Interviews

Interview With Missharvey: Building A More Inclusive Esports Industry

Stephanie “Missharvey” Harvey has built a strong career in esports. Throughout her career, she has become a jack of all trades in the industry.

In the early 2000s, Missharvey began creating a name for herself in the grassroots esports scene. As the industry continues to grow, Missharvery’s popularity and pull followed. Outside of professional gaming, Missharvey worked as a tester and designer at Ubisoft Montreal, working on titles such as Far Cry Primal and Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands. Flashforward to 2015, Missharvey became one of the founding members of Counter Logic Gaming’s female Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team, CLG Red. Throughout her tenure with the team, Missharvey participated and won many high-level tournaments. She even participated in the World Electronic Sports Games (WESG), and represented Canada in the finals.

Earlier this year, Missharvey stepped away from the CLG Red team to concentrate her efforts on being an outspoken voice for female gamers and individuals that may feel ostracized in the industry. Currently, she is the brand ambassador for Omen by HP and tours the country, hosting panels and activations. She remains a positive role model for up and coming gamers, and for the industry at large.

This past weekend, Omen by HP held an activation here in Toronto during Fan Expo Canada. Missharvey was in attendance, testing the mettle of the wandering attendees. Ahead of her packed weekend, I was able to sit down with her and discuss the everchanging landscape of esports and what we as a community can do to ensure no player feels excluded.

Steve: How has your summer been?

Missharvey: Pretty good. The busy season has begun. Today is the first back-to-back weekend, it’s been very busy.

Steve: Close to a year ago, you were at the Metro Convention Centre, competing in the WESG, qualifying for the finals. What was that experience like, representing Canada in such a grandiose event?

Missharvey: It was pretty amazing. These opportunities don’t come really often, especially representing countries as gamers. Often, you represent an organization, or yourself. But tournaments, like these, are very special to me because I’ve been competing for so long and they are very rare. It was pretty great.

I was so disappointed with our results because we finished third. We finished third last year. It’s better than nothing but we really wanted to make up for that this year. That was our goal. The rules kind of change next year. You can have more than one country on the team. So, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to represent Canada anymore. We don’t even know Canada is going to qualify. But I wish we had silver or gold.

Steve: Earlier this year, you stepped away from CLG Red. It seems like this has allowed you to focus on conducting more panels, streaming, and attending community events. Can you talk to us about that transition?

Missharvey: Yeah, CLG Red is a very competitive team. You have to make sacrifices. Sacrifices I’ve made my whole life. I’m at a point in my career where I don’t know if the sacrifices are what matter to me anymore. What matters to me at the moment is to give back to big audiences like what I’ve been with Omen by HP for two years and kind of speak up. Be there, show up, come up and promote esports, gaming and balanced lifestyles. Breaking barriers, opening doors and lift people up. This is the kind of thing that’s really interesting for me at the moment. I mean, I’m not going to say I won’t compete anymore ever. I think I’ll find ways to compete but it’s not going to be like on CLG Red.

I’ve talked to so many athletes and gamers that have retired or professional sports players that have retired and it never goes away. I’m at a point where I’m struggling between letting it go and doing something else meaningful in my life. I still want to compete, but I still want to talk [on panels]. It’s very difficult.

Steve: You’ve been involved in the esports industry since the early 2000s. How have you seen the industry change over all these years?

Missharvey: Oh, my god. It’s day and night! When we started, we were pretty much by ourselves. When I say by ourselves, I mean without meaningful support but also community support. I don’t even understand how we were able to do tournaments like from sponsorships to make it happen. I don’t understand how we found the money and the strength to do it. It was really out of pure passion. I think a lot of people invested money out of their pocket, myself included.

With the arrival of Twitch, YouTube Gaming, League of Legend professionals and free to play games, it really––I want to keep thinking seven years ago, but it has to be a little bit more to that, maybe like eight years ago––it changed everything. It made it boom into the mainstream. It created sponsorships and made people get involved. To have partners like Omen means so much to me. It allows me to be able to make this a full-time job and continue sharing that message of inclusion and diversity, which wasn’t imaginable in the early 2000s.

50% of gamers are female now. So we need to make sure that these female gamers are represented and are being pushed towards opportunities like making the games, working in esports, or playing at the top level. I think it starts with companies supporting us and having strong role models to inspire them.

Steve: Having been ingrained in the esports industry for quite some time, what sort of experiences have you experienced as a prolific female Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player?

Missharvey: Oh, this is a loaded question. With a career as long as mine, I’ve had ups and downs. The positives greatly outweigh the negatives, otherwise, I wouldn’t be there. I’m trying to think about the big negative for my career right now and there was cyberbullying and harassment, but it’s not what sticks out. I think the negatives are when I’m not proud of what I’ve done regarding my work ethic. There are some years where I could not fly, so I could have done better.

As far as positives, well, every time I’ve won a championship. Those are irreplaceable. Also, I think of when I can make a difference. Every step in my career where we progressed and moved forward, like when we made CLG Red.

Honestly, two years ago when I gained my partnership with Omen, I was at a point where I didn’t know what I was going to do. Then Omen came in and changed everything for me. It really did. You were mentioning earlier that I was stepping into the unknown doing conferences and whatnot. You want to do them you want to be there for the community but a lot of it is volunteering. Working with Omen, it allows me to do this. It allows me to not have a side job and travel.

