The power of a simple concept

Even the most zealous Wordle advocate couldn’t have foreseen the news that an 80-year-old woman was rescued from a hostage situation after her daughter noted her mum hadn’t sent her daily score.

It’s the latest feel-good story from the game that’s drawn in 3 million daily players worldwide. So what is it about that those thirty squares that has so gripped people?

Firstly, there’s the plain design. The white space, neat rows and simple keyboard seem positively revolutionary against the sound and fury of most online activity. It’s a little haven of calm.

And then there’s the enforced limit: you get one word a day. Unlike the dopamine-inducing red dots of social media or the fatiguing choices of Tinder, Deliveroo, Netflix and ASOS, it doesn’t indulge our most addictive, abundance-seeking impulses. We can crave a fresh five-by-six grid as much as we want, but we’re not getting it till midnight.

That scarcity forces us to take a breath and really think over our choices. With just six guesses, do you open on a vowelly gambit like ADIEU or a cocky stab in the dark: a SQUAB or GYOZA? It’s a chance to carve out a few minutes and focus on something removed from our lives.

Finally, there’s something uncontentious about it, unifying even. Sure, it’s now owned by the New York Times but it’s utterly apolitical. No-one, at time of writing, has been cancelled over Wordle. And in bandstand alone, scores have been swapped within families, up and down the generations.

Yes, there are pretenders – Absurdle, Sweardle and Lewdle (we got DICKS in three guesses) – but the original’s simplicity in a world of noise and antagonism goes some way to explaining this brand’s roaring success.