While the video gaming industry has gone through some major changes over the years, the competitive esports scene is still led by male players.
However, it is people like Stephanie Harvey, a professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competitor with five world championships under her belt, who are continuously making a difference by challenging stereotypes and inspiring a new generation of women in gaming.
On top of being a professional esports athlete, Stephanie Harvey, also know as MissHarvey, is a bilingual Canadian with an education in architecture and video game design. She is also a former game designer at Ubisoft Montreal, which gives her insight into the gaming industry as both a developer and a player.
She attended her first Fan Expo Canada event in Toronto this year as an ambassador for OMEN by HP. CGMagazine interviewed Stephanie “missharvey” Harvey about her career in professional esports, the importance of diversity in gaming, and how aspiring female gamers can break onto the scene.
CGM: How and why did you first get into professional esports?
Missharvey: I got into esports a long time ago. It was in 2003, so it was totally different — there wasn’t even a name for it back then. It was really just a hobby, and then over the time, it got more and more serious, it got small sponsors, I went to international tournaments, but it was still like we did one tournament a year and we hoped to win it.
In the recent years, it got really, really serious. I would say, for me, it was really at the merging of League of Legends and Twitch. When Twitch appeared and League of Legends appeared, that’s when the yearly Twitchcon exploded and when money was moving into it. And that’s when I made the switch from just having gaming as a hobby to focusing on it as much as my real job — and eventually making it into my real job.
CGM: How has being a female esports player influenced you in terms of gameplay interactions and your connection with the gaming community on Twitter, Twitch, and other platforms?
Missharvey: I think a couple of things that do affect my gameplay are more external. For example, you mentioned, the Twitch community when I’m streaming. It’s definitely hard and people are definitely going to attack the fact that I’m a female gamer and the fact that I look like this and that or that I’m wearing this and that. Although I’m not saying that guys don’t have a hard time — because they do get a hard time — I just think that they get a hard time in different ways. I think that a female streamer starts by being judged instantly without knowing who they are, what they do, and if they’re good.
But one thing that I really love — because there are fewer females in esports — on my team, for example, instead of when someone has a problem or weakness, a lot of teams just switch out the player — they just pretty much don’t really deal with it. They just get a “better player” if talents can be compared. But on our team, because of the very few female gamers around, we actually try to work out issues. We actually try to improve the dynamic of each player, and I think that really, really makes a huge difference in the long run. Not only in the game itself but also everyone’s own growth by dealing with issues instead of kind of getting rid of them.
CGM: Why is it important to challenge stereotypes and the esports scene that is led by male competitors?
Missharvey: I think when more and more people either understand or kind of get bored of the stereotypes, they grow out of them. — Because we don’t want them there to stay, and I think that’s why HP Canada and OMEN are supporting me. I’m their first esports athlete, and they decided to pick a woman. And I’m not necessarily the best player in the world, I’m not necessarily X, Y, and Z, but overall, I fit a narrative that we’re pushing in the community.
That’s what I think it’s so important to push boundaries and talk about it. Let’s say it’s a boy’s club — it’s not anymore, but let’s say it’s a boy’s club — if we keep showcasing women and diversity and different people to that boy’s club, the club will eventually kind of disappear. And I think that’s what we’re doing right now.
Esports has completely exploded in the last two or three years with diversity and people stepping up and stepping out and saying, “Hey, I’m also a gamer, but I never talked about it, because either I was ashamed or I was scared.” By having, me, for example, showcasing this somewhere, these people stand out and go like, “Hey! Me, too!” or “I can relate to that person!”
CGM: What are some of the challenges you and other female players face when gaming, and how can everyone overcome these challenges?
Missharvey: Something that’s really difficult is that everyone has their own battle. It’s about how comfortable you are and what you want to do. Some people tell me they want to follow me 100 per cent. Some people tell me, “You’re the reason I went into video game design,” and that’s not exactly related to what I’m doing, but if what I do helps someone else break a barrier, that person is also gonna help someone else break a barrier and who knows where they will go in their career. The really small actions matter a lot in this case. Whether it’s making a friend or supporting someone or just making a video or, you know, all these little things do matter.
I think at the moment, that’s what most people can do, because it is obvious, for me, something that has to be tackled right society-wise. For that, it means you need government support, you need education, you need raising awareness when we raise our children. Whether you have or don’t have a lot of money or you’re working in the gaming industry and attending events — you can make a difference. There is a ripple effect.
CGM: For the people who are watching you and seeing you as an esports role model, is there anything you suggest they do to get involved in esports?
Missharvey: Esports is so big that there’s not just one job — there are so many jobs. It’s basically its own ecosystem just like cinema or the movies or regular sports. All the jobs that you can see around these ecosystems still exist in esports. We have team managers, social media managers, we have video editors, we have sports psychologists, we have physical trainers, we have gameplay couches, we have everything that all the others have.
If you want to be involved in esports, I say look to yourself and look at what you like to do and what you can be passionate about doing in gaming. Whether it’s becoming a player agent or any kind of related-job that has to do with gaming and esports — I’m telling you, it’s gonna make a difference for someone, somehow.
You know, even if it’s hard in the beginning, the goal is to never give up and keep working. Just like in any industry, at some point, you’re gonna break through.
To read the full interview, pick up CGMagazine Issue 35, available online and for purchase here.
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