The heat is on: Local inventor creates action game Scorch Injector

As a freelance graphic designer, Matt Larsen was already underemployed when COVID-19 began one year ago, but he could never his predicted his pandemic pivot would involve hot sauce-filled syringes.

In February 2021, Larsen launched Scorch Injector, an iOS app billed as a “medical action game with a food lover’s twist.” A cheeky take on pandemic-induced boredom, the app invites players to make 2021 “less bland” than 2020 by shooting hot sauce at molecules that make all food taste like white bread.

“My initial concept was much more closely related to defeating coronavirus, but Apple takes really special care to make sure [any COVID-related apps] are strictly informational and health-related,” shares Larsen. “For that reason, I decided to go the quirkier route instead.”

According to Larsen, creating the app provided not only a welcome diversion during quarantine, but also an opportunity to learn new skills and broaden his career prospects. “Work was already at sort of a slowdown for me, pre-dating COVID, so I was trying to find something that would showcase my skills,” says Larsen.

To bookend his graphic design background, Larsen took advantage of Lakewood Public Library’s free access to to take classes on programming and app development; he also taught himself GarageBand to write the drum track and do audio editing. In developing the game’s storyline, Larsen found the perfect partner in his wife Brandi Larsen, a creative coach and board president for Literary Cleveland.

Matt and Brandi Larsen“The input Brandi had was invaluable,” says Larsen. “She helped me add some critical plot details and provided editorial oversight so I wouldn’t succumb to my worst quirky whims.” (That’s not to say the app doesn’t have its fair injection of humor—in fact, both Matt and Brandi have a background in improv comedy, having performed at Chicago’s ComedySportz together for nearly 10 years.)

From conception to completion, Scorch Injector took about nine months to bring to life, and so far the app has reached #135 in the Apple Store. Larsen is already working on some more apps under his new business umbrella, LKWD Cast—spanning games, personal productivity, and social media.

“My goal is to find interesting ways to utilize the hardware we all carry around,” says Larsen. “I liken [my work] to being an inventor—I want to create apps you don’t even know that you need yet.”

Read more articles by Jen Jones Donatelli.

As an enthusiastic CLE-vangelist, Jen Jones Donatelli enjoys diving headfirst into her work with FreshWater Cleveland. Upon moving back to Cleveland after 16 years in Los Angeles, Jen served as FreshWater's managing editor for two years (2017-2019) and continues her work with the publication as a contributing editor and host of the FreshFaces podcast. Along with her work at FreshWater, she is the editor-of-chief of Edible Cleveland and a contributing editor for Destination Cleveland. When not typing the day away at her laptop, she teaches writing and creativity classes for Creative Groove, Literary Cleveland, Cleveland State University, and more. Jen is a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.