The Stack Overflow Podcast

Game Boy emulators, PowerPoint developers, and the enduring appeal of Pokémon GO

Episode Summary

The home team talks game development and PowerPoint, the good ol’ days of Game Boy, and wild facts about the largest species in the deer family. Plus: Was that summer everyone was playing Pokémon GO the closest we’ll ever get to world peace?

Episode Notes

Pokémon GO is six years old (it makes us feel old, too). 

Check out NoobBoy, the Game Boy emulator. Need more nineties nostalgia? You can still play DOOM on almost anything.

What kind of game could you build with PowerPoint? Two game developers go head-to-head over 24 hours to show you: Watch the video.

Did you know a moose can dive 20 feet deep and swim faster than Michael Phelps? It’s true.

Today’s Lifeboat badge goes to user zvone for their answer to Error message "TypeError: descriptor 'append' requires a 'list' object but received a 'dict'".

Episode Transcription

Matt Kiernander It's always going to hold a very firm place in my heart I think going forward. And if there happens to be more good Pokémon content that comes out in like 20 years’ time from now I'm going to be jumping on it too for sure. Yeah, I'm going to be walking around on my little stroller or segway or whatever. Hopefully I don't age that quickly, but you never know.

[intro music plays]

MK Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of the Stack Overflow Podcast, now recording in video! So every single time we wave now is an introduction. 

Cassidy Williams Wow, it's real! I totally was just looking at you like, “Ugh. Stop talking,” and then realized I'm on video now. So, wow!

MK I know. We actually have to be in control of our faces again. I thought it was quite relaxing doing the whole audio-only podcast because I didn't have to do my hair or trim my beard, or kind of try and be alive with my eyes. I could just focus purely on conversation. 

CW But alas, we have to be alive with our eyes. 

MK It's a shame but here we are, the day and age. So we hope you do appreciate the video content that's coming out on Stack Overflow. It's been a labor of love from everyone here to get it to the point where it is, but let us know in the comments below, descriptions– we can say all the YouTube stuff now! We can say, “Like and subscribe.”

CW Smash that subscribe button if you are interested in more content from the Stack Overflow Podcast team! 

MK We’re not going to be doing that much shilling, but we might remind you every now and then in ways we think is appropriate. Okay, so today's podcast. It's actually a little bit of a game dev oriented heavy podcast today. One of the things that I found recently on the internet was a GitHub project where somebody tried successfully, I'm not going to even say tried, they successfully made a GameBoy emulator. I think this is really cool. This is like a side project that I think just teaches you so much stuff and is like a really fun thing to do. Have you ever tried anything to this level before, Cassidy?

CW Never to this level, but I've really liked observing it because GameBoys just didn't have a lot of memory. It was really, really difficult to compress things into small amounts and I've read so many articles about the Pokémon developers and the Mario developers and stuff where they had to figure out, “Okay, if we want to have these sprites, how can we reuse this? How can we figure out how to have the smallest file sizes possible so that we can make X, Y, or Z happen?” And it's great. I am amazed by that type of memory management in coding, because we just don't have to worry about it as much now. I mean we should and we do, but it's not like this will not function because there's not enough memory. 

MK It kind of ties into the whole, ‘Can it run Doom?’ meme, where people are trying to run Doom on like fridges or they even did it on the Touch Bar that was on the last generation of MacBook Pros.

CW I’ve seen it on a printer. 

MK Yeah, it’s crazy. Doom was a pretty interesting case because the way in which they implemented 3D at the time was quite revolutionary, and there’s whole documentaries around how they actually managed to do this because it is from a technical standpoint pretty outstanding. So I'll find something and I'll drop it in the show notes or the description below, but it blew my mind. And I think Cassidy, we’re kind of in the same era where getting that GameBoy and Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow, which were like the OGs– fond memories. 

CW I think I still have mine actually, too. It was great. I loved playing those games and I still play Pokémon Go and stuff today. So very near and dear to my heart. 

MK Out of curiosity, what is the Pokémon Go ecosystem like at the moment? Because I played it for a little while a couple years ago when it first came out and it was very, very fun. And then I dropped off. 