I’m going to say most of my work is volunteering because they are great partners that have allowed me to do it. So I think that’s one of the biggest positive is how I feel empowered by my support system, my family, and my friends. The partnership I have with a couple of companies have really, really changed my life and my career. They really helped me define what I want to do next. Especially as a female gamer, you know, there’s so much stigma around that. I want to talk about the good stuff. I want to be part of the good stuff. I think that being a part of these panels can change the conversation from harassment to lifting people up and find ways to move forward and improve things instead of being victims. It’s very important to me.

Steve: You’re a very positive member of the community and a role model for up-and-coming female players. What advice can you give to the younger generation of female players that may seem discouraged or excluded in a rather male-dominant industry?

Missharvey: I think you need to find a good support system. Either by playing with players that respect you or family members, friends, organizations and mentors. Have people that can take your mind off things when things get hard. It really made a huge difference in my career.

No matter how hard it gets, I always tell myself everything in life can be and will be hard. It’s really a matter of facing adversity in what I love––it’s my passion. It’s not about the obstacles, it’s about the end goal. Focus on what you want to do, and what drives you as a person. If it’s working in games or being a competitive player, look at that angle and focus on it for yourself. Don’t get your feet caught up in comments or social media. They do matter in a way for your brand, but I barely read social media. I post all the time but never read. I don’t spend my day reading and comparing. I focus on my goal and what I want to do. I think my mental health has been better since I started doing that.

Steve: What can the esports industry do better to perpetuate inclusion and accessibility for those that may feel left out?

Missharvey: That’s a hard one because that’s a society problem. I think that there more and more initiatives to help bridge the gap with minorities and include diversity. I think it’s important to have representation on streams and broadcasts. Let’s be real, it’s been white male-dominated for so long at the top of the tournaments and whatnot. Sometimes there are 20 people on the broadcast being introduced on social media posts. 20 people! You can’t tell me you couldn’t find a female or person of colour for that broadcast.

I think it’s really important to encourage diversity at the top to really make a difference. I think every tool and platform needs to be responsible for their community. This means, if you have a game like League of Legends, you need tools in the game to make sure the players in the game are safe. That means have ways to counter harassment and support the players. We’ve seen it get better on Twitter, having anti-harassment policies but they are almost like baby steps. This discussion needs to continue and it can’t just be: “Oh, we have this now, we’re good.” It has to be an ongoing process of making sure that our environments are safer and healthier for diversity for minorities to be able to shine. Like I said, having role models is important. The fact that HP and Omen have me as their ambassador as a woman in Canada is super meaningful. That means I’m going around the country, promoting female gamers and minorities. These kinds of things matter and females will show up.

Steve: As the industry continues to grow and expand, it seems that to truly succeed, you need to be more than just a talented player. Making sponsorship deals, utilizing social media, and being a “personality” also go a long way towards long-term success. What is the best course of action a professional player can take to future-proof their career?

Missharvey: I really believe it’s not about being good anymore, it’s about getting noticed. Whether it’s by being really lucky. It’s about being there at the right time and meeting someone, creating your network and just kind of showing off what you can do. Let’s be real, that’s by pure luck.

You can make a difference whether it’s by creating content or being active on social media or building on your brand on YouTube and Twitch. Whatever you need to kind of be out there. Then from that, you’ll find what you love to do. Some people really like to be an analyst or create tutorials. Some people just love to entertain and make people laugh or stream and be there for their fans. Craft skills. You can do that while creating content or streaming or giving tips and tricks. There are so many skills, it’s really important to diversify early. Know what you like and what you’re good at so you can push when you become pro.

If you don’t become pro, well, you have an exit door and can continue to create content. There’s so much competition for that kind of success. If you’re pro, focus on the late-game. The balance for me is really hard to find between staying pro and focusing on the late-game. I think at some point, I focused too much on my end game. I want to say maybe four years ago I was doing too many activations and wasn’t able to balance it enough. It was a big transition in my life from being a game developer to being a pro gamer. I kind of lost myself. I think it’s so important to stay pro because that matters.

There are ways that you can help connect with the community when you’re pro. Whether it’s using social and creating really short little pieces of content or whatever. Work on your social presence.

I think the main advice I would say is to do the interviews. Whenever people want to do an interview on the phone or at an event, do it but don’t be lazy. Gain that experience so that one day if you’re on Good Morning America you are not doing your first interview. Have practice speaking in front of the cameras.

Steve: Finally, as you’re constantly keeping yourself busy week after week, what notable events do you have planned for the remaining months of 2019?

Missharvey: Oh my god. Excellent question. I’ll be at DreamHack Montreal with DreamHack and Omen at the biggest gaming festive in Canada, so that’s pretty cool. It’ll be at the Olympic Stadium from September 6th-8th. TwitchCon in San Diego. EGLX, again in Toronto! A lot of Toronto events.

Then, throughout all of that, I’m working with the Olympic Committee on their esports initiative. That’s really cool. On my social, you can find everything I’m doing. I’m excited for this season of events!

A big thank you to Stephanie “Missharvey” Harvey for taking the time to speak with me.

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Interviews

Steve is based in Toronto, Ontario. His enthusiasm and adoration of the video game industry go back to the days of SNES. Find him on Twitter and join in on the escapades.

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