Interview: Scott A Jacobson, One Button Game JamOctober 29, 2020 By Katie Postma We recently told you about the One Button Game Jam created by Scott Jacobson, a teacher at Lake City High School. We asked Scott to share more about his motivations and inspirations for the game jam! Hello Scott, thank you for being our first interview here at the Playability Initiative! For those out there who don’t know you yet, please tell us about yourself, what you do and what brings you to the Playability Initiative! Wow. How far back should I go? My first 3D dungeon game I made on a TRS-80 in under 16 KB? That’s when I first fell in love with making computer games. Years later after graduating from university, I eventually ended up teaching science at one of our local high schools. I gradually added computers to my classroom and in 2002 I was asked to create some electives as we switched to a block schedule. I created 2 new offerings, a web design class and a game design class. As much as I loved coding, I decided to cater more to the writers and artists by using graphical and block coding software. That really paid off as I watched my sections quickly grow from one to four. And it turned out that about one in ten of my students would be developmentally delayed or on the autism spectrum, responding well to the atmosphere in these classes. In 2002 my 12 year old son Tyler (a master of Unreal Tournament level design, Flash, RPG Maker and Clickteam products) would come to the high school and help with my after school Lake City Game Creator Club. He ran the club until 2008 when he graduated. The club was the birth of game jams for me. Eventually itch.io became my choice for managing them. Over the last 12 years, as a bit of a hobby, I’ve found pleasure in helping people rapidly prototype their “worthy” game ideas in hopes of garnering funding to have it professionally produced; or just help them decide upon next steps. By “worthy” I mean games in the “serious games” and “games for change” realm. Ultimately all of these experiences converged to tee me up and respond eagerly to the Playability Initiatives call to action. Scott Jacobson What was your inspiration for holding the game jam? I have been a fan of Numinous Games and Ryan and Amy ever since I attended the CGDC Portland game developer conference back in 2017, attending their session “Beyond Choose Your Own Adventure: Crafting More Immersive Narratives”. More recently, I assisted Matthew Colon with the CGDC 2020 Virtual conference where Ryan and Amy conducted the session “Designing For The One“ and introduced the Playability Initiative. Both of these experiences, along with having many students and friends over the years with varying levels of disabilities, fanned into flames my desire to do something to raise awareness and do something personally. I also teach introductory game design at the high school level and typically run a game jam on itch.io twice a year using themes I hope appeal to that age group. Outside of class time I love to help others prototype worthy projects in the “serious games” genre as well. All of this seemed to come together at the right time and materialize into the One Button Game Jam. Is this something you want to make into a regular event? Would you use different #accessibility criteria? It is indeed my intention to make this a yearly event. I was even thinking of running it again before summer starts so that my new set of next semester students could give it a go as well. It would also allow me some lead time with my intro students to teach to and supplement their curriculum and cover algorithms specific to this type of game, e.g. gui element cycling and timing calibration. As far as changing the criteria, I am really content with the current state, especially “preventing the player from losing or causing detrimental outcomes if they step away”. I’d like to see how far this can be taken without ruining the gameplay. What rules and criteria were involved for the jam / games itself? I started off thinking it would be very easy to explain the criteria but found out in short order that the target Spinal Muscular Atrophy Community had very specific needs that needed to be addressed and I was missing the mark in describing it. Ryan Green, Matthew Colon, and Barry Ellis from oneswitch.org.uk came to my rescue and were very responsive in helping me craft the criteria clearly and precisely, i.e. using a mechanism for when a button is pressed down is required, not held, released, or mashed; not relying on reaction rates or precise timing or frequent button presses that can become tiring, to name a few. I was a bit concerned that with so many restrictions it might limit participation, but once again my “rescue crew” provided game mechanic suggestions and examples to motivate the entrants. How did the students’ respond to the challenge? Sadly, thanks to Covid, my school schedule changed so much these past few months that the contact time I had with my students was cut drastically, meaning most of my beginner kids wouldn’t have the required software experience to participate. This put the onus on my advanced students which are a much smaller group and with them it couldn’t be compulsory. To compound the problem, I had to adapt all my lessons to be Chromebook compatible. This really limited the software options. As a result only a handful of the entries were from my students but those who didn’t enter are playing, rating and commenting on the games. My only regret is that I feel a little disappointed Jack didn’t get his driving game at the end of this jam. Next time around I’ll add a special driving game category award and provide some attractive incentives for the One Button Game Jam 2 entrants in hopes of making that dream come true. Huge thanks to Scott for speaking with us! You can find the results of the One Button Game Jam 2020, by clicking here.