By Olivia Stripling

If you look over the shoulder of a Frank Sinatra School of the Arts student in the early morning, they’re likely looking at grids of green, yellow, and gray playing Wordle. 

It’s a craze which has taken over FSSA. Students have seen a rise in popularity over the last few months, saying they believe 85 percent of the school plays and discusses Wordle. Popularity seemingly increased after The New York Times bought Wordle, which made the game even more well known, especially due to users taking to Twitter to complain about an increase in the difficulty of the words. 

The word game is won by guessing a daily five-letter word. These words could span from ‘Mouth’ to ‘Knoll’ to ‘Rupee,’ the difficulty of the day’s game undetermined and far ranging.

Users have six tries to guess the correct word. Letters guessed that don’t belong in the word turn gray. A yellow grid signifies the letter has the wrong placement, but belongs in the word. When a letter’s placement within the word is correct, its grid turns green. Once completed, users have the option to post their scores online, where they can boast about getting the word in three tries, or shamefully admit to a six day attempt. 

“I think the words are getting a little bit harder, but I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. I mean, people can get angry if they want but I feel like, why not learn more,” said Nora Delahanty, on Wordle’s difficulty. 

While the game may seem complicated on paper, it’s fairly easy to grasp in actuality. But, there are still strategies to learn, complaints to dish out, and superiority complexes to boast about. This game is alluring in a multitude of ways. Users love the ease of it, or the intensity, the competition, or lack thereof and the growth in intellect, or merely the addiction of getting something right. 

Some students start out with the same word everyday, with intentional strategy behind which word they choose.

“I start out with ‘Dream’, cause it uses a bunch of letters that are vowels. I pick one word, and use it every time I play, that way you have an easy starting word that you can go off of,” Eddie Yellin, a senior Film major said.

Further showing the duality of Wordle is the fact that some users have no strategy. 

“Usually the first word I use is just the first one that pops into my head that day,” Nora Delahanty, a senior Drama major, on how she starts the game. 

This ensures that Wordle is incredibly addicting for all who play, but this addiction is mainly due to its pseudo-intellectual impact. Wordle gives the impression that you’re growing your intelligence, that your vocabulary is expanding, and that you’re becoming smarter than your peers with every quick play, but it really isn’t.

Psychological evidence backs up this idea. According to Matt Baldwin, a Professor of Psychology from the University of Florida, Wordle can be an ideal way to create flow, the pleasurable immersion we feel when tackling an activity with the right combination of meaning and challenge. It’s also sort of purposeful; it feels like you’re training your brain. Students who play Wordle daily have a routine that creates ‘flow’, gives them a challenge, and feels like they’re teaching themselves to be smarter. 

But, does Wordle really improve anyone’s intelligence? 

Students at Sinatra believe that it does. They say it wakes them up in the morning, increases their puzzle solving skills, and grows their vocabulary. 

“You’re just improving how your brain functions. You’re improving your ability to think, and to think critically and to think quicker. I think it generally improves the chemistry of your brain,” Ansel Stover-Whilden, a senior Drama major, said.

Wordle has also led to an increased interest in other puzzle games, which further the brain’s growth in strategic skills. 

“I think that Wordle has made me aware of more educational games. I definitely dabbled in crosswords and enjoyed them, but Sudoku’s where it’s at for me. My brain just functions better with numbers. I think that while the correlation doesn’t look as direct between Sudoku and Wordle, I totally only play Sudoku because of Wordle,” said Emmett Bowman-Grubbs, a senior Instrumental major.

Other students have begun to play the Spelling Bee, another New York Times word game, and word hunts. 

This further proves why Wordle is addictive, and it proves an increase in cognizance. However, cognizance does not equal intelligence. According to Cognitive Psychologist Jonathon King, a senior scientific advisor from the National Institute on Aging it’s unlikely that getting very, very good at Wordle would make your brain very good at anything else. This is due to the niche nature of Wordle. Intelligence is defined as the ability to gain and apply knowledge or skills, and getting good at this game rarely helps one problem solve or apply learned skills in any other situation. 

Does it really matter if one is gaining intelligence from Wordle, though? The answer to that one would be that it doesn’t. 

Despite this, Wordle does have real benefits. There is something to be said for Generation Z becoming attached to this game. Of the usual addictions this generation picks up, such as TikTok or skipping class, this one seems to be the most healthy for the brain. Gaining cognizance is a good way to clear your brain, focus on a tricky puzzle, and reduce distracting thoughts. Wordle is a better choice than video games such as Fortnite or League of Legends, which don’t provide the same level of brain-training. Therefore, whether one improves their intelligence or not, Wordle should live on as an internet craze.

Users should be aware, however, that this and other word games are not substitutes for genuine learning.