The story behind B.U.T.T.O.N. begins in early 2010, at an impromptu birthday party. The four of us were sitting around drinking, and we got to chatting about the Kokoromi’s GAMMA IV contest. The contest constraint was to design a game played with only one button. Without any prior plan that we were going to brainstorm a game, we stumbled upon an amusing idea: to subvert the contest constraint, one could incentivize players to push each others’ buttons. Both literally and figuratively.
Later that month, we prototyped the game late one night at our annual “Winter-Een-Mas” retreat on the west coast of Sjælland. The very first playtest ended in hysterical laughter. Immediately, we knew we were onto something.
In developing B.U.T.T.O.N., our goal has been to push gameplay “outside” the computer – to make a physical game that just happens to use a computer. We figure that, in a loud party setting, most people just want to laugh and horse around together, not futz with some complex game system.
What players are “allowed” to do is heavily dependent on the specific people playing. The computer does not monitor whether players take a full six steps back, or if each player really completed five pushups, etc. This is not a shortcoming, but a feature. Rather than let the computer carry out all the rules, the players are themselves responsible for enforcing (or not enforcing) the rules. On this account we were inspired by old folk games and board games, which encourage improvisational play and “house rules.”
Like play theorist Bernie DeKoven puts it: “Rules are made for the convenience of those who are playing. What is fair at one time or in one game may be inhibiting later on. It’s not the game that’s sacred, it’s the people who are playing.”