One-button gaming? UT student makes it possible

| Peter Koehorst

UT student Pablo San Gregorio, together with his associate Iván McGill, developed a one-button game: Data Garden. At Enschede's The Overkill Festival this week, this game will make its debut.

San Gregorio is the technician, McGill the artist. Together, they call themselves Shaman Garage. Data Garden is the first full-fledged game the duo is developing. The remarkable thing about this, as they call it themselves story-driven video game, is that it is played with one button.

Without the UT, San Gregorio says the game would never have succeeded so well. 'At the DesignLab, my ideas came to life. It is a place where you have a lot of support from each other. I had a lot of help in developing. You learn something from everyone.'


User expectations were a particular challenge for the two. San Gregorio: 'Gamers are used to using multiple buttons. To then suddenly play with one button requires a completely different attitude. During development, we added more and more to the game to meet players' needs. So we made full use of the feedback we received over the past nine months at Sickhouse. We used that feedback, both from developers and professional gamers, to develop the game.'

The project was developed by the two Madrid natives specifically for The Overkill Festival, commissioned by Sickhouse, the festival organiser. Hosting the annual programme 'the Sickhouse Gaming Trajectory', local game makers are supported in creating a new game. In the process, the creators receive professional guidance from both Sickhouse and external sources. The choice this year, then, was Shaman Garage.

Role distribution

San Gregorio (25) is pursuing a master's degree in Interaction Technology at the UT. Working at the DesignLab, he spent exactly nine months developing Data Garden. McGill (also 25) takes care of the animations. The division of roles is also reflected in the game: it is a hybrid game where the technical features are as important as the visuals.

That there was only nine months of time is also the main reason for a game for which only one button is enough. It was supposed to save development time. But then again, once you're at it, you want the best result. That, according to McGill, has certainly been achieved. In fact, 'We're surprised ourselves how well it works. We also learned a lot from it. It certainly helps us to push the boundaries of technical possibilities more often in the future.'

Playful programme

McGill: 'We also had a lot of support from Zuraida Buter over the past few months during development.' She co-curates The Overkill Festival and is known for such events as the Playful Arts festival and the Global Game Jam. She will hold a playful programme on Friday with talks and panel discussions with artists and game makers.

Young and old: everyone can play the game. In fact, Data Garden is a game in which no text is used. It is a 10- to 15-minute click-through adventure where the player is drawn into a story. 'It's a bit like a short film,' San Gregorio explains. How it works exactly? Come to the festival for that. The duo built three installations where visitors can play Data Garden during opening hours. And if you don't attend the festival, just be patient. From 1 December, the game (on PC and mobile) can be played on the platform Steam.


The gentlemen have big plans in the future. As Shaman Garage, they are going to develop even further with games where art and technology merge. A new commission is already there, too. San Gregiorio: 'We are developing a new game for Sokpop Collective, an independent development studio for video games. We will have one month for that. And after that? Then we will take our one button game to various festivals. Who knows what will come out of that.'


The Overkill Festival takes place in Enschede until Sunday 19 November. Focusing on indie games, digital art and film, this playful festival revolves around the theme 'The Outburst of the Digital Swamp'. The venue is the former fire station at Korte Hengelosestraat 1. The full schedule, artists, performances, artworks and workshops can be found on their website.

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