The state of esports in Canada has grown rapidly in recent years.
Between Cineplex, which invests $ 15 million in esports, and Enthusiast Gaming, which organizes several EGLX events with a high concentration of tournaments, professional competitive gaming is now more important than it has ever been in the Great White North.
However, for professional esports player Stephanie Harvey, there is definitely room for improvement, especially since the industry is still in its infancy.
The bilingual Canadian has a particularly interesting take on the matter, given that she has experience both as a game developer and a professional gamer.
Under the name ‘missharvey’ she won five Counter Strike: Global Offensive world championship tournaments, while having worked for nearly seven years at Ubisoft Montreal on various games, including the famous Far cry series.
Most recently, Harvey attended the Fan Expo Canada pop culture event in Toronto over Labor Day weekend as an HP OMEN Ambassador, where fans could play against her in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: Go) for a chance to win keyboards, headsets and other prizes.
MobileSirop spoke with Harvey at Fan Expo to discuss his unique career path, the modern perception of esports, and the need for greater support for marginalized players.
Question: Before you started full-time in esports, you were a game designer at Ubisoft Montreal. How did you start working there and what was your experience like?
Harvey: I got a bachelor’s degree in architecture, and after that when I got a master’s degree, I went to finish my bachelor’s degree in Europe.
You know when you take these trips it really changes your whole life when you move abroad. On my return, I decided to enroll in a game design program to follow my passion, video games.
Q: You’ve followed this interesting career path from someone who plays games for a living, to someone who plays games for a living. Was it difficult to make this transition?
Harvey: For a very long time, I did both, but pro-gaming was not what it is today. It wasn’t a full time job, it was something you did on the side, once a year, maybe two, three times a year. So I was able to juggle both.
But the more I got into Ubisoft and the bigger my role got and the more esports exploded over the last couple of years, I ended up having to work 120 hours a week and couldn’t do both. I had to give up one to feel like I was focusing my life and giving one thing 100%.
Q: There are probably a lot of people who don’t fully understand exactly what professional gaming involves. What are some of the challenges associated with competitive play? How are you preparing for the upcoming events?
Harvey: The comparison between sport and play is very easy to understand. I watch my opponents, I prepare the day of the tournament, I recreate the conditions of the day of the tournament with my trainingâ¦. We are working on strategies and I have coaches, managers and an agent.
Because it’s not just about esport itself, it’s also about getting sponsors like HP, visibility and building a brand. It’s very exhausting but very exciting, and it’s the same with any athlete, I mean. You want to think about the competition now but also a little ahead of time after the competition ends.
Q: The Canadian esports scene has really taken off in recent years, in part because you see companies like Cineplex making investments or conventions like Fan Expo and EGLX hosting esports related events. . What would you like more to see come out of Canada to continue this growth?
Harvey: I think we need more community events, like Dreamhack in Montreal. I think it’s super important not to forget the amateur level. I think what we’re doing right now is supporting the pros, the established winners. But it’s easy, if someone wins, to support them. The hard thing is to support minorities, to support diversity, to support newcomers who you might not know will be good, but you want to help them achieve their goals and dreams.
In sport we have a lot of programs to support these groups, but in esport we don’t have any because the industry is still relatively new. I would love to see a push from governments and schools to make sure we understand and are ready for pro-gaming and to tackle cyberbullying and cyber addiction, so that we can support these gamers.
We have great Canadian esports athletes. We have some of the most powerful female voices in the world, like [content creators] Pokimane and OMGitsfirefoxx – all of these girls are from Canada. We have great people here so we have to make sure we have the resources [to support them]. We need to do more at the lower level.
Q: On that note, you’ve been a big advocate for in-game representation, especially through your Misscliks community. [co-founded by Harvey to support women in geek culture]. What specific initiatives do you want to see from governments, schools or other organizations?
Harvey: On the one hand, it’s great to showcase examples [of successful women]. For example, me being here [at Fan Expo Canada] can hopefully inspire people who don’t think they can do it to be successful. This is something that is super awesome in the game. It is accessible to everyone, no matter your age or background or where you are from. You just have to play the game, and there is already so much variety in the types of games.
The second thing is really that our education system when it comes to social media and the internet is really lacking – all over the world it’s not just a Canadian problem. But I think we Canadians are fortunate enough to be more sensitive to these kinds of issues. I think we have people who really care about each other. We have great values ââas Canadians. We need to embrace it and we also need to make an effort to make a difference online.
It’s something so new and hitting us like a wall, especially with mental health issues. Plus, just about everyone who uses the internet has now hurt someone, maybe even without realizing it, because we don’t know how to deal with it. [online interactions]. As a society, we need to do a lot more to solve this problem. “
This interview has been edited for language and clarity.
Image credit: StÃ©phanie Harvey