Computer games and an RIT grad who makes them

While studying to be a photojournalist at RIT, Andrew Welch '92 happened to write a computer game, a remake of a 1980's asteroids-style game. "It ended up doing quite well," he says. Welch is now owner/president of Ambrosia Software, a Rochester company that designs computer games and sells them via the Internet. Welch uses some of his down time to volunteer at local Lollipop Farm.

"When we talk about the Internet, we're talking about a new industry in which younger people know more than experienced workers," says Robert Barbato, RIT professor of management and acknowledged expert on entrepreneurship. "The industry needs these new workers to continue to grow.

"And if someone takes the leap toward self employment when they are just out of school, the risks are minimal, since they don't yet have anything valuable to lose."

"I did the first computer game for fun. When it did well, I had to make a decision on whether to continue or finish school," Andrew Welch recalls. "I decided to concentrate on school." Shortly out of school, though, he and several colleagues formed Ambrosia. The company has offices in Rochester's Cascade District, an up-and-coming former industrial neighborhood just west of downtown. Now Ambrosia has six full-time employees and a bevy of contractors. The products, once only available for download from the Web, are now available by mail on CD-ROM.

Computer games are wildly popular, despite their hefty $50 and up price tag, Welch says. "People spend a lot of money to get a good computer that can run a game," he says. "You need a high-end PC, maybe some special add-ons. After all that, you don't begrudge the cost of a game."

Gamers prefer three-dimensional games with special effects, "lots of polygons, textures and things to blow up," he says. "But most people who actually play computer games play the games that come with their software and that they already know, like Hearts and Solitaire. We're looking at products now for that market, non-gamers who play games."

As Ambrosia has grown since his inauguration into game design, Welch doesn't build games alone much anymore, he says. "I am the idea person. I am doing more producing and coordinating."

"Owning my own business has allowed me to live the way I want to," explains Welch. "I work when I need to, take days off when I want." He spends one day a week as a volunteer at Lollipop Farm in Rochester, likes to travel, and enjoys scuba diving. (Last year, he went diving in Papua, New Guinea.) "Instead of living to work, I'm working to live," Welch says.

The University Magazine, Spring 1999