“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is an American TV series that ran from 1997 to 2003. I first saw episodes around the 2000s, when it ran on Romanian television and later on French television while working in Paris. At that time, I thought the series was kind of silly and didn’t watch much of it.
This all changed about 10 years ago, when I learned that the series has been immensely influential. The website tvtropes.org, that categorizes common narrative patterns, started with the goal to analyze and extract these patterns from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. Many current TV series borrow some of the structure created by Buffy, with a “mystery of the week” – an episodic narrative – combined with a “big bad” – a narrative spanning over a full series. The “Arrowverse” universe of TV series is one example.
Curios to see what made the series so influential, I set out to start watching. And to my surprise, I was hooked. It’s silly, yes, but in a very endearing way. I got so hooked that I ended up buying also the comic books that follow the end of the series, and to my surprise had a lot of fun reading them as well.
When the time came for the Global Day of Coderetreat 2015, I published a blog post in which I proposed a set of constraints, as a response to people complaining that Coderetreats keep using the same problem, Conway’s Game of Life. I argued in that blog post that the problem with Coderetreats is not the problem, since the problem we solve at coderetreats is only meant to be secondary to the brain-stretching that takes place due to the constraints we pick. In fact, we aren’t supposed to finish the problem during a coderetreat, and if you do finish the problem it just means you haven’t stretched your brain enough.
I realized while writing the blog post that one area of the brain we don’t use much during coderetreats is the story-telling area. I proposed therefore a new session, inspired by Buffy:
At the beginning, there’s a vampire cell. Vampire cells turn other cells nearby into vampires. In every generation, there is a slayer that kills all vampire cells around it. OK, I completely made this up since I’m a huge fan of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”The Coderetreat Problem is Not the Problem, https://alexbolboaca.ro/coderetreat/the-coderetreat-problem-is-not-the-problem
I used this session to close Coderetreats a number of times, and I realized that it’s better to introduce it as “Storytelling over working code”. The idea of the session is not to finish the problem (the rules are incompletely specified on purpose), neither to have something that works, but to tell a story in the Conway’s Game of Life universe.
What stories can you generate using these rules? Well, I guess it’s time you found out :).