A Night At The Dojo

Yesterday evening I attended my second London Python Code Dojo, and the first where any coding was involved.

After devouring the free pizza and beer (or Coke in my case, being a teetotaller), we opted to split into equal-sized groups and tackle the rather interesting problem of building a text adventure game. Now, building such a game in the space of an hour is a little unrealistic so the decision was made to attempt the simplest thing that would work: namely, navigating around our game world using the four directions of the compass.

Despite the fact my team didn’t complete the task, due to some hasty debugging in the final few minutes of the hour, I must admit that we still produced something to be proud of. We took a couple of different approaches to the other teams, which contributed to holding us back but at the same time yielded a rather satisfying result.

Whereas the others were opting for pre-generated game maps, some teams even splitting into dedicated data and game engine teams, we decided to go with the idea of creating our map on the fly. This meant we didn’t have to bother creating any initial game data other than a starting room in our dungeon, with random doors leading off this room. As our hero progressed through the doors, we would create new rooms leading off the door – taking care to ensure the rooms matched up if we backtracked or went in a circle. Okay, a little more complex than it needed to be, but a rather bold and enjoyable solution.

Despite having pair programmed before, I did have a sudden brain failure when I found myself in the hot seat. It was the first time I’d paired up with people I didn’t know before (even though a colleague of mine was also in the same team as me), and more importantly it wasn’t so much a pair programming session as a group programming session. It was also interesting being in front of an unfamiliar development environment – I’m not a fan of VI at the best of times, and my brain totally gave up on me with the key bindings. Embarrassing! I was definitely out of my comfort zone… which is actually no bad thing, because it forces me to think and deal with the situation.

It was great mixing with different developers, bouncing ideas off new people, being taken out of my comfort zone and tackling something I wouldn’t ordinarily have thought about working on. At the end of the evening we all demoed our work (or traceback) and ran through the code really quickly. You get to see all the different approaches, pick up interesting ideas and learn about other people’s coding styles. I also learnt about the Python Cmd module! (And was a bit surprised to find a lot of people there knew it already – I felt a bit of a n00b)

Code dojos are great fun, and an excellent way to meet fellow developers, hone your skills, learn new ones and get yourself out of the comfort zone / rut.

My thanks to organiser Nicholas Tollervey, the guys at Fry-IT for providing the room (and essential pizza), and everyone who attended. Hopefully see you all at the next one! (Well, probably the next London Pyssup first)

Further reading:

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