Jimmy Breck-McKye

A lazy programmer

Review - Wolfenstein: The New Order

I’m piloting an armed robot through a fictional concentration camp. I’ve seen men beaten, starved, murdered and eviscerated. I’ve scrambled out of a cart of emaciated, mutilated bodies – eyes cut out – and wrought revenge on my captors with vivid, pornographic violence. Now I’m trudging through the ashen rain with a heavy metal riff building in my ears, a Jewish Technology Wizard riding on my back whilst I cut through soldiers’ bodies with my oversized minigun and blast them into quivering lumps with an infinitely-replenishing rocket launcher.

Is it necessary? For sure it’s fun as a kind of power fantasy, but I’ve an unease aching in my stomach and a feeling of wrongness I don’t want to peer into too hard. The New Order’s tone is all over the place – it’s a game that really doesn’t know what it wants to be. It presents itself Doom-style ‘neo-retro’ FPS, but it plays like a cover-based shooter. It tells me serious, sentimental war story, but then throws me dual-wielded shotguns like a level of Quake. It laments the tragedy of war, but then there’s times when it looks a lot like a Nazi torture simulator. Ultimately, there’s a fun – if limited – game underneath, comprising some impressive set pieces and frenetic firefights – but as a unified whole it’s a bit messy.

The JavaScript Single Var Style Is an Antipattern

I hate the single var style in JavaScript. For the sake of clarity, I’m talking about this:

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var alpha = 1,
    beta = 2,
    gamma = 3;

It’s awkward to write, annoying to debug, misleading to read, and utterly unnecessary in 2017. Allow me to explain why.

Is Predator (1987) a Film About the Limitations of Masculinity?

The film Predator isn’t just some big, noisy, dumb action flick – it’s actually a clever film about the limitations of masculinity. The Predator kills men for excessive machismo, each in a way that specifically mocks the manner of his swagger. The only way a man can survive is if he accepts the limits of his masculinity.

I recently shared this idea over on Reddit and it seemed quite popular, so I thought I’d a) make a proper post of it and b) take time to develop the idea further.

Why I Live on My Own

I’d just moved to London after graduating, to a shared house in Leytonstone. I was sharing with a set of local students, most of whom were attending the University of East London, which had the unusual prestige of being the bottom-ranked institution in the country. These guys were all a bit weird, but one guy I particular made me uncomfortable.

Play Indie PSOne Games in the Net Yaroze Hall of Fame

Do you remember the Net Yaroze?

Back in the days of the original PSOne, Sony released a special black PlayStation. It allowed ordinary people to create homebrew PlayStation games, with the help of a home computer, exclusive Sony development software, chunky programming manual and plenty of patience and care. Net Yaroze games couldn’t be played on ordinary PSOnes directly, but the Official UK PlayStation Magazine released demo discs that let you finally play the best at home. I recently came across such a disc – featuring 14 of the magazines’ favourite picks – and wanted to share it here.

The Augur’s Fallacy

Recently, I’ve been examining how everyday fallacies can contribute to stress, our worry and our turmoil. One I’ve spotted of my own is something I call the ‘Augur’s Fallacy’.

Review - Pilgrims, Elinor Cook

Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting The Yard, an intimate and vibrant little theatre a whisker from Stratford’s Olympic Park. I watched Pilgrims, a 2013 play by Elinor Cook.

This review will contain spoilers.

I’m a Pair-programming Skeptic

I’ve attempted pair-programming several times, including in an organization that (briefly) considered rolling it out as a mandatory process for all engineers (you can guess how well that idea panned out). Personally, I’m not a huge fan. In fact, I’ll go further than that – I’m a downright pair programming skeptic.

Of course I’ve always tried to keep an open mind – this is an industry ripe with innovation and continual churn in technologies and practices. You don’t have fun in this game unless you’re happy with habitual change and continuous improvement. But I am so far absolutely convinced that pair programming is kryptonite, at least in the ways I’ve seen it practiced.

More’s ‘Utopia’ May Mean ‘Nowhere’ - but That Needn’t Make It a Satire

When students read More’s Utopia, the first thing they learn is that the name is coined from the Greek for ‘no-place’, or ‘no-where’. The second thing they usually learn is that the name Hythloday means ‘peddler of nonsense’. From this spring two responses: either that the tale is fraudulent, and More expects us to ridicule it, or that More wants to publicly disavow the tale to avoid political controversy.

I think both interpretations miss something: that though the tale is fictional, its fiction isn’t supposed to matter. Words are hollow in Utopia, and communication rarely occurs as planned. Messages get lost; topics of argument are forgotten. But that’s okay, because the real value of words isn’t in their center, in the semantics of the message, but on their edges in some fashion – the digressions they lead to; their accidental consequences; the marginalia of a book; as philosophical thought-experiments; where they end up rather than where they were intended to lead.

In this model, it doesn’t matter if the original message was a falsehood, because the message’s ultimate value was never in what it meant to begin with. In fact, I’ll eventually argue that to read the name ‘Utopia’ as signifying the work’s fiction is itself a kind of paradox. This will become clearer later.