Looking forward: how does a game spread online?

Green and yellow squares.

Hello! We're going to start the year off with a handful of pieces looking forward to 2022. Sometimes we'll be looking at trends we've spotted or themes that will probably be continuing to define things in games for a while. Sometimes we'll just be thinking about things we've enjoyed and where they could lead. Have a lovely new year all!

Never underestimate the power of a game about words. It's 2022 and the game of the moment is a game about words. Every morning, first thing, we pick up our phones and try to play Wordle. Five letters. What's the word? Get the word wrong at first, but maybe find out you've got the right letters - maybe some of them in the right place too. Then it's deduction, but it's also vocabulary! Argh! Wordle! What are you doing to me?

Real talk: I am horrible at Wordle. Most games of Wordle, I can't even finish them, can't even get the word before I run out of chances. I am awful at this game, and playing it makes me feel awful, and yet I play, and yet I also know that everyone else is playing too.

Wordle2
Wordle is brilliant and awful.

Here's what I've noticed about Wordle. It's hardly a secret, but I think it's something we might see more of in the months ahead. Wordle is a game you play by yourself, but you find out about it in the first place because people share their Wordle plays on Twitter and whatnot. It's ingeniously done: you don't get the letters they used, just the colours of their grids, yellow meaning correct letter, green meaning correct letter in the correct spot. So you look at Twitter in the morning and see that your friend got today's Wordle in three goes. Maybe you'll do better?

So much about this is brilliant. For one thing, the first time you see a Wordle tweet, you don't know what it's about. It looks a bit like someone's sharing their eye test, to be honest. So you investigate it, and that act of investigation - the fact that Wordle is already making you work for it - means you're more likely to give it a go, more likely to stick with it when you find out what it is.

Then there are the grids themselves. I am a sucker for a game where you make something as a byproduct of playing. That grid: I want to know what it is, I want to understand it. I want to be able to read it, I want to know what my own Wordle results will look like - all of that ties into the compulsion, I suspect.

The secret element though is getting people to post these things in the first place. You post a Wordle grid in part because you're showing off? You're bragging. And why not? You're smart and literate and hip to the latest thing. A game that spreads through bragging - Overwatch Play of the Game all over again. That feels like the perfect delivery method for 2022.

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About the author

Christian Donlan

Christian Donlan

Features Editor

Christian Donlan is a features editor for Eurogamer. He is the author of The Unmapped Mind, published as The Inward Empire in the US.

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