TGH’s Thomas Baker got to interview Stephanie “missharvey” Harvey. She is currently the Director of Esports Franchise Development and Outreach for Counter Logic Gaming. Previously, she played Counter Strike professionally for CLG Red and other organizations. Stephanie’s podcast, “This Week in CLG powered by Spectrum,” features guests, mostly from within CLG, where they keep fans updated on the organization’s latest news and conversations. In this interview she discusses her long tenure in esports, her current initiatives within CLG, “This Week,” her favorite esports as a fan, and women in esports.
Thomas (TGH): So, for anyone who doesn’t quite know you outside of the podcast, give me a quick background run on your time in esports.
Stephanie: Yeah. You know, it’s always such a hard one because I’ve done so much, but we could sum it up in a couple of sentences.Well, I was a professional player for about six to seven years in a game called Counter Strike, and then later on Counter Strike Global Offensive, which is still popular to this day. And I won five to six official championships, because I never counted some championships because they were not like the greatest, but a lot of my coworkers and teammates count them. Let’s just say five official World Championships and throughout, I would say, a decade, so I guess we had ups and downs just a little bit like any sports athletes that were able to manage to be champions for a decade.
And now, I’ve always been an activist and pretty vocal about making sure that in gaming we do things better, we try to do things better. It’s like overall for tournament quality to like inclusivity, diversity, and whatnot that we’re doing an effort in our day to day. So it’s been, I would say, a big part of my last 5, 6, 7 years to be vocal about minorities, diversity, women in gaming, toxicity, cyber-bullying anyone.
Then recently I was able to re-join Counter Logic Gaming from a player to now a director, and they kind of gave me the opportunity to live my dream now that I’m not a competitor anymore, which is to make a difference and fight the good fight from within right? And use CLG as a resource to create platforms and be helpful in the series, and make a difference for youth, and continue where we started with CLG Red, which is our female team, but expanded to point to that which is a female and diversity community, and so on. We’ve been pretty active in the last couple of weeks with everything that’s been happening, actually.
Thomas (TGH): Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So how long have you been in esports world?
Stephanie: My first esports game was in ’03, so 17 years. Honestly I don’t know a lot of people that have done it before me. Like, we’re friends. I know them. It’s been a long time.
Thomas (TGH): Yeah, it’s almost like founder level.
Stephanie: Yeah. It wasn’t esports. It was the media that called it esports, because they didn’t know what to call us. I don’t think we self-proclaimed esports. I think it was the media that was like “it’s like sports, but it’s e-gaming,” and then they started to call it esports, because we were just like “no, we’re just gaming,” right?
Thomas (TGH): Exactly. So, getting up to now. Within CLG what are some of your main responsibilities right now? What does kind of a day in your life look like?
Stephanie: Yeah, so I do have a lot of initiatives that I started and I tried to have that. From our health and wellness hub, which is called “The Engine.” We release one video a week about how to help our community and our gamers, even our pro players, do better and be better and feel better. So, whether it’s body or the mind or in the game. It’s called The Engine and the goal of The Engine is really to have centralized website and a hub for it. So we’re working on making that happen. But right now it’s a video series, which will lead to this beautiful hub that we’re working on. So that’s one of the initiatives.
I also do a lot with the Garden of Dreams and everything that the Madison Square Garden is already doing with the Knicks and the Rangers. We are trying to start these. I’m giving you a scoop here. We have not announced anything, but you hear a lot about the Junior Knicks and the Junior Rangers. So there’s potentially something in the works.
That’s all I’m going to tease regarding that, because I think that’s a model that’s working really well for our other platforms and our teams. You know, during COVID, they have to adjust online stuff and for us, it’s just a natural thing to be online, so there’s something there to happen. But we’re already working with The Garden to do conferences and things behinds the scenes for the youth. It’s just not something that we want to showcase all the time because it’s all for our communities.
I want to say this week, you know, I start shows, I started events, I start community competitions. We have a diversity discord where we just talk about news that are a little bit different than your average esports news. It’s more about successful stories that are happening across the world in our community that we feel is underserved with, whether it’s the LGBTQ community, like gamers of color now, because we saw what happened in the world or what’s happening right now in the US and we thought “you know what? Why don’t we add that to our list of diversity and inclusion thing that we care so much. We also have a lot of women, trans, cis, and whatnot that we try to support in these events.
