It’s hard to exist peacefully on the internet these days. Social media moves lightning quick, hopping from one viral sensation to another across multiple apps; it’s easy to get lost amidst the current of content. Spoilers abound as well, as some fans publicly dissect the newest media mere seconds after release. Common internet etiquette has somehow evolved to allow these spoilers to stay while demanding those who wish to be spoil-free leave the app.
Perhaps it is for these reasons that Wordle, the internet’s recent obsession, is so special. The browser game is simple: you have six attempts to guess a five-letter word. The game informs you whether a letter is wrong (grey), right but in the wrong spot (yellow), or right and in the correct spot (green). Once a day, droves of people shoot their shots and share their results via a slightly obnoxious and inaccessible graphic whether they are victorious or not. As Shane Ryan wrote for Paste, the joy of Wordle lies in its simplicity. The game allows you to flex your brain and skills in a bite-sized cognitive exercise, something simple and small enough to not overwhelm or bore those of us with addled brains and poor focus (usually caused by social media).
Although it was built by creator Josh Wardle for his partner, Wordle seems geared toward social media. It is easy to share statistics, talk strategies or even complain about particular solutions with other players. What’s most interesting is that the internet’s obsession with the game has sparked a trend that not many people are talking about: players are ridiculously protective of the word of the day. And I love it.
In a time where tentpole studios are forced to ask audiences to not spoil the movie—a task most people fail—a general kindness about spoilers is a rare sight. Major plot reveals are not sacred anymore, as even trailers highlight the most interesting parts of films and shows in a misguided effort to get people to choose them over every other piece of content that’s being churned out that week. The twists and turns become selling points rather than part of the viewing experience.
Wordle, on the other hand, is sacred. Much of the commordle (my term for the Wordle community) frown upon providing hints; everyone should be given a chance to guess the word without seeing a photo or phrase that will influence their guesses. From what I can tell, this reticence toward spoilers is an implicit understanding that those who choose to participate in Wordle must agree with or face dire consequences. I’m not even sure God could help you escape the wrath of angry commordles if you straight up reveal the word of the day.
Despite their protectionist mentality, the commordle is filled with nice people who simply want to keep a good thing going. The game never feels like a competition, although I am sure there are players who view it that way. The bond shared between players is warm and wholesome, and genuine excitement can be found in comparing your own attempts to those of both friends and strangers. People may never share the solution, but they will happily inform you of their starting words of choice. So far I’ve seen first words ranging from incel to swear to ocean; the strategic possibilities feel limitless.
Compared to the commordle, most online fandoms and communities seem barbaric and chaotic. It’s tiring to worry about every online engagement turning violent, but sadly it’s become the norm. Infighting often breaks out over small inconsistencies and disagreements, as if only one correct reading of art exists. Criticism and conversation are often sniped on sight; passion burns hot and spreads like wildfire, cannibalizing even those who may agree with the dominant discourse. And if you dare not watch something the second it comes out, you are punished by having detailed dissections thrust upon you that ruin every story beat. The discord damages everyone, pushing people to mute words or block accounts in an effort to diminish the harassment that often comes hand in hand with online debate. Empathy simply doesn’t exist here.
Wordle has accidentally revived something we have been desperately lacking: a positive online community. Everyone stands united in keeping the secret of the word of the day and being as welcoming as possible. The gatekeeping is limited, as there’s no price barrier or platform exclusivity; if you own a device that can access the internet, you can play the game. Follow the golden rule and you’ll have a community, one pure and uncomplicated. No spoilers, no fights, no blocking, just word puzzles. The experience harkens back to the dawn of the internet and personal computers, a time full of optimists who hoped to share information free and easily between everyone. The passion toward technology itself built camaraderie between everyone.
Maybe I’m reading too far into things; after all Wordle is simply the most recent trend which could be swept downriver by next month. The community could decay as people drop the game from their daily routine, or it could even become prey to the spoiler culture it currently avoids. There are a million ways for this pure thing to be corrupted, but that doesn’t matter right now. In this moment, I am grateful for the commordle, for the positivity and shared joy it has created. The game was created as a gift, so it’;s only fitting that we continue to treat it as the bundle of love and delight that it is. Let’s keep this good thing going, yeah?
Mik Deitz is a freelance writer and Paste intern. They inhale stories in videogames, films, TV and books, and have never finished God of War (2018). Yell at or compliment them on Twitter @dietdeitz.