When I was little and couldn’t fall asleep, I would go into my parents’ room and bother them until my dad got up to play my favorite made-up game with me: hangman in midair.
The game is exactly what it sounds like.
One of us would think of a word and tell the other how many letters it had. The other person would try to guess the word until they got it right, or until all of the features of our invisible man were drawn.
While no actual drawing was involved, we would trace the word out with our fingers in the sky and pretend to draw a head, arm and leg as each incorrect letter was guessed.
From a young age, word games have always excited me. I remember my aunt and uncle talking about their intense word game competitions, Scrabble specifically. I never understood how they knew such random words, many of which sounded almost made-up to me.
When Wordle became popular last year, I was initially unsure how much fun the game could really be or how good I would be at playing it. But, just like the rest of the world, I soon became obsessed.
For many months I couldn’t fall asleep until I had completed the day’s Wordle. It became an essential part of my routine that I would look forward to, and I always hoped I would guess the word in one try.
Unfortunately, after my countless attempts, I have yet to be so lucky.
I initially played Wordle for my own satisfaction, but as people around me quickly began to play daily, it became a way to socialize.
A text group chat soon formed with my mom, my brother and me, dedicated to sending our daily results. We all competed with each other and were always impressed by whoever guessed the word correctly in the least amount of tries.
Texting our results often led to a new, completely different conversation between the three of us, allowing me to feel more connected with my family while I was at school.
After becoming obsessed with one word game, I started to test out others. Of course I tried the other variations of the Wordle, but those did not become part of my routine.
A few other word games eventually stuck, one of my favorites being the New York Times Mini crossword puzzle.
My mom has always done these crosswords, but I never understood her obsession until I started doing them myself. When I started talking about my newfound love for word games, she was quick to gift me a subscription to the New York Times games section.
I began to do the Mini every single day, and it became another word game for my mom and I to talk about and compete against each other with.
When I came home for the summer, I always looked forward to the time of day when we would play together. It was so nice to sit next to her and play the Mini either with her or against her, but my time would always be a bit quicker when we did them together.
Throughout the summer I began to get better at the Mini, and my mom eventually convinced me to try the daily crossword puzzles with her. It then became a routine to play together, mainly on the easier puzzle days of the week, which allowed me to spend more time with her and challenge my brain in a completely different way.
At 20 years old, when I’m having trouble falling asleep, I can’t go knock on my parents’ door and beg my dad to play our made-up game together. And being away at school, I can’t sit next to my mom and attempt to beat her time in the daily crossword either.
Even so, I am glad I can play these games at any time, as they remind me of my family and how special they are to me.