Skip to main content

The real beauty of Wordle is how its emoji results tell a story

The real beauty of Wordle is how its emoji results tell a story

/

Luck, frustration, and perseverance can all be read in those little squares

Share this story

New York City Entertainment Industry Slows During Coronavirus Surge
Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Did you struggle with Wordle today? I sure as hell did, racking up my second ever failure since I started playing the game at the beginning of the year. I was annoyed at myself more than the puzzle and eased that frustration by sharing my results on Twitter.

As I did, I realized why the game’s auto-generated grids of emoji are so brilliant. It’s not just that they’re social (though that certainly helps), nor is it that they’re intriguing (there’s no link to the game and no explanation for the uninitiated as to what the emoji mean). No, it’s because each grid tells a story with wonderful concision. With just 30 squares and three colors, Wordle’s emoji results convey narratives of luck, frustration, perseverance, and failure; each grid a miniature story, like a landscape painted in a matchbox.

Okay, okay, I get it — this sounds a little over the top! But take a look below at my failed result from today. You can see I get off to a good start, scoring two correct letters in the correct positions immediately. Then I try again, and, okay, I don’t get any more hits, but I’ve still got that solid foundation. Another try: nada. Two more: still nothing! Then the sixth and final guess, annnnd crash: I fail completely, those two unbroken lines of green emoji forming a comedic anticlimax, like a pair of skidmarks disappearing over the edge of a cliff.

At least, that’s how I see it. In my head.

To rationalize this a bit more, I think Wordle’s emoji results work particularly well as story-telling devices for two reasons. The first is that they’re chronological. Like panels in a cartoon, you read the emoji as a narrative, each line — each guess — building on the one before. Unlike a video game high score or a finished crossword puzzle, these aren’t just trophies of skill but replays of the entire game. You know that if someone got all green on their second guess, then their win was more luck than skill. But if you see them battling through grey and yellow squares down to the sixth line, you know that win took guts.

The second reason is that each grid is something of a roman à clef. By this, I mean that if you’ve played the game in question, you’ll recognize what letters the player got right and wrong, allowing you to flesh out the story in your head (and perhaps compare it to your own). That’s where the social element comes back again (as well as Wordle’s puzzle-a-day mechanic): it encourages you to play the game yourself and so better decipher your friends’ results.

The only downside of this system is that the results — like all emoji — are not particularly friendly to people using a screen reader. Instead of offering a visual snapshot, they become a robotic dirge of [Green square] [Three wide large square] [Yellow square] and so on, like a tar pit of emoji description. (The best way around this, I’ve learned only recently, is to take a screenshot of the results and then add a description to the alt text.)

Of course, the popularity of Wordle is more or less guaranteed to flame out any day now. And when that happens, all those grids of emoji will return to their natural, mute state; no longer signifying stories of grit and triumph but becoming once more, just colored squares. It’s the only proper ending to viral fame: all those moments lost, like emoji in the timeline.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Sep 24 Striking out

E
External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.


A
Youtube
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.


A
The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.


A
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Looking for something to do this weekend?

Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.


A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
Thermae Romae Novae.
Image: Netflix
J
Twitter
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.


T
Twitter
Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.


A
External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.


A
External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.