With the Valorant game that came out, we launched our competitive circuit called the CLG Blitz Cups, which, unlike our Red Cups, is aimed for the amateurs. They also aim for amateurs, but we also are doing some pro-level stuff so our prize pool is a little bit higher, production is a little bit higher. And we’ll see where that goes. But we’re trying to keep it for the long run. It’s not gonna be a one off thing.
Thomas (TGH): Yeah, something sustainable.
Stephanie: Yeah, we think it’s important to be there for the community, which I think that one of my big problems when I look at esports is we’re doing great for the pro level at the moment. The pro level is super well-deserved, from salaries, the sponsor, to organization and tournaments. But if you look right underneath that, like the semi-pro, and then everything underneath, there’s no support, almost no support. So from amateur competition, coaching in schools, all of that is very, very under-served. So that is something, even if I can’t change the world, maybe we can help in our little ways, whether it’s with our health and wellness series or small competitions.
This Week in CLG powered by Spectrum
Thomas (TGH): Absolutely. That all sounds great. So, what led you to the “This Week in CLG” segment, specifically? Was that something you came up with?
Stephanie: Yeah. The great thing about CLG is, and I think it’s where the kind of environment I excel. You have an idea and people are just like “Let’s do it,” and then I’m like “Okay.” It’s as simple as that. And I just wanted for us to elevate our discussions to the topic of the moment, but also celebrate our victories and our players. And I do feel that CLG, when I was there as a player, and we all lived in LA, we’re a family. At some point, with us not having a campus anymore, us getting bigger, I have difficulties as a CLG employee understanding what’s going on in Fortnite and Apex. It’s so difficult to follow these scenes, and I don’t get it.
So by creating the show, in a way, it was for me to understand what the hell is going on in the scene. I want to support my own players and I don’t even know how. So I was like, why don’t we create a show where, if you’re a CLG fan, you will actually be able to understand what’s going on in CLG other than just a post like “congrats, you won,” which I think is a lot easier in League of Legends. But in other games, they’re different, and they’re extremely difficult to follow some of them, because the community is completely different than what I’m used to.
So I was like, let’s just do it and then, you know, we’re about to hit our 10th episode, and it evolved already from episode 1 to 10, where now we invite guests on the show, and, yes we celebrate CLG, but we also talk about what’s going on with these beautiful people that we have as our guests. We even had people from FlyQuest, like competitors, and we just think that it’s a way to all showcase how great esports is. And one of my favorite show was definitely the one where we talked about diversity and racial issues, as well as the Pride Month. That show was really full of emotion. We all cried on it. It was a really intense one and I think it was a necessary one. I’m glad we did it
The NBA2K, too, because I don’t understand anything. And we have the Knicks Gaming at MSG, and I didn’t know anything about their world, other than they were having matches. It was great. It’s just great to kind of get to know your quote-unquote family, which I think that too often you sign on, you put on the jersey, and you don’t know who the players on your team are. I’ve talked to so many players where they had another division and they’ve never talked to them. So we try to put them on the same show, sometimes do cross mixes, and we try to have fun with it so that they want to come back.
Thomas (TGH): Exactly, exactly. So with you, obviously, I can tell from listening to your podcasts that you follow some esports pretty fully. You seem involved in them, and a fan. Which games would you say you find yourself watching the most, or which esports are you most invested in as a fan?
Stephanie: Well, it’s hard not to say Counter Strike just because of my background. I used to watch fighting games so much. I think fighting games are probably the most hyped esports to watch, especially in real life. They’re so incredible to be in the room where the energy’s happening. And also, because everybody roots for everybody, right? It’s not like an esports team where there’s a clear definite people on Team A and people on Team B. In a fighting game environment whoever is doing some crazy thing everybody’s yelling for it. You’re not like “Oh, my players losing,” it’s more like “Oh!” It’s so crazy. So fighting games are pretty high, but right now the community, I think is a little under-served through COVID. So, I would think that my favorite game to watch…this is a hard question right now.
