Future 50
A New Generation of Leaders Has Arrived

For bonding users together in an obsessive chase for one single word

Habit. Loved. Amaze. Ragey. The reactions to Wordle are as diverse and emphatic as the users who have flocked to play the uber-popular puzzle game. This isn’t some super-slick game of chasing down villains. Or even one with cute little animals. It's 30 boxes on a white background. And the directions are deceptively simple: Guess a secret five-letter word, in six plays or less.

Created by Josh Wardle, the game was originally born out of deep boredom—a way to entertain his partner in the early days of the pandemic. Over time, it went out to a larger group of friends and family. Then Wardle decided to unleash it onto the world last October. In what seemed like no time, it became a sensation, largely fueled by players bragging about their successful guesses on social media. Sensing a trend, The New York Times paid more than US$1 million to add Wordle to its puzzles portfolio in January. And by March, the media giant was reporting that more than 10 million players give it a crack each day.

It turns out that transforming a passion project into a pop culture phenom is sort of Wardle’s thing. Born in the U.K., he came to the United States for grad school. While studying digital art, he designed one of his first social experiments: an interactive art installation that challenged visitors not to press a button. Later, as a project manager and then a software engineer at Reddit, he built a digital version of that project, as well as r/place, a communal art project. Both were massive hits, drawing more than a million Redditors worldwide.

Still, those early nibbles at fandom couldn’t have prepared him for the gulping, mind-blowing juggernaut that Wordle has become. "I’ve been in awe of the response," he wrote on Twitter. "It has been incredible to watch a game bring so much joy to so many, and I feel so grateful."