Zombie Code and Extra-Functional Significance | Play The Past

Useless code and comments in code—these are the zombie figures of software. They serve no purpose in a program’s execution, but they exude what Mark Marino calls extra-functional significance. They have meaning beyond the program. They speak not to the machine or the compiler, but to a different audience, another reader.

In software development, that other reader is often idealized as other programmers on the same project, though in practice the other reader is more likely to be a future version of the programmer him or herself (see Clinton Lanier’s fascinating study on the practice of source code commenting). The examples of JFK Reloaded and Dead Island, though, suggest that users and players should be counted among the audiences programmers can expect will see their code. —Zombie Code and Extra-Functional Significance | Play The Past.