CW Also it came out five years ago, so that's how fast time has flown. 

MK No! Oh, no.

CW I know. And I only know because it's anniversary week and so there's a big event right now for the fifth anniversary of Pokémon Go. I feel like that was the closest we ever got to world peace was just everybody playing Pokémon Go. I was living in New York City when it first came out and– or wait, it's not the fifth year anniversary, it's the sixth year anniversary this year. Oh my gosh, it was in 2016. And in New York City that was just where the chaos was happening of just everybody playing everywhere all the time, and I remember there were all these viral videos of like stampedes in Central Park because people were just like, “There's a Dratini over there!” My husband was in all of those stampedes. He was running and he would just be gone and I'd be like, “Oh, I know it's because he’s playing Pokémon.” And everyone in my office was playing. We constantly had our phones out because there were like three pokéstops at our office that we could constantly spin. 

MK I am a little bit upset, I think, that we haven't had anything as significant happen to that extent over the last five or six years. Because I remember when I first found out about it I was in from New Zealand but I happened to be in San Francisco and Seattle and Vancouver at that time, and I actually met people because I was walking around and there would be this big group of people standing there all on their phones and you'd just be like, “Pokémon?” They'd be like, “Pokémon! Come on!” And it was really weird because you'd just get people who are interested in Pokémon out in social situations, whatever else, and you instantly had a connection to be like, “So what are you doing? Pokémon, like what's going on?” And it was an excellent way to meet people and get outside.

CW Yeah, nothing's been like that. I got to know neighbors because we would happen to be going, “Oh, there's a raid at the church near our house. You want to go together?” And so we would all walk together and everything.

MK I mean, working with digital stuff like anyone who's listening who’s a software developer or you're just interested in tech, you spend a lot of time sitting behind a screen, and to be able to meet other people who are also interested in the same variety of things as you are, but do it in a way that's away from sitting down at a computer, I really enjoyed I think that aspect the most. Obviously the Pokémon aspect was fun, but even if you were just off for a walk by yourself and then you just took out your phone, Pokémon Go, you went round. It was just very good at connecting people and I wish we had something else to band behind. 

CW The thing is, other games have come out but just not to that degree. There was a Harry Potter one that came out. I think there were talks about a Lord of the Rings one, but they're just not as popular as Pokémon is. And I'm not sure why, but it's just a very universally-loved thing amongst the people who grew up around it I think

MK It's always going to hold a very firm place in my heart I think going forward. And if there happens to be more good Pokémon content that comes out in like 20 years’ time from now, I'm going to be jumping on it too for sure. I'm going to be walking around on my little stroller or segway or whatever. Hopefully I don't age that quickly, but you never know. Anyway, so just going back to this emulator, the project is linked on GitHub. I thought it was really fascinating. I've never tried emulating something before. You can actually go and play I think about six games. So they've got Tetris, the Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, which also– chef’s kiss. Amazing. Pokémon Blue, Donkey Kong Land and Castlevania. Did you ever play the Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

CW So I have a fun little story about my GameBoy. My parents were not that into video game consoles and stuff. We played educational games on the computer but that was pretty much it. And then my dad found a GameBoy Color in a ditch on the side of the road and it had Pokémon Blue in it, and that year was a glorious year because we finally had a video game and my sister and I would just kind of trade the GameBoy back and forth. And we were truly learning it brute force because we didn't have any guides or anything.

MK That reminds me, I had a GameBoy growing up and we were fortunate enough to get a Nintendo later on, but we didn't have internet. It just wasn't a thing in our house for a while. And so we weren't looking up guides on how to do things. It just wasn’t possible. I remember my dad, I got stuck on this one particular part and he was talking to me about it. He was like, “Oh, how come you haven't been playing the game?” And I said I got stuck. And he had gone to work and he printed off the guide solution thing and he handed it to me and it was so, so nice. Really, really lovely.

