Stating the obvious: The adventure of programming

It just occurred to me the other day (and I’m not sure why it took me so long to make that connection) that enjoy programming and adventure games because of similar reasons.

Adventure games are all about puzzles and the joy of solving them. Well so is programming. You are constantly confronted with questions like ‘Why does the system behave like that?’, ‘How can we get around these limitations and make feature X work?’

The other day I was trying to track down a weird issue were the parts of the screen would sometimes get corrupted. Initially I thought it had to do with how I was managing graphics memory, so I was poking around in that code but couldn’t find the problem. The issue turned out to be in a completely different system and I (eventually) identified the source by observation of the behavior of the affected code. I approached the problem just like a puzzle in an adventure game (I even tried to look up the solution on the internet) and felt quite good after I finally solved the problem.

But there are more similarities than solving puzzles. The taxonomy of adventures in my simple world view is defined by whether the puzzles follow designer logic or observational logic. For the former category you basically have to figure out what the designer was thinking when he was creating the puzzle. Very often there is only one solution and it might not be the most obvious/logical one (usually the solution is very creative and funny though). The latter category describes games were the puzzles can be solved by observing the environment and making logical conclusions. I’m not going to name examples here, but I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

The same taxonomy can be applied to programming too! For example if you have to work with a closed-source API you’ll have to start thinking like the architect of the system in order to be able to use it properly. Very often there is only one right way of interfacing with the API and other approaches will introduce obvious (and worse than that non obvious) bugs. Unfortunately there barely is a funny pay-off though. Observational logic is also important, because debugging pretty much relies on reasoning based on the changing state of systems.

Not only that but sometimes you even have to do pixel hunting when trying to find and fix syntax problems. Also did you ever notice that branching is very similar to dialog trees… 😀

Maybe it’s far fetched, but it would explain why I like adventure games and coding a lot. 🙂

2 thoughts on “Stating the obvious: The adventure of programming

  1. Nikolaos Patsiouras

    You know…I never made the connection.It’s not valid for all cases considering many programmers don’t really like adventure games or at least don’t seem that interested in them but it might explain why programmers who do like adventure games also like programming.Very interesting indeed!

  2. Post author

    Yeah it doesn’t apply for everyone. It certainly is true with most of my friends though, but that’s probably because I like hanging out with like-minded people. 🙂


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