Thomas (TGH): Yeah, it doesn’t necessarily have to be one. I’m just curious which ones because, like you were saying, there’s so many games, you know, if you go on Twitch and you browse, I really think it’s impossible for any one person to be fully invested in every single esport that there is. As somebody who works at TheGameHaus, we have writers and interviewers and people who are mostly dialed in to one or two, but we’re in chats and everything where they’re discussing all the news, and it’s just so infinite. So I’m curious which ones, you know Counter Strike is obviously one.
Stephanie: Right now if you tell me wake up in the middle of night watching esports, I could still do it for Counter Strike. Like, if it was a major and it was in Asia I would wake up. Valorant, maybe soon. I’m already checking out there’s a competition, okay, I try to watch the final. And obviously being on CLG, I never miss a League game. And I think that’s important for me.
But even before when I was a player to understand the League world, because it dictates a lot of the esports environment and the way that people feel about CLG. League of Legends is so part of our DNA. Although, I think I feel right now CLG is way more than just League of Legends team, it’s still a very important part of our DNA. Especially with what happened last season, where we finished tenth.
So, it’s important to be there for the guys, support them, to understand what’s going on. I don’t want to be that person well I don’t care because we’re losing, or I’ve never played League, so I don’t care for them. I want to be able to feel for them, and to understand what they’re going through as a competitor. But I don’t think I’m a fan of watching League when I don’t root for Team A or Team B.
Thomas (TGH): Regular streaming and that kind of stuff you’re not really into it, but when it’s the LCS, then you are invested in that.
Stephanie: Yeah. So when it’s a game that matters to me, I like League. If not, I don’t like watching League. I think that’s probably different from when I watch CS:GO, fighting games. I could appreciate the other games, whoever is playing. But when I watch League, it’s either my lack of knowledge that I can’t process the good in the plays, or I can’t connect with the players. There’s something. Or also a lot of the League players are, not the content creators but the actually League pros, are very stoic. Like, no emotion.
I’m someone that’s French Canadian, you know, I’m very hype, so I like to see like “Yeah!” you like Counter Strike, or shooters, or you know fighters. So when I see people with absolute zero emotion playing the game it’s really hard for me to get a feel of their personality and say “Hey, I like this guy. I want to root for him.” Right. When I watch sports I always find a guy or a girl and I like their style, the way she looks, whatever. But League of Legends I don’t have that, so I can’t connect, unless they are wearing the CLG crest
Thomas (TGH): As someone who’s interviewed a few LCS pros, your energy is definitely very different than your typical LCS pro. So talk to me a little bit about your upcoming episode. Someone told me that you’re gonna have some guests, and I think I will find it interesting and fellow League of Legends fans might be interested. I just listened to the second to most recent one that had Stixxay and some of the coaches and that was really great. It was great to have them talk in sort of an informal setting about last split, and what their thought process is coming into this split. And so tell me a little bit about your upcoming episode. I don’t know how much you’re allowed to talk about it.
Stephanie: No, I’m allowed to tell you anything I want, because it’s not happening yet. We didn’t record it. I can’t scoop too much. It’s a live show. I think that’s what’s great about This Week, compared to a lot of what we’re used to, but also in esports that it’s not pre-recorded. We can’t cut the parts that we don’t like. It’s all just open-hearted discussions. And that episode you’re referring to, we talked about how bad we were last split, and we were just pretty honest about it. So I think that it matters for, especially for your fans, but it matters to me that we acknowledge these things.
So coming up, it’s gonna be with LS and Tafo. I had to learn a little bit about LS being on CLG, because he’s part of our organization. But, he is a professional caster for the LCK, which is the League of Legends version of LCS in Korea. And so this will be my first encounter with LS as a discussion and it’s gonna be live, so I’m looking forward to it. From what I’m told he’s the kind of human I probably like in life, who stands up for his values, but also pushes to help others and fix things. He doesn’t have is in French we say “tongue in his pocket,” like he will talk if he needs to get a message across, because he will be honest.
So I think that’s going to be very interesting, because I want to talk with him and Tafo, which is our League of Legends GM in CLG. We’re going to talk about a couple of things. I want to address, obviously, NA versus the world, which I think right now the situation in League of Legends in North America is, at least the look of it, is really grim. The community is very negative about the Solo Queue, and just the world issues.
