Why is Wordle so addictive? UNF professor explains

Mallory Pace and Nathan Turoff

Wordle is an online game that has become increasingly popular over the past few months. 

The goal of the word game is to guess a random five-letter word that changes daily, in just six tries. This simple game has gained the attention of many and now sports over 3 million users daily. 

Josh Wardle, a software engineer, created this captivating game for his partner because of their shared love for word games. As their obsession with it grew, Wardle released it to the public in late 2021 when only 90 people played. Since then, its player count continues to grow as the curiosity of such a seemingly simple game spreads and people want to know the daily word. 

Since the game’s rise to fame, Josh Wardle has publicly admitted how overwhelming the surge has become. In a recent tweet, Wardle announced his decision to sell the worldwide game to the New York Times Company for an undisclosed seven-digit amount.

On the same day of his tweet, The New York Times released a story confirming the acquisition. So, what does the future of Wordle look like in the hands of the New York Times Company? 

A game free of cost and advertisements has been appealing to its audience, so the question naturally arises of whether The New York Times will change these attractive features. In their story, they confirmed that“Wordle will be free to play for new and existing players, and no changes will be made to its gameplay.”  

But what makes a seemingly simple-minded game like Wordle so addictive? Dr. Tracy Alloway, a University of North Florida psychology professor, thinks she may know why.   

According to Dr. Alloway, this may be because of something in psychology called the Zeigarnik effect. This psychological tendency, similar to the idea of closure, is what makes the game so appealing. It is also why crime and mystery media are very popular.

“When something is unsolved, our brain fixates on that,” she said. “That addictive quality brings us back.”

When asked whether there is a possibility of the game eventually falling off of people’s interests like similar games in the past, she believes that the connections between people sharing and comparing their scores on social media helps it stay popular. 

“Sharing it keeps it going.”


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