Built-in Macros

In this chapter, we'll explore a few of the macros built in to GameLisp's standard library.

While reading through, bear in mind that none of these macros are doing anything which requires special support from the runtime - if they didn't exist, it would be possible for you to implement all of them yourself, using the information you learned in the previous chapter.

Control Flow

The when and unless macros were introduced previously.

while, loop, until

while and loop are similar to their Rust counterparts:

(let i 0)
(while (< i 5)
  (inc! i)
  (pr i " ")) ; prints 1 2 3 4 

  (prn "around and around we go"))

until is like while, but it terminates the loop when its condition is "truthy", rather than stopping when it's "falsy". We could rewrite the above while loop as:

(let i 0)
(until (>= i 5)
  (inc! i)
  (pr i " ")) ; prints 1 2 3 4 

The break and continue macros work as they do in Rust. By default, all looping constructs return #n, but break-with-value is supported:

(prn (loop
  (break 10))) ; prints 10

and, or

The and and or macros provide lazy boolean evaluation, just like Rust's && and || operators.

and evaluates each of its arguments from left to right. If one of them returns a "falsy" value, the and form returns that value and does not evaluate any more arguments. Otherwise, it returns the result of evaluating its rightmost argument.

Similarly, or evaluates each of its arguments from left to right, stopping as soon as it produces a "truthy" value.


The cond macro is reminiscent of Rust's match, but it's simpler. (GameLisp does also have a full fledged match macro, which we'll discuss in a future chapter.)

cond receives a series of clauses, where the first form in each clause is a condition. It checks each condition in turn, evaluating the body of the first clause whose condition is "truthy", and returning the evaluation result of the last form in that body.

  (condition-0   ; if this condition is truthy...
    then-0)        ; this form is evaluated and returned
  (condition-1   ; otherwise, if this condition is truthy...
    then-1a        ; this form is evaluated, then...
    then-1b)       ; this form is evaluated and returned
  (condition-2)  ; otherwise, if this condition is truthy, it's returned
  (else          ; otherwise...
    then-e))       ; this form is evaluated and returned

The final clause's condition can be the symbol else, in which case the condition always passes. If there is no else clause and none of the conditions are "truthy", the cond form returns #n.

If a clause only contains a condition, without any other forms, then that clause's return value is the result of evaluating the condition itself.

When a branching expression is long enough that it needs to be split across multiple lines, and it has both a "then" branch and an "else" branch, it's good practice to use cond rather than if:

; can be confusing
(if (eq? emotion 'angry)
  (draw 0 0 w h 'crimson)
  (draw 3 3 (- w 3) (- h 3) 'cerulean))

; more verbose, but easier to edit and less confusing
  ((eq? emotion 'angry)
    (draw 0 0 w h 'crimson))
    (draw 3 3 (- w 3) (- h 3) 'cerulean)))

Defining Globals

We introduced bind-global! in the Evaluation chapter. bind-global! is such a common operation that we provide a macro shorthand for it, def.

(def clip:door-open (load-clip "door-open.mp3"))

; ...is equivalent to...

(bind-global! 'clip:door-open (load-clip "door-open.mp3"))

Bear in mind that bind-global! will trigger an error if its global is already bound, so you can't necessarily use def where you would use let. It's generally only used at the toplevel.

def's syntax is otherwise identical to let: it can accept three or more arguments (equivalent to multiple consecutive def forms), and it performs destructuring on its left-hand side.

defn is a similar shorthand for defining global functions:

(defn brew (cauldron)
  (push! cauldron 'eye-of-newt))

; ...is equivalent to...

(bind-global! 'brew (fn &name brew (cauldron)
  (push! cauldron 'eye-of-newt)))

And we have defmacro for global macros:

(defmacro with-pointy-hat (..body)

; ...is equivalent to...

(bind-macro! 'with-pointy-hat (fn &name with-pointy-hat (..body)

In both cases, a &name clause is used to assign a symbol as the function's name for debugging purposes. This means that defn and defmacro generally lead to a nicer debugging experience, compared to using bind-global! and bind-macro! directly.

