The history of Brutal Refactoring Game
Last year I was thinking about a session during which attendees would learn how to focus on refactoring. I had some thoughts about this: we would need a list of coding smells, and have some cards to give the attendees that had that coding smells in their code. Now the obvious question was: how can you have coding smells if you do not have a code base? I thought about it, and then I figured it out: during coderetreats I anyway see legacy code after 10-15 minutes. So if this session would take 90-120 minutes we would have no issue with finding coding smells.
The first thing was: of course I will ask people to do pair-programming. This is how you learn a lot!
I came with these basic thoughts to Alex, and we had a chat about this session. Initially I had wanted to print one index card for each of the coding smells. But Alex helped me simplify the concept by creating a numbered list of coding smells that would be projected on a screen. Then we thought: we could use index cards just to write the number of the coding smell.
Now the question was: how do we do this? How can we enforce the coding smells? We thought about it and we said “we love clean code, so we could be something like a dictator”. Then we both had in mind the concept of “Benevolent Dictator“. The sessions was starting to shape-up. The benevolent dictator was a key factor in the environment we wanted to create: learn and play.