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Employee Spotlight: Robbie Russell


I’m Robbie, and I do QA at Harmonix. I’ve been hanging around for almost four and a half years now, I’ve worked on RB4/Rivals, Super Beat Sports, Dance Central VR, and FUSER. You’ve probably also seen me on a lot of HMX streams, or at a PAX booth, or connecting with folks in Discord, or on a couple thousand guitar/bass leaderboards…what I’m trying to say is I’m easy to find, I guess.

Before this, I was a huge fan of rhythm games way back in the Bemani days, and I was on the ground floor of the whole plastic guitar phenomenon when I decided one day to buy the first Guitar Hero with my hard earned Summer cash instead of a home copy of DDR SuperNOVA. I never really looked back from there. Jobwise, I was also a DJ/Audio tech for a hella long time, but directly before getting the gig at Harmonix I was…managing a taco shop in South Dakota. Life works in mysterious ways. SPEAKING OF: There’s a loading tip in RB4 mentioning my journey from South Dakota to Boston, which has led people to think I was born/raised there. I wasn’t! I was just living there at the time. Don’t ask.

It's kinda hard to pick any one thing I’m proud of or enjoy the most from my time here so far. I think one of my favorite moments ever is doing the vocals to Light Up The Night by The Protomen, while playing WITH The Protomen, at PAX East in 2016. As a huge Protomen/Mega Man fan, that was a dream come true for me. I’m also super happy that I was able to take an in-joke of mine and turn it into an actual in-the-game “it’s canon” thing in the form of The -1 Club mission in Rock Band. Little things like that mean the world to me as a person who has been playing these games for over 15 years now. I’m also stoked any time I get to take part in an event for the company, even more so when they go off without a hitch. The FUSER booth at PAX? Holy cow, that was the coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of!

Outside of work, I don’t really have any side projects. I’m not in a band or anything (though I really would like to be some day but I do dabble with singing and playing the bass in a very not-great-but-the-kid-has-moxie kind of way. I also recently acquired my first synthesizer and a drum controller, so hopefully by the time our work from home period is over I’ll be making the new wave jams of my dreams! If I can figure out how the heck Ableton works, at least.

What is your favorite Harmonix game and why?

I mean, it’s definitely a Rock Band of some kind. I have so many memories attached to wild Rock Band parties or having fun on streams or playing online with buds. If I had to pick…probably Rivals, honestly. I’ve put thousands of hours into every Rock Band and gone around the country to play with some people in previous iterations, but RB4/Rivals is the first one I can say I also had a hand in shaping. As someone who has the RB3 instrument logos tattooed on his arm, that friggin’ rules when you think about it.

What Rock Band instrument do you play?

I’m a jack of all trades type, can play Expert on everything, get gold stars and full combos and whatnot, but I tend to stick with Guitar/Bass these days because I live in an apartment with very thin walls, which doesn’t really go well for belting out high notes or nailing drum fills. These are the kinds of adult problems I didn’t really foresee when I was playing this game back in high school. If I had to pick a favorite though, probably singing. It’s so much fun to just lose yourself and not realize you’re “just playing a game”.

What’s your favorite Rock Band song of all time?

This is SO HARD TO ANSWER. I love so many songs for so many things, it’s impossible to pick just one GOAT here…so, I’m just gonna cheat a bit! For guitar, Voodoo Child (Slight Return) Live by Jimi Hendrix. Bass, Ride The Lightning by Metallica. Drums, probably Aces High (Live) by Iron Maiden? Vocals, almost anything that has Dave Grohl or Josh Homme’s voice on it. Also for just a few random picks: Knifeman by The Bronx (when we decided to start bringing RBN songs back for RB4, they asked some people for songs they’d like to see and I gave them a playlist that had Knifeman on it 100 times as my answer), the two Rodrigo y Gabriela tracks, Arcaedion by Children of Nova (which recently came back, and I sincerely suggest you check out the rest of that EP, it’s amazing), and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Gay Bar by Electric Six, a song that has gotten me more than a few noise complaints at parties because the only way you can sing that song is by going all the way in on it.

What’s your WFH setup like?

Pretty lowkey compared to most! In the office, I tried to spruce up my desk with some decorative odds and ends to make it feel more like “my” desk, but my home desk is literally my desk so it’s already spruced up a bit. Some of you may have seen it in a recent FUSER tweet, but I actually revamped it since then with a few uh…”quality of life” changes. And by that I mean “soundproof padding because my partner said I was too loud when I played video games at night”. Aesthetically, it’s a combination of my love of Mega Man, my love of Destiny, and my desire to always be able to see the cool glowing lights on my RAM sticks.

Is there anything special or fun on your desk?

On my desk not so much (aside from the very round Mega Man plush that I affectionately refer to as “DJ Phat Mega”), but that’s ecause directly next to it is my giant collection of Mega Man stuff (with a couple random extras hidden in there too!).

If you could trade places with anyone else at Harmonix for a week, who would it be?

I dunno…maybe Ali? I met their cats recently and they’re sweethearts. Actually, anybody with a pet. I want to meet and pet everybody’s pets. I’ll figure out how their actual job works later, I’m sure it can’t be hard.

What are you doing to stay sane these days?

I’ve been playing a TON of Destiny 2, but that’s not really new to me. I’ve also been trying to shake the rust off in various fighting games like Tekken 7, Dragonball FighterZ, Street Fighter V, and the inconceivably named UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH exe:Late[cl-r], or UNICLR for short. I’ve also been hunting down and playing any Metroidvanias I haven’t played yet because that’s one of my favorite genres ever.

Also, I’ve spent a lot of time petting our dog, Eevee. She’s a very old and very small dachshund that absolutely HATES when I do my job instead of pay attention to her, which is why I have my desk lined up in a way where she can stare at and judge me from the comfort of her bed. Speaking of, here’s a picture of her not knowing how beds work.

Do you have any secret talents?

Not secretly, no. There’s a lot of things that I don’t get to flex often, but most things I am good at are kind of known (like cooking). Or things I used to be really good at but am severely out of practice (like bowling). I can do a drunken 100% speedrun of Mega Man X in an hour, does that count? I also have an encyclopedic knowledge of professional wrestling, and can identify almost any song within the first measure, so if those are things you’re looking for on your trivia team holla at ya boy.

What are some of your social media handles you’d like to share w/ the Harmonix community?

I’m vApathyv basically everywhere but my birth certificate, which most of y’all already know, so instead I’d rather draw your attention to instead. Every little bit helps, and the fight doesn’t end until we’ve reached equality, awareness, and justice for all.