So I want to hear his take on it, obviously. I also want to talk about the LCS broadcast this season. There’s a lot of drama because, that’s not really the right word, but there’s a lot of chatter about how the desk looks, and how boring it kind of is now. And although I don’t know that, because I can’t compare it, because I’m not a crazy League of Legends person, I don’t really know the differences. When I watch clips of the other leagues, it does feel like it looks a little more original and entertaining, so why isn’t it here? He probably has a really cool insight and view on it.
And I want to talk about what he thinks about the CLG state with Tafo, like I want to hear that discussion. We didn’t change a player from, like, in a way we’re kind of crazy, right? Because only crazy people don’t change anything and expect things to go better. So I’m excited to see what he thinks about that. It’s very interesting. Also it’s gonna be 4am for him in Korea. He’s gonna be a champ to be on the show. I really appreciate it. He did not even hesitate.
You know, this is what what I mean about this guy that sounds very interesting. You go for him, no ego, 4am in Korea, “yeah let’s go, I’ll come on the show.” It’s not always easy to get people on shows like that for 20-30 minutes to just discuss. If I could, I would have everyone but it’s actually pretty hard. For him to say yes, first of all, I was already shocked and then when people said he was in Korea, I was like “What? That’s so cool.”
So, that’s also a queue to everyone that says yes I hope. Thank you so much. For people like Tricia at FlyQuest, she did not hesitate. She said yes right away. We had Michele Morrow, we’re having amazing guests that are just like “Yes, let’s go.” So these are the kinds of discussions I want to talk to him about. And I want to talk to Tafo, because we lost our first game, pretty badly. It was actually the first time I’ve ever seen in my life, because I don’t follow that much League, a team get completely..I don’t even know if there’s a word for it.
Thomas (TGH): Perfect game.
Stephanie: Exactly perfect game. We got perfected. I’ve never seen that before and then that’s the first game after losing almost all season last season. So it was really big on socials, and even the LCS desk is really incredibly difficult and the journalists and everyone was not sugarcoating things.
Thomas (TGH): Yeah. How dialed in are you on CLG social media, or on esports social media in general? How much do you follow that?
Stephanie: So, I think we’re being pretty old in seeing, for esports, in seeing everything. I follow a lot. Do I care? Not really. But I follow it a lot. I think it’s part of the job to know what’s going on out there, and I think you can always learn from that. Like, there’s a lot of great things that are happening on other teams and they’re really inspiring.
So I think I need to follow it. But do I care? Not much. I used to care, especially when it was about my performance in the game, or like females shouldn’t play, or that you’re only sponsored because you’re a girl. These kind of things. That was really unforgiving, so I used to care a lot. But I have learned that I will not win all the battles, and I should just care about the battles I care about, which is that my peers and my surroundings are better.
So yeah, it was really rough. It was rough for me, because it’s only one game, so even if I was a competitor, if I was on that team playing after one game in the season, you get trashed like that. You guys really love to hate us right now. It was more about that than about the performance. I want to hear what Tafo thinks and what LS thinks. I know they’re probably gonna be like “Who cares? Blah blah blah,” but I still want to hear it. I still want to hear their thoughts on it. It’s interesting for me to hear someone that says “We don’t care.” I like it. I like to think that they’re so focused.
You listened to the show. Stixxay said that even mid-season when they were losing like two to ten it was really bad, but at no point did they even think about giving up and focusing on next season. They didn’t even think about it. They didn’t care they were last, and fought every game until the end. And that was like, “Oh shit!”, even if I respect Trevor so much, because we joined CLG almost at the same time, five years ago, it was great to hear that from him, that he didn’t quit. Even though they’re losing, he always believed. He always cared. And that makes it like, yes. I’m proud that you’re in CLG. It doesn’t matter what people say. Everyone should hear that you never give up, right? So, that’s why I like This Week because it let’s me know these kind of things.
