2 May 2022

Canberra gets its own version of viral 'Wordle' game

| James Coleman
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Suburble

Suburble, designed by Canberra’s Aden Power. Photo: Screenshot.

It’s a question that seems to follow “How are you?” nowadays: “How did you do on Wordle?”

Wordle is an online game bought by the New York Times for a seven-figure sum in February 2022 and posted daily to their website ever since. Players have six attempts to guess a five-letter word, with colour-coded hints dropped along the way.

Riding on its viral success, several spin-offs have emerged since, including one based on the suburb names of our very own ACT.

Suburble only went public on Wednesday, 27 April, but has attracted thousands of Canberrans jumping at the opportunity to put their knowledge of suburbs to the test.

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Similar to how Wordle’s creator made the game for himself and his partner to play before it went public in October 2021, Suburble’s creator Aden Power says it all started with an after-dinner family tradition.

“After dinner every night, my mum, dad, younger brother and I all play a whole bunch of Wordle spin-offs,” Aden says.

“One night a couple of weeks ago, we were talking about the world geography version, ‘Worldle’, and how the same idea could be applied to other places.”

Wordle. Photo: Joshua Hoehne.

Aden has lived in Canberra since the tender age of three but says this still isn’t enough to have equipped him with a comprehensive knowledge of the city.

“I sat up very late that night learning about geographical imaging, file formats, coordinates, and by the next morning, I had nearly 100 suburbs generated.”

Aden is studying “pure maths” full-time at ANU but says that when he was younger and “didn’t really care about maths and science”, his software developing mother suggested he try his hand at coding.

“I picked it up quickly, and it’s become something I do when I have some free time.”

The game randomly cycles through Canberra’s 108 suburbs, with a new one going live at 10 am every day. Similar to Wordle, players have six chances to guess the suburb represented by the white silhouette. Each guess is accompanied by distance and compass readings, gently pushing the player in the direction of the answer.

A prototype version called ‘Canberrable’ became part of the evening routine before Aden’s mother suggested he take it public. After a family brainstorm around the table, Aden settled on the name ‘Suburble’.

Suburble screenshot

Someone had to try it. Photo: Screenshot.

His post on the Canberra Reddit Community gathered more than 20,000 interactions on the first day, and the comments proved ‘Suburble’ was an instant hit.

“So many people took the time to say they really like playing it, on their own or with their family and friends,” Aden says.

Since then, more than 3000 people have played it, which Aden describes as “mind-blowing”.

“I never really thought that something I made for my family to enjoy would become so big.”

The game is set to run itself automatically, with suburbs continually recycled “until the end of time”.

“It’s completely random. Today’s suburb may also come up tomorrow. Maybe that’s something I should remedy, but maybe that will encourage people to pay attention and remember the ones we’ve already done.”

Aden says he may turn his coding skills to more spin-offs in the future, given the success.

“Some guy anonymously messaged me on Reddit with an idea for a spin-off, and my uncle also told me he wants me to make one for small towns on the South Coast. We’ll see where it goes, but I don’t have any firm ideas yet.”

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