid pattern. He's amazingly good at it. The puzzles calm me. They're a milestone, a marker in what still feels like endless days waiting for my life to feel more on-track. Wordle is a game I've been playing on my infinite pandemic commute. My personal waiting game.
I know, eventually, this too will be gone. Maybe this, the ascent into the Times mothership, is that moment. I just appreciated the magic. A little fun, a social interconnection, no stress, no sadness. If the internet could just give me a bit more of Wordle, wouldn't that be nice? Maybe acquisition is the destiny of all good things. We all made Wordle good enough to be worth something.