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Employee Spotlight: Dawn Rivers

Dawn Rivers is a person of many talents and we’re lucky to have her here at Harmonix. She has a passion for lighting, changing the landscape of the games industry, and – believe it or not – meteorology. In fact, Dawn can explain best practices for lighting in games and read a Doppler radar without breaking a sweat. She is one of Harmonix’s biggest fans within the studio and her enthusiasm is nothing short of contagious. Continue reading for more on the lovely Dawn Rivers!


Hometown: Coral Springs, FL

Time at Harmonix: Almost two years.

Known for her work on the following: Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved, Chroma

Background: BA, Computer Animation from the Ringling College of Art and Design. Dawn came to Harmonix from Pixar Animation Studios.

Favorite Harmonix game:Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved is a beautiful blend of what makes Harmonix games fun: musicality, beat matching, and player agency. I love the intuitive gameplay, intricate story, and immersive world.”

What it’s like working at Harmonix: “It’s been amazing. This is the most satisfying job I’ve had in the entertainment industry. There’s an accepting family culture here. Everyone is so supportive of one another. It’s also so easy to be creative here. It doesn’t hurt that I love Harmonix games. It’s great to be part of the creative process of a company that I’ve admired for so long.”

Proudest Harmonix accomplishment: “It happened at E3 last year – The Shoal demo. That was the first level I got to work on. I remember seeing it for the first time here and thinking I’d die if I got to work on it. It’s so pretty. I knew how I wanted it to look and what I wanted it to do. To see it come to completion and then see the response from the E3 debut was such a fulfilling experience.”

Go-to karaoke jam: “Stand by Your Man” by Tammy Wynette.

Favorite albums: “The Chrono Cross soundtrack. It’s the most beautiful music that is appropriate for every mood. There’s a song in there for everybody. I should note that I do listen to regular music, too!”

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Hobbies/Side projects: Meteorology, playing video games, making cute art, K-pop and J-pop culture. Dawn also develops indie games with her fiancé via their game company, Mechamagizmo. The company was featured on IGN’s The Next Game Boss (for more on Mechamagizmo, click here).

Talents: “Weather prediction? I can’t predict the weather, but I can read the crazy, science-y stuff and tell you the likelihood of what can happen.”

Tips for breaking into the industry: “To break into the industry just start making games. Go to the Global Game Jam. Go to your college gaming club and find the tools you need to get something, anything out. Just start building your game portfolio as soon as possible. Once you can point to engines, tools, and plugins that you know, and extend them to real-time game development it’ll make you a much stronger candidate. Don’t forget to network and make other developer friends through organizations like the International Game Developers Association! We have a chapter right here in Boston.”

Breaking into art: “As an artist – take a look at classical art and traditional painting. Color theory is huge. Study Pixar color scripts and learn how they combine color with storytelling, atmosphere, and impactful moments. Photography is a big one as well – artists are strong photographers as they’re able to compose scenes and areas of focus. Strong artists make better candidates for game art roles.”

Final thoughts: “Life is difficult. There will be challenges as you follow your career. There is nothing wrong with being super passionate about something. You should try and do anything you can to get the job you want and be in the industry you want to be in. It’s easy to get comfortable in a job or industry, but never lose sight of your ultimate goal. There are so many career paths you can take. If there’s something you care about, go after it. Be open-minded. One day you might be working in a fantastical snow-filled forest and the next a musical shooter. If you’re not flexible, you won’t be able to see and appreciate that magic in either types of game or broaden your perspective as a developer.”

For even more on Dawn Rivers, check out her interview from the Harmonix podcast! Click here!

enter image description here "This is how I feel playing Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved!" - Art of The Shoal by Dawn Rivers

To see more of Dawn's art, click here to visit her Tumblr page!

**Top photo courtesy of Ami DeLullo