Game design may be trending toward neural inputs and cameras that sense your body in three dimensions and intelligent agents that respond to your every gesture and word. But interaction design – whether in gaming or music and visual performance – is often about doing more with less.

Kokoromi have the ultimate in minimalist challenges for their annual Gamma independent game design competition. Think you can embody fun in just the contact of one fingertip? Then it’s on. Behold the one-button game.

You have until January 31 to come up with something really brilliant and make it work on Mac or Windows. CDM readers, if you send something in, I’ll be curious to know about it.

I know what you’re thinking — lots and lots of running platformers where the button jumps. But while I could imagine one or two really good takes on that contest rising to the top, part of the challenge seems to be avoiding the platformer solution. The superb Splosion Man did this exquisitely well on Xbox 360 (albeit with directional controls from the analog stick, and the “explosion” mechanic really just being a different jump). One truly brilliant game with the jump-only mechanic – and running a relentless, automatic activity – is the wonderful Canabalt, available free on PC (Flash, Konregate) and for sale for iPhone/iPod touch. But perhaps the presence of these sorts of games will inspire radically different applications of the single button. (Anyone know the history of this mechanic, and perhaps other titles that have used it over the years? I’m sure Canabalt, awesome as it is, is not alone.)

We’ll see at the Game Developer Conference in March. I’ll be there for CDM.

canabalt [play free online, link to iTunes for mobile iPhone version]

The full details:

Gestural controls, multi-touch surfaces, musical instruments, voice recognition—even brain control. Games are moving beyond the iconic hand-held controller, and into the future. But is the secret to good games found in high-tech interfaces? Kokoromi proposes that game developers can still find beauty in absolute simplicity. On March 10th, Gamma 4 will unveil brand-new games that use JUST ONE BUTTON.

Gamma 4 invites software developers to push the limits of gameplay with a single input. Game developers, media, and industry luminaries from around the world, will join the general public to view and play the Gamma 4 games at at a party that bridges the end of the Independent Games Summit and the start of the main GDC. Following the event, all the games will be playable in a dedicated booth on the GDC Expo floor. Game creators whose games are selected for presentation at Gamma 4 will also be awarded free GDC All-Access passes.


  • Use a single button as your player input, in a unique or experimental way. Be creative.
  • The game must be pick up and play.
  • The gameplay cannot rely on audio information, since there will not be audio output provided during the event. Non-essential audio is permitted.
  • Your game can support any number of players up to 4.
  • The game cannot rely on an internet or LAN connection (there will not be connectivity provided during the event).
    The total gameplay session must be no longer than 5 minutes, including any intros, instructions, or credits.
  • The official controller is the Xbox360 controller. Player input must be assigned identically to the A,B,X, and Y buttons, and can use only the standard functionality (press, tap, hold, etc) of that button type (no triggers, bumpers, directional sticks, etc).
  • Games running either on Windows or Mac OS X are accepted.
    The maximum game resolution is 1024Ă—768.
  • The submission deadline is Jan 31, 11:59pm pacific time. Submission instructions to follow in mid January.

Special thanks to our premiere sponsors and co-organizers, Think Services and Flashbang Studios, for helping bring Gamma 4 to the Game Developers Conference!