There’s another side to OK Go lead guitarist Andy Ross that fans of his rock band’s particularly sunny brand of music – and its elaborate, quirky music videos – might not be aware of.
Ross is also a founder and lead programmer for Space Inch, a startup behind apps like the game Make it Rain. For a while in May it was the top free app in Apple’s app store and quickly began pulling in tens of thousands of dollars a day from in-game purchases and ads.
Ross – whose band just released a new video for “The Writing’s on the Wall” and is going on tour this summer – was is proud to be a code-loving nerd. He went to school for electrical engineering and computer science before joining OK Go, and a couple of years ago he and some friends decided to start Space Inch, a software company that creates Android and iOS games.
“Whether it’s the videos, or our live shows, or making apps, we’re always looking for ways to bring more creativity and joy to every project.”
Make it Rain marries simple gameplay with a heavy message: it’s about the accumulation of wealth and the realities of income inequality. Along the way, players who start the game with a stash of money constantly swipe the screen to “make it rain,” raking in more money and using their virtual wealth for all manner of good and ill.
It’s gotten nearly 10 million downloads so far on Android and iOS and has been the top app in seven different countries so far, including the United States.
“I really like writing code,” Ross told Digital Trends. “At one level, you’re working on challenging puzzles and brain teasers. At first, you’re trying to figure out a way to implement something, but then you’re trying to find the best implementation. It’s a virtuous cycle that builds to higher levels of satisfaction the more efficiently and elegantly you execute.”
“But even more importantly, after you’ve done that work, you have something that you can interact with. This is especially true of game programming. A coder creates this tangible thing that people interact with on an emotional level. That’s incredibly powerful and satisfying.”
Indeed, Ross found computers and the magic of coding irresistibly compelling long before the launch Space Inch and before his success as a rock musician. He still recalls the Commodore 128 his family owned around the time he was seven.
His fascination with the possibilities that computers entail took a leap forward thanks to one of the old “Compute!” magazine issues he found one day lying around the house. The issue he found included the source code for a car racing game.
“It took me two days to type it all in,” he recalled. “It didn’t totally work – I must have made a typo – but it was a really wonderful feeling to see a racing car sprite move across the screen and know that I made that out of thin air. I was hooked.”
Whether with his band or through Space Inch – which Ross co-founded in 2010 his friend Josh Segall, later joined by another friend, Ari Kardasis – he’s still hooked on that same feeling of satisfaction that comes with creating something that other people enjoy.
That’s the common thread that ties both the band and Space Inch together. In Ross’ view, each endeavor involves a comparable degree of alchemy – turning ordinary creative material into gold. Other titles by Space Inch includeword game Say the Same Thing and Hexic-inspired puzzler Disco Bees.
“We try to make games that are fun and engaging on more than one level,” he said of Space Inch. “There has to be a really good game mechanic, the look and feel of the game has to be great, and there have to be ideas, jokes, and concepts that make people laugh or think. Games are stickier when there’s some thought and joy built in. Users can feel that.
“I often make the joke, ‘I was a programmer for a while but then joined OK Go and got into a bigger group of nerds.’ Whether it’s the videos, or our live shows, or making apps, we’re always looking for ways to bring more creativity and joy to every project. I think that attitude carries over to the work we do at Space Inch.”