WPI Degree Played Big Role in Alumnus' Games Career

Ichiro Lambe '98, president of Dejobaan Games, spoke to WPI students about creating video games and entrepreneurship.

For Generation Xers, old school versus new school battles typically pit '80s-style dance moves against the "hipper" moves of the 2000s.

If Ichiro Lambe ’98 had his way, perhaps "Ms. Pac-Man" and "Tetris" would battle "Runescape" and "World of Warcraft" for game-world dominance. Or maybe not …

Lambe, president of Dejobaan Games in eastern Massachusetts, might be too emotionally attached to these game dynasties to choose sides. "Ms. Pac-Man" was the first game that he saw—the first woman he fell in love with. This 30-something "cut his eye teeth" programming a TI 99/4A. He started developing shareware in 1988 with a BBS doors game for the Atari game system, and worked with a game development company. He sold his first video game at age 14. In 1995, he co-founded Worlds Apart Productions, which now is Sony Online Entertainment Denver.

He founded Dejobaan in 1999.

The WPI alumnus, who received a bachelor’s degree in physics, now owns an online games studio, and his goal is to pioneer new gaming concepts such as "Can mathematics make one artist as strong as 10?"  or "Can we change the way games are created and played?"

Lambe recently spoke to students about how to “Make the Most Happy Game in the Whole World” as part of the institute’s Interactive Media & Game Development (IMGD) Speaker Series.

“Making a happy game is just another way of saying making an amazing game,” Lambe says. “I believe WPI students have the skills and creativity to make games that rival the best on the market.”

Lambe, who is teaching a master class at WPI this term, says he aspires to be the Walt Disney of the game world. His company released its 12th title, “The Wonderful End of the World” for Windows, earlier this year. Entertainment software company Valve released the title on its Steam digital distribution network, a point of pride for Lambe.

But for as much as he revels in the creativity and excitement of game development, Lambe says he believes WPI students should always keep entrepreneurship in mind. He says his most essential business skills were honed right here at WPI.

“I think the ISPs and IQPs were perhaps the most valuable part of my WPI experience,” Lambe said. “They helped me focus. They helped me become a better communicator and writer. They gave me a solid launching pad. They helped me create a product from beginning to end.”

It might seem as if Lambe would have been a shoo-in to major in game development, but WPI did not begin offering the major until 2004. And even if the degree were offered, there is no guarantee that Lambe would have enrolled. He says he majored in physics because it was uncomfortable for him. Computer science came naturally, and he wanted to stretch himself.

“I like a challenge, but I really enjoy prototyping,” Lambe says, adding that he thinks it’s amazing to see a product from conception to infancy to maturity. Once the product is done, Lambe says he enjoys “plussing,” a term Disney created that describes a process of taking a finished product and determining how to make it even better.    

Lambe encouraged WPI students to push themselves to the limits and perhaps they could develop the next product in the Pokemon series. Lambe says he sits on the IMGD Advisory Board because he wants to help guide students to develop skills and products that are transferrable to the real world.

If life were a game, Lambe definitely is playing to win. 

November 10, 2008