Wordle is the latest online fad to capture a new audience virally, exploding into regular daily use as people we know share a screenshot of a colourful grid across our media timelines.
If you haven’t already played Wordle and you like words, you certainly should.
I don’t make such recommendations lightly. The draw of specialist gaming on purpose made platforms from purpose made TV boxes, to an entire culture built up around gaming PCs, and then the games like candy crush that one of our ever-diligent MPs was caught playing in the Commons are, after all, both addictive and habit forming.
Indeed, there is a dark and pervasive reality at work, where gaming and obsessive online activity is providing a seedbed of societal change.
It is one that is being embraced and increasingly exploited by commercial interests using this latent power of manipulation to create massive profits. Not by charging each user massive fees. But by quickly building a massive audience to make ongoing profits from.
Gaming and the opportunities to draw people online are quite literally being exploited by big tech and big money. Unregulated as they are, they are quickly becoming a societal ill which is wide open to being exploited to benefit the few. Meanwhile, the consequences of their unrestricted actions are actively helping to recreate the way that society actually works.
Open-ended gaming and obsessive use of everything online are quite literally creating a cultural shift in revolutionary form, taking us to a place where no social interaction or direct human relationships are involved in daily life.
This is the point about Wordle in its current pre–New York Times form that makes it different. And today’s form of Wordle could and should be used to set the example of how gaming of any kind can be kept in perspective.
What do I mean? Well, it’s simple. The strength of this popular game is that Wordle can only be played from your device once a day (or occasionally twice if your days are very long!).
The worst habit that can really be formed is a daily visit, for just a few minutes at a time. This really is the best example or benchmark of how any kind of online interaction and especially gaming should actually be: universally kept to a sensible and proportionate amount of time.
Right now, we are navigating a period of human history where we are being actively encouraged by technology and the people driving it to forget who we are.
We are knocking on the door of the ‘metaverse’ and visual reality living where we are being told we can leave our ‘imperfect’ human lives behind and set up a new, perfectly constructed existence online that the impractical idealism of this age tells us will be perfect for us all.
Society is being dehumanised so that a few vested interests can profit through the creation of a captive audience, and that audience is becoming ever more captive.
As a result, we are losing the social skills that we once used to enjoy life and interactions in the ‘real world’, replacing them with a false set of principles that are creating problems for us all. As users increasingly forget that the safety and do-as-you-like culture of an online parallel universe cannot be applied without potentially devastating consequences in the world offline.
The difference that the Wordle phenomenon offers us is the example of how to keep things real. To quite literally keep game playing and internet use in perspective by limiting time in a way that also keeps it fun, whilst not damaging the player, the community or anyone else.
Roll this approach out across the board by using regulation to do so and it would be good for us all.
Resistance to such changes would only come from those who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. That’s either those who are already addicted, those making massive amounts of money from it, or those seeking to use the control offered for more sinister motives.
When it comes to the damage that is being done, none of these reasons are in any way good enough. And those who believe that gaming and the distraction that online virtual worlds offer are the best way to occupy the unemployed or pacify and control the masses for the future need to think again. It is a building block on the pathway to societal destruction and no more.
Right now, the Johnsonist Tories and the rancid political culture behind them are attempting to push through changes to online rules that sound suspiciously like there is a big element of making their own lives easier. Never mind the immediate benefit of diverting the public gaze away from the ‘Partygate’ chaos that has engulfed them all.
The truth is that they would be doing a service for everyone, if they were to look at the much broader impact of online tech.
Instead of cherry picking to create headlines, public representatives should be taking the tough decisions that vested interests won’t like, but will give results which will actually be very good for us all.