Stephanie Harvey never planned on becoming a crusader for female gaming; but in the eyes of many people who look up to her, that’s exactly what the professional gamer is.
33-year-old Harvey — also known as missharvey — is a video game developer, and has won five world championships in professional gaming since she began her career in the space back in 2003. In many of the competitions, her opponents have been boys and men.
“I never felt like I needed to adjust; I just followed my passion and my heart, and then I realized there were not a lot of women involved,” said Harvey, who is from Quebec City, Canada, and plays for Counter Logic Gaming Red. “Throughout the years, I became someone who pushes barriers and pushes for change, but it didn’t fall on me as some sort of mission. It just happened throughout the years — and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
A competitor from the beginning
Harvey grew up a competitor, competing in dancing as well; but for her, nothing has compared to the thrill of being on the world stage of gaming. “It’s still a surreal experience for me,” said Harvey, who added that gaming is unique because anyone — regardless of their gender, age, or nationality — can participate. Furthermore, it’s something anyone can teach themselves. “It’s a no-barriers industry, and I think that’s what’s so amazing about it.”
Still, professional gaming has its challenges. Namely, there’s no defined career path and no official leagues, meaning gamers have to be self-starters and keep themselves motivated without formal support. “For that reason,” Harvey said, “you have to keep working on other skills because you never know when your pro status is going to go away.” As a remedy, she added, the creation of more official leagues and early-gamer clubs at schools could better advertise and democratize the activity.
Despite having confidence in her gaming skills early on, when Harvey began her professional gaming career she said she often unnecessarily compared herself to others. For aspiring professional gamers, she advised against doing that — especially when it comes to women comparing themselves to other women. Taking that step has the potential to open doors for more women to enter the gaming world.
“I think we females are more vicious against other females than males are against females, and I don’t think we can ask males to respect us if we don’t respect ourselves,” she said.
For Harvey, staying focused on her own journey rather than cutting down her opponents, be they men or women, was in fact one of the keys to her success, she said. “If you feel fulfilled and have the passion and want to do it, then do it — that makes it worth it,” Harvey said. “It doesn’t matter what anyone says or whether you have a social group or anything like that. As long as you’re learning, progressing, and doing something that matters to you, that’s what’s most important. Whether it’s gaming or not, that’s what will make a difference in your life.”