CW That’s awesome. The closest I ever got to it was if we were near a GameStop or something where I could go in and see if they had those magazine guides for the games because those were such a thing. So if ever we got close I'd be like, “Could I go in for five minutes?” And my parents would be just like, “Just for a second.” And so I'd go in and just try to see if I could find anything. Because in those early games, in Red, Blue, Yellow, there's like a bush that you could cut or it was a tree or something that you could use the Cut TM or HM on. I had no idea how to do that. I was just like, “You're just trapped. There’s no way to do it.” Until you find a magazine somewhere that tells you that's the kind of thing you can knock down. 

MK Yeah, that was tricky. The specific tree that you mentioned, was it on the right hand side of the screen so you had to move across to the right?

CW There was that one and then there was one– oh gosh. It was above the Viridian Forest and below Pewter Town. And you didn't get it until later, because you went in that Diglett cave to get near it. This is very specific knowledge. 

MK Oh, those caves! Those caves sucked. Because you couldn't see so I had to brute force that whole thing because I just couldn't figure out what to do.

CW Until you realized you had to get Flash.

MK Yeah, I know. I was so annoyed. That was a long chunk of my childhood, that particular one. 

CW Yeah. I'm kind of glad that we didn't have the ability to look this kind of stuff up because it honestly was a good learning experience of learning how to solve a fun puzzle and adventures and that sort of thing, and I feel like that's something where if ever I have future children I'll be like, “You're going to play this game and I'm not going to tell you how to do it.” And I'm just going to let them figure it out.

MK You just lock them in a room with no internet or cellular connection. 

CW Play Pokémon! Appreciate history!

MK I think that honestly from a problem-solving perspective that worked because now a lot of the time if I get stuck I'm so tempted just to reach over for my phone and Google the solution, and I didn't have to go through the walkthrough of figuring out for myself what it was. And that's part of the joy of the whole thing as well. 

CW Right. I feel like that's the joy of learning anything. If you can do it yourself and figure out how to do it yourself, you learn it so much better than if someone tells you how to do it and you apply it yourself and we could get all into that so deeply. 

MK For sure. When we're working and working through like software development problems or most problems for that matter, we're just trying to solve it as efficiently as possible. We're not really built to experiment and play and be creative and be like, “You know what? We're going to spend a week trying to figure out all the potential solutions to this problem.” It's like, “No, we need to get from point A to point B as fast as possible.” And I never really thought about the impact that that could have on my recreational time or the stuff that I do for fun on my own learning and development. 

[music plays]

Ben Popper Accusoft is a software development company specializing in document processing, conversion, and automation solutions. From out of the box and configurable applications, to APIs and SDKs, Accusoft helps developers solve their document workflow challenges while saving hours of development time. Learn more at

[music plays]

CW Okay, speaking of recreational fun and learning, I would like to take a quick break and talk to you about moose– the animal. I know that this is silly, but I just got really into moose in the past 24 hours and I have learned so many interesting facts. Did you know that a moose can dive up to 20 feet deep in the water? 

MK You know what? I could try and feign my reaction. We talked about this pre-show and I was completely baffled and blown away. So I'm not going to fake anything, but for the viewers out there, yeah, I did not know this. 

CW I’m still flabbergasted. They can close their nostrils. 

MK Do they swim like dogs? 

CW They do, yeah. So they can swim across lakes, fjords, whatever. They can swim up to six miles per hour and they dive and just graze along the bottoms of bodies of water, to the point where one of their regular predators is orcas because they can just get eaten while swimming. They actually swim a lot. 

MK See, that's one of those things that you say it but my brain doesn't compute that that is actually a thing. The closest existence I think those two could have was if the moose was on the shore and it saw an orca out in the bay and they acknowledged each other. He kind of dipped the antler and the orca just put up a fin.

CW Also picture this, because a moose is huge. And this is how deep I got it. The average female moose is about 770 pounds. The average male is about 880 pounds, but they can all get to up to 1800 pounds. Giant creatures.

MK Yeah, that’s a lot of moose. 

CW Their antlers can spread up to six feet wide. So this is a gigantic, larger than a vehicle, creature diving, eating vegetation at the bottom of water. 

MK With antlers that big, how does that impact their ability, because it's not like they're foldable. You can't just tuck those behind. 

