Nicholson graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, where he studied animation, and from the University of Washington with degrees in in computer science and math. He passed away on May 13, 2016.
Nicholson worked as an animator on Half-Life 2. He was a core member of the "Choreo Team", a group focused on the scenes where animation, character performances, level design and gameplay were most thoroughly integrated. He worked with Marc Laidlaw on set-pieces.
When Valve was working on the original Half-Life, every time they wanted to give the player a new weapon, it had to be strategically placed on a table or a crate or simply on the floor. They wished that a security guard could actually hand a weapon to the player at some point, but this idea could not be realized at the time. During the development of Half-Life 2, Marc Laidlaw brought up the idea again. After this, Nicholson created the scene where Alyx Vance hands over the Gravity Gun to the player. According to Marc, Jacob put dozens of little touches like that into the game, inventive bits of detail and polish that were part of every scene he worked on. His character work was said to be convincing and natural, bringing Barney Calhoun and others to life.