Recursive Local Functions

Defining a local function which calls itself recursively can be awkward:

(let recurse (fn (n)
    ((> n 5)
      (recurse (- n 1)))
      (prn n)))))

(recurse 10.5) ; error: unbound symbol 'recurse'

The outer call to recurse works as expected, but the let binding is not in scope for the recursive call, so it attempts to access a global variable named recurse instead.

The let-fn macro solves this problem:

(let-fn recurse (n)
    ((> n 5)
      (recurse (- n 1)))
      (prn n))))

(recurse 10.5) ; prints 4.5

This works by initializing the local variable to #n first, and then immediately assigning the function to it, so that the local binding is in scope throughout the function's body. It's equivalent to:

(let recurse)
(= recurse (fn (n) ...))


In GameLisp, all variables and collections are mutable by default.

The = macro can be used to assign a new value to a place. A place might be a global or local variable, an array element, a table value, or any number of other things.

Simple use of = looks like this:

(let a 10, b 20, c 30)

(= a 40)
(= b 50, c 60)

(prn (+ a b c)) ; prints 150

When ='s first argument is a function call, it will inspect the name of the function, then replace the entire = form with a call to the corresponding "setter" function.

(= (macro 'brew) (fn () #n))
(= (global 'cursed?) #t)

; ...is equivalent to...

(macro= 'brew (fn () #n))
(global= 'cursed? #t)

Naming Conventions

Functions which assign a value to some memory location are suffixed with =, while functions which perform other kinds of mutation are suffixed with !.

; reads as "set the global cursed? to #t"
(global= 'cursed? #t)

; reads as "push the new-cat to the arr-of-cats"
(push! arr-of-cats new-cat)

; reads as "increment the cauldron-weight"
(inc! cauldron-weight)

Where possible, it's good style to use the = macro, rather than calling a setter function directly. The = macro is easier to spot when visually scanning through the source code.

In-Place Mutation

It's a very common operation to read the value currently stored in a place, pass it to a function (perhaps with some other arguments), and then assign the function's return value to that same place. We provide a number of macros to make this easier.

(let n 0)
(inc! n 5) ; add 5 to n
(mul! n 2 2 2) ; multiply n by 2, three times
(prn n) ; prints 40

inc!, dec!, mul!, div!, div-euclid!, rem!, rem-euclid!, abs! and clamp! can be used to perform basic arithmetic in-place.

The (swap! a b) macro swaps the values stored in any two places.

; the two places can be different from one another
(swap! my-local-var (global 'my-global-var))
(swap! [my-arr 0] [my-arr -1])


The -> and ->> macros perform a simple syntax transformation which can make deeply-nested function calls easier to read.

The -> macro accepts a form followed by any number of arrays or symbols. The form is evaluated as normal, and it's then passed through a chain of function calls, where the return value of each call acts as the first argument to the next call.

(fourth (third (second (first a) b) c))

; ...could be refactored into...

(-> (first a) (second b) (third c) fourth)

; ...which is equivalent to...

  (let tmp-1 (first a))
  (let tmp-2 (second tmp-1 b))
  (let tmp-3 (third tmp-2 c))
  (fourth tmp-3))

The ->> macro is similar, except that it passes in each form's result as the last argument to the following call, rather than its first argument.

(fourth (third c (second b (first a))))

; ...could be refactored into...

(->> (first a) (second b) (third c) fourth)

; ...which is equivalent to...

  (let tmp-1 (first a))
  (let tmp-2 (second b tmp-1))
  (let tmp-3 (third c tmp-2))
  (fourth tmp-3))

When you have a several function calls deeply nested inside one other, it's usually possible to refactor them with either -> or ->>. Having data flow from start to finish can be much easier to follow, compared to data which travels up and down a call-tree.

(+ ..(map (fn (n) (* n 2)) (filter even? (arr 1 2 3 4))))

; ...could be refactored into...

  (arr 1 2 3 4)
  (filter even?)
  (map (fn (n) (* n 2)))

It's a little like a chain of method calls. In Rust, the above would be written as:

fn main() {
[1, 2, 3, 4]
    .map(|n| n * 2)