I’ve written a few times about the idea that good games are beacons in design space pointing us to an area likely to have many other good potential games nearby and how much I like seeing the exploration and experimentation this creates. My new favorite example is Wordle.

There’s a lot to be said about Wordle (and a lot that has been said), but in this context the really cool thing about it is how simple it is, and the democratizing effect this has on experimenting with it.

Like, sure, once it got popular we saw a proliferation of rip-offs trying to profit from someone else’s design work, which sucks and which we always see when a game gets popular (especially in the mobile space but that’s a separate rant). But because Wordle is so simple, it’s very easy for individuals with some coding skill and zero budget to get involved out of interest and passion. Pretty soon there were solvers and reimplementations as people used Wordle to inspire their own projects. Next the exploration came, starting with jokes like “what if Wordle, but it hates you” or “what if Wordle, but it’s horny” or “what if Wordle, but for prime numbers” or “what if Wordle, but for single letters”. These vary in how actually-playable they are, but I think all of them make the world a better, more interesting, more amusing place.

But what really got my attention was seeing a version that was “what if Wordle, but twice”. This is a genuine evolution of the concept applying the existing mechanics in a new way resulting in a similar but distinct gaming experience that’s equally valid but which appeals to a slightly different audience. That’s awesome and I hope to see more evolution like this.

And the coolest part is how fast this is happening. Like, what happens when a AAA game becomes very popular? A year later, other AAA publishers put out one or two games that superficially copy some of its more prominent design elements. What happens when a tiny, simple, indie game like Wordle becomes very popular? An immediate explosion of innovation. Within weeks individuals are putting out dozens of variations with their own spin. The really promising ones get more attention and the cycle repeats in a positive feedback loop of creative energy.

You love to see it.