CW Yeah. I don't know. And also, fun fact, they shed their antlers every year and it's like hair, it doesn't hurt them. They shed their antlers.

MK That's kind of fun to be honest. I like how, not bougie, but they'll be like, “I wonder what I'm getting this year. I think I might go for a different style. I'm going to go for a little bit of a curve around here.” They have their little vision board at home with all the Pinterest antlers that they want to try to do this year. I have not seen a moose yet in Canada, but when I first see one I will let you know. I'll take a photo, we’ll put it on the podcast.

CW Tell me everything. I would love that. Oh, their antlers are so amazing. They don't actually use their antlers to fight. They kind of do because they're very solitary animals, they're relatively peaceful, but then during mating season, the male bull moose is like, “I want the ladies,” and that's when they kind of shove each other with the antlers. But their main like, ‘I'm going to crush you’ things are their hooves. Their hooves are really aggressive where their front feet can kick in any direction– forward, side to side, back. They just have a really funky joint at the knee. This is where the video is good– I picture them being like a helicopter just attacking and waving and flailing. Granted, that would be me if I were a moose. I'd be just panicking and flailing my front legs. But that's how they fight, it’s with their feet, not with their antlers. 

MK Interesting. How did you get started on this and what resources should I look at for any moose-related activities in the next 24 hours?

CW I literally wrote myself an over 500-word post just for me to learn about moose facts and so maybe I should publish it. I first got interested in this because there's a show on the History Channel that was recently added to Netflix called ‘Alone’. And they drop a person, I think 10 people, in the middle of the wilderness separately so they are alone by themselves, and each of these people is allowed to have 10 objects, and those objects can be anything I think within reason. I don't think anybody brought a shotgun or anything, but a bow and arrow, a flint, a bowl, things like that, and like a GoPro that's solar powered and they just film themselves and everybody is just surviving in the wilderness as long as they can and whoever survives the longest wins. That's the whole concept. It's fascinating, it just kind of popped up on my feed. And as one of the guys was surviving he just saw a moose swimming, and I was like, “That moose is swimming. How about that? Do moose swim?” And then I went deep into the cavern of knowledge about moose, and I want to see one. I want to learn everything.

MK Speaking of things that are scary and intimidate me, the next thing we have to talk about today is game development in PowerPoint, which is a video on YouTube, again going to be linked in the description below. Cassidy, would you like to introduce this wonderful little link that we have? 

CW So cool. PowerPoint is amazing. I've seen people say, “Oh, you can build a state machine in PowerPoint. You can build a computer in PowerPoint. There's so many things.” Game development in PowerPoint is just another one of those incredible things that you can do in it. And this video I found, it's a PowerPoint game jam where it was just kind of these people saying, “What kind of game can we make in PowerPoint?” And you can do scripting in it. You can have mouse effects because it's built-in in PowerPoint. There's so many things. It's a full-on software tool that I feel like so many people, including myself, underestimate to be just like, “Yeah, you can do really cool presentations. Look at this animation!” You can do such cool things in this and watching this was, kind of like what you said, it was a humbling experience because they just pushed it to its limit and they were able to make games in PowerPoint. 

MK Oh, that's right. I'm just skimming through, it's only about a nine and a half minute video, and seeing how they built the platforms and stuff like that. That's very cool. 

CW It's very cool. And it also kind of shows you that you don't need to have really fancy tools if you just want to be creative and make something. And kind of like what we were talking about earlier, when you just kind of learn as you go, you're not going to find– I mean maybe will– tutorials on like, “How do I do this certain game development thing in PowerPoint?” That's probably not a topic that's going to come up regularly. But it's such a cool creative thing to figure out, “Okay, I have to do this. Using the tools in front of me, how will I get to it?” And it was a very cool experience watching this video and seeing what came out of it.

MK Yeah, I've been looking into game engines recently, and I'm assuming my next search isn't going to be Unity vs Unreal V Godot vs PowerPoint. It's very much going to stick within the main boundaries. But I'd seen a lot of people do some crazy stuff with Excel as well.

