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Intrigued by the Wordle craze? Here’s why everyone is obsessed

To deal with the stressors of his job as an intensive care doctor in Scarborough, Joshua Landy has found a new morning ritual.

This involves picking up their phone and typing “Wordle” into their search bar. Almost immediately, 30 square boxes appear – five across and six at the bottom. Next, Landy, with 2.7 million people worldwide, tries to guess the five-letter word of the day in six attempts.

“I take a break every morning and do the puzzle using the funniest words I can think of,” the ICU doctor said. “Then my friends all roasted themselves for wasting guesswork in our group chat.

“It’s nice to do something that feels normal for five minutes,” said Landy, who has played the game every morning for the past 10 days.

As the world grapples with another wave of COVID-19 driven by the Omicron variant, Wordle has become a fixture in the lives of millions of people almost overnight. The pun, created by Brooklyn-based software engineer Josh Wardle as a gift for his partner, was pretty obscure when it launched in October. Now it’s one of the most popular games of the day.

The game is simple: all players must guess the same five-letter word in six attempts. After each guess, the tiles turn gray to show which letters are not in the word, yellow for which the letters are in the word but in the wrong position, and green for which the letters are in the correct space. Players have one day to solve the puzzle before the game resets with a new word.

Its meteoric rise is largely down to social media, where players have started posting their scores in the form of yellow, green and gray square emojis. It has also become something people look forward to each morning, at a time when the end of the pandemic does not appear to be near.

“It’s calming down all around, and you know what you’re going to get,” said Crystal Sales, Toronto-based director of advertising strategy who worked from home during most of the pandemic. Sales said she plays Wordle every morning after drinking her coffee and helping her son log into the virtual school.

“Instead of opening Apple News or Instagram, I’m just playing Wordle, and nothing else is going to distract me.”

Like many people drawn to gambling, Sales heard about Wordle when she saw the boxes all over her Twitter feed. Now even her workplace has a dedicated Slack channel for discussing the Word of the Day every morning. For sales, Wordle has also become a fun, stress-free way to socialize with colleagues across Canada while working from home.

Kathy McPherson, a Toronto woman who also works from home, said the appeal of Wordle is that it’s tough enough to be a challenge, but simple enough not to be frustrating. “It gives you a little kick when you get it,” she said, adding that the fact that it only lets you play once a day makes it even more special.

“It’s a better thing to do than just scroll fate (on Twitter) and see what the bad news is,” McPherson said. “It’s a more fun way to start the day. “

It remains to be seen if the hype around Wordle will be here to stay. McPherson said that, to her, the game is akin to previous trends that fluctuated during her forties, such as bread baking, “Tiger King” frenzy or tie-dye craftsmanship.

“There are all kinds of different things people choose to keep busy and not think of all the terrible news,” McPherson said.

Western University neuroscientist Adrian Owen has said he’s a fan of the game, but tends to agree that it might just be a phase.

“At a time when people are feeling the impact of the pandemic on their mental health, they will likely seek a little relief every now and then,” Owen said. “We’ve all tried to have fun in different ways, and anything new and engaging will tend to get more attention than anything that’s been around for a while.”

“It’s kind of a perfect storm,” he added. “It’s short, simple to do, and engages the brain in a more constructive way than sitting in front of the TV, and it has that social element as well. “

Whether Wordle will survive other pandemic trends remains to be seen. But for now, the game has ignited joy at a time when many need it.

“It’s refreshing and enjoyable, mundane as it sounds,” Owen said. “It’s refreshing for people to have something positive to post on their Twitter feed in the morning. “