When Joseph Lavoine ’06 graduated from Wheaton with a degree in computer science, the iPhone was still a year away from release and the iPad was just a gleam in Steve Jobs’s eye. Six years later, he’s using his education to create original games for Apple’s best-selling devices.
Lavoine has founded his own gaming company, Done Right Studios, which put out his first release in October 2011. The 99-cent puzzle game, “Origami Adventure,” challenges players to quickly choose between different colored animals to rack up points. “It’s a game about timing coordination—a bit like the old classic ‘Tetris,’” Lavoine explains. “Players choose between different origami animals—from cats to whales—that move at different speeds. The object of the game (to rack up points) is to get multiple animals of the same color in a row. But since the animals move at different speeds, players need to be crafty about which one they pick to make sure they keep having the same color hit the other end of the screen in sequence.”
The game has gotten five-star reviews on the Mac App Store website and is on sale in eight languages. It’s clear from reading the comments that children as well as adults have found “Origami Adventure” challenging and addicting.
Lavoine can be reached at email@example.com.
Lavoine, a Massachusetts native, started playing video games as a kindergartner when his parents bought him an Nintendo and the original “Super Mario Bros.” But he always loved books, as well.
“The first thing I ever wanted to grow up and become was an author,” Lavoine says. “But one day it struck me that I should combine my two favorite things, and write and create whole games, not just stories.”
That made Wheaton a natural fit. He was able to indulge both his interests by loading up on computer science and English classes.
Lavoine’s capstone was a yearlong independent study project he did as a senior. He learned the Java computer language and created his own multiplayer online gladiator game.
“Joe poured himself into his project work and soon emerged as a student leader among his computer science peers,” recalls Professor Mark LeBlanc, who taught Lavoine’s First-Year Seminar. He describes Lavoine as “someone who leverages his technical skills with broader thinking from the liberal arts and, in his case, with a true entrepreneurial spirit.”
After graduating, Lavoine impressed would-be employers with his senior-year project, and found jobs working on a number of major franchises, including Sim City and Dungeons and Dragons. But when the Boston startup he was working for downsized in 2010, he quickly decided to strike out on his own.
Creating “Origami Adventure” turned Lavoine into a true small businessman. He designed and engineered the game himself, sometimes working 60 to 70 hours a week, but also had to find outside contractors to contribute artwork, music, sound effects and translations.
“Even though I often worked from morning into the night, when you wholly own something, all the work somehow seems different,” he says. “At the same time, working for yourself also requires a lot of discipline.”
With his first game under his belt, he is now moving forward with a new project (“a combination of Lord of the Rings and FarmVille”) that he hopes to release for the iPad later this year. He’s looking to attract other entrepreneurially minded Wheaton students or graduates to work with him on art design and marketing the game.
Photo collage by David Laferriere, images from Done Right Studios