Stephanie Harvey wakes up in the morning and the first thing on her agenda is to handle any press or interviews.
She then goes to the gym, eats and focuses the rest of her day on training, at first individually and then at night with her team.
She practices and practices, focusing on different strategies and bettering the skills she’s honed.
She watches footage of other players and heeds her coaches’ suggestions.
Her daily routine is one similar to a typical athlete, except Harvey isn’t one.
Harvey is a professional eSports competitor.
“It’s pretty much like you’re favorite sport,” Harvey said. “It’s a full-time job.”
Since global tournaments began in 2000, eSports, or competitive video gaming, is the world’s fastest-growing spectator sport. Live streams and tournaments drew 258 million viewers last year – that’s more than all NFL regular-season games combined.
Its popularity has caused it to be in talks of being included as a demonstration sport in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, France due to its fans and engagement numbers.
It is set to appear as a demonstration event for the first time at this year’s Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, before heading to Hangzhou, China in 2022 as a full event at a multi-sport tournament.
“The generation under 30 is unreachable,” Harvey said. “They don’t have TV, they don’t buy the newspaper. The only thing they utilize is YouTube, Twitch and other streaming sources… It’s the Olympics that needs us so that we can get interested in this old school thing. I think it’s cool, but it’s just recognition of the mainstream world trying to use us because we have our own sphere.”
Ranked No. 12 in the list of highest-earning female eSports gamers in the world with $26,305.25 in 18 tournaments, Harvey’s career isn’t solely encompassed by her skills in the game.
She attended Université Laval in 2005 and spent three years studying Architecture. In 2008, she decided to earn her graduate diploma in Game Design at Campus Ubisoft in Montreal, Quebec.
“I don’t think while growing up [game development] was something you could do, same as being a full-gamer,” Harvey said. “Most of the people I worked with at Ubisoft didn’t go to school for it. They learned as they went.”
Harvey stepped away from game design in July 2017, but contributed to Ubisoft’s “Far Cry Primal” and “Prince of Persia” series as a part of the company. Being a former game developer has made her more critical of the games companies put on the market due to her knowledge of what goes into creating one.
“It’s in a good way. Not, “They should fix this in the game,” but more, “They should provide more content… Interact with the community more,”” Harvey said.
Harvey’s history in gaming dates back long before she became a developer. At the age of three, her parents bought her a console and she immediately began to learn, but her career in “Counter-Strike” and “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” came about in high school.
“I really wanted to go to prom with this guy and the only game he was playing at the time was Counter-Strike,” Harvey said. “His friends told me that I should start playing.”
“Counter-Strike: Global Offensive,” known more commonly as CS:GO, is a first-person shooter. Two teams of five battle against each other playing as either the Terrorists, who plant bombs and try to kill the enemy, and the Counterterrorists, who are trying to stop them.
Females who also played Counter-Strike, like Alice Lew, prompted Harvey to play competitively.
The Quebec City native attended gaming centers in Canada where local people would gather and play, but as the world has switched to streaming, the accessibility and ability to create an online following has become a bigger aspect of her career.
Now 32 years old, Harvey’s won five Electronic Sports World Cups, was named to Forbes “30 under 30” Games list in 2014, named one of BBC’s top 100 influential and inspirational women for 2016 and is a full-time gaming personality on YouTube and Twitch under the name ‘Missharvey’.
“Streaming was a turning point for eSports,” Harvey said. “It changed the sphere of pro-games, as well as allowed people to be able to make a lot of money and a living out of it. It’s not just about being the best, but about being entertainers.”
But for Harvey, her career goes beyond that of playing and developing video games. She’s also known for her advocacy for females in the game.
Males make up 85 percent of professional gamers and as a result, Harvey and others cite numerous cases of online harassment and abuse for being females.
“I think, unfortunately, I’ve been in this for so long that my shell is pretty much full-on level 25,” Harvey said.
“But I don’t think everyone should get used to it. I think we need to do something about this… I think in online gaming it’s a society problem more than a female gaming problem. It’s something we have to do nationwide with understanding what goes on in the industry and being held accountable for the things we say because right now there are no repercussions for online harassment, which is pretty bad.”
To counteract the negativity in communities, Harvey, along with three other female gamers, created an online community called “Misscliks” in 2013. Their goal was to establish a safe place where people of all genders, particularly females, can participate in geek and gamer culture without fear of prejudice and mistreatment. They aim to create a culture of “authenticity, advocacy, unity, and bravery.”
The #MeToo movement hadn’t existed yet, nor had any claims gained substantial attention.
“I really wanted to be involved,” Harvey said. “I wanted a safe environment where females could unite and feel that they could learn. Where we could say stuff that might not be the best, but people could help them and move forward, almost like a learning incubator.”
While Harvey wishes things would be better, she’s seen improvement, especially from companies that release games and platforms that provide streaming.
The video game industry has yet to have its own #MeToo movement, but the community Harvey has created is dedicated to helping women, and other minorities, deal with the discriminations they face. There have been rumblings, including IGN, one of the biggest video game and entertainment sites, dismissing an employee and editor-in-chief after a staff member alleged harassment. In another instance, Vox Media’s Polygon fired a video producer after it became public knowledge he’d been sending inappropriate messages to women in the gaming industry for years.
“I’ve heard [people] make some nasty comments to some girls based on their appearance and it’s not pleasant,” said Dana Kamieniecki, a member of Hofstra’s eSports club. “Some people have the common sense to act like an adult and some people seem to not understand that just because someone is of a feminine structure doesn’t make them a fair target to say nasty things about, whether it be a joke or not.”
To her, playing eSports has always been about having fun, but being within a community in which vulgar comments tend to thrive has made it increasingly difficult to enjoy.
Female gamers across the country find a safe haven in specified communities dedicated to helping them and allowing them to share their stories, and while Harvey’s career has been rewarding in its competitive aspect, what she’s done from an advocacy standpoint has only made her role in the community feel more valuable.
“I get a lot of [comments from other females] and I think that’s an add-on in the fullness of what I’m doing,” Harvey said.
“It reminds me that I’m not only doing this for myself, but that others can get inspired by my work. It’s like my work is bigger than me.”
Featured photo courtesy of University of Ottawa