CW Excel is even bigger. Between PowerPoint and Excel and honestly even Microsoft Word, those are some powerful tools that have just withstood the test of time in so many ways. I was talking to someone who's a security engineer who gets very deep into encryption and stuff, and I was talking just about password managers and stuff with him. And he was saying, honestly, the way Microsoft Word’s encryption works with password protection and everything, if you wanted to password protect a document, instead of using 1Password or LastPass or any of the open source options, all of the things out there, you could literally encrypt a Microsoft Word document that has all of your passwords in it and it would be just as secure if not more secure because it's local to your machine. It blows my mind. 

MK I can attest to that, but not in a good way. When I left one of my early jobs, I thought I was doing the sensible and responsible thing where we didn't have a password manager so in my doc when I left the company I put down all the information, all the processes, everything else, and I put all the passwords in plain text in the Microsoft doc. And then I used I'm not sure if it was the native encryption or whatever else, but you put a password in. And then I told my manager the password, hunky-dory, I moved on, life was good. And then about six months after that they needed a password for one of the social accounts and the manager had forgotten what the password was, they hadn't put it in their own system. And they reached out to me and they said, “Hey, what was the password?” And I said, “I don't know. I wrote it down for you. I gave it to you. I don't know what to do.” And then nobody could open this file. Fortunately they were logged in on other computers, they were able to get everything back, but it was not the easiest process in the world. So pro tip, if you're going to encrypt a Word file with a password, remember it.

CW Put it on a little post-it. Hide it in a drawer. 

MK Put it in a back up, in a safe, whatever else. Put it underneath the desk. Yeah. Oh, goodness gracious. Yeah, those things can definitely backfire if you don't build in redundancy to your password measurement. Yeah, very, very important.

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MK Before we head off as well, I just want to say that I've had a quick look at some of the upcoming guests that we’re getting onto the podcast, and even though I cannot say anything currently, there are some really cool episodes coming up that I'm genuinely very, very excited about. So just keep an eye out. 

CW Smash that subscribe button everyone!

MK We're going to have to have a little, not a swear jar, but a like and subscribe jar for every time somebody says that.

CW Perfect.

MK The lifeboat for today. A lifeboat is an answer score of 20 or more to a question score of -3 or less that goes on to receive a score of three or more. Today's lifeboat goes to zvone for answering the question, Error message "TypeError: descriptor 'append' requires a 'list' object but received a 'dict'". Yeah, I've come up with a lot of TypeScript errors in the past. I still do. I really honestly need to spend some time learning TypeScript end to end because I see a lot of setting type to any which I know is not the solution to everything. 

CW I have thoughts. I think it's a good language. I think it is often overkill depending on how you use it, but it's great and I can recommend a book and I'll drop it in the show notes. By Josh Goldberg, he just launched a book called Learning TypeScript last week or two weeks ago. 

MK Oh, wow. Okay, timely. 

CW Oh, it's very easy, 

MK Ah, I bet they were thrilled when they got that domain. Well, that again will be in the show notes below. Thank you very much everyone for coming along. We appreciate each and every one of you. My name is Matt Kiernander. I'm a Developer Advocate here at Stack Overflow. You can find me online in most of the places @MattKander.

CW And I'm Cassidy Williams. You can find me @Cassidoo on most things. You can find me at Remote and also OSS Capital doing developer experience things. Or if you're like a moose, you could chase me by day five after your birth. They can outrun a human at day five. 

MK Hold on. Are you saying that after five days they’ll be able to catch you?

CW Five days of being alive, they can outrun a human. 

MK Oh, wow, okay. 

CW I know. Moose are amazing. We’ve got to end the episode.

MK Yeah, we do, but I just thought you were saying that a moose and a human at a start line would take the moose five days to catch up to the human, but this is five days after birth. 

CW Oh no, no. When it’s five days old it can outrun you. 

MK Yeah, we can't really do much at five days old. Pretty helpless. 

CW Nope. Superior creatures.

MK Go have a look at some moose, enjoy the rest of your weekend or whenever you're enjoying this, and we will see you again in the next one. Bye!

CW Bye!

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