Thomas (TGH): Yeah, that’s great. That really struck me, as well, when he was talking about that. Because, if you’ve never been a pro level performer in anything, it’s hard to know what that feels like: to be so so good, but you’re still the bottom of the best. You know what I mean? These players don’t like losing. And they don’t enjoy being last. They don’t enjoy being perfect gamed, and so I’ve also found it interesting to pick those people’s brains and see, how does this feel? What’s your mindset? How are you moving forward? How are you processing this? And it’s reassuring for them to say, essentially, we’re just focusing on this game, and focusing on winning, and that’s all you can do right?
Women in esports
Thomas (TGH): So, you’ve mentioned a lot of about diversity and women in the space, and I noticed that that’s something that you come back to a lot. You obviously seem passionate about that. And, of course, we’ve had several, it seems like pretty frequently we get different reporting about women in, not just esports, but the gaming industry, the tech industry, these sorts of spaces. I’m curious, since you’ve been in the space for so long, have you seen much change over time? Do you feel like that’s an area that is improving, or maybe plateauing, or getting worse? What are your thoughts on that?
Stephanie: I love the word plateau, because when I try to explain it I never think about that word, and I think that’s the right way to see it. I think that it’s been improving since day one. From when I started to now it’s a ramp. It’s improving, but we plateau all the time. So, we plateaued in different games. We plateaued with the initiatives. We plateaued thinking about what we need to do.
In Counter Strike, we have female tournaments, which I always say it’s a band aid. It’s not a cure. And we never work on a cure. We always just put the band aids, so these female tournaments are helping. There’s more and more female gamers, but it’s like a plateau at some point, where even the investors, the sponsors, and the community and the tournament organizers, and even the orgs, like teams, they’re like “Well, we have a female team, so we’re part of making a difference with the diversity.”
But that’s a band aid. You’re supporting one team at the top, that’s at a professional level with these female tournaments. And, yes, it’s creating more females inside the game, but it’s such a small, slow rate that it’s only going to be beneficial to the winners of that pool. And we’re talking right now in North America, there’s two official professional teams, and the one that’s like semi-pro in female Counter Strike.
So that’s like 15 girls in all of America, and you think that’s making a difference for Counter Strike or for esports women in general? No, it’s not. It’s a band aid, it’s helping, it’s making a difference. It’s the reason why I was a competitor, because I saw these tournaments and I was like “I want to be there,” but it kind of hasn’t evolved in the last 17 years we’re still in the same position.
So, regarding a high level competitive. I think that’s it. We’ve plateaued, but we see sometimes success stories from the woman that won the Hearthstone BlizzCon event, or the lady who plays Tekken on ELEAGUE she won with her team, or Gregory in Overwatch, and Scarlett, and you see these people. They’re there. But it’s maybe like 10, so that’s why I think we’re plateaued, because if you look at the amount of players and esports viewers, the stats show that on Twitch about 30% are women. And gamers it’s 50/50 right? There’s about the same amount of women that game than men game.
So why is it not correlated to esports? And to talent? And to game developers? Why do we still see the stats in game development, like almost no women. We’re talking between five and 15% of developers are women, depending on the company. That’s not a lot of diversity, and it shows in sometimes the story, the characters, and even the games that companies are making.
So, I do you believe that is getting better, but we’re not doing enough, and for any kind of minority right now, like I was mentioning in the beginning. So that’s why usually I just decided to do things instead of waiting. And it’s been really important for me, because I went through so much pain and hardship to be where I am. I don’t want people to have to go through it again.
And I do believe that by me voicing up in the media, and I talk in the media all the time in Quebec. On radio, TV shows, I’m like the reference when it comes to gaming. And I always take the opportunity, not because I want to put my face out there. I do all of this for free. I just want to make sure that we have someone that is representative of what it is to be a good responsible gamer. A model for people to follow. Not because I’m perfect, but because I try and I care and I have done something in my life by gaming. With gaming I followed my studies and had the platform to grow. You know I fought and I made a difference.
I think that’s important for little girls. So many times in my career I’ve seen someone come to me and say “I started this because of you.” Or even coworkers on CLG, or coworkers at Ubisoft. Even competitor that I won the World Cup with, “I started this game because you started doing it,” or “Going game development because of you,” or “The reason I joined CLG is because you showed me I could do it.” And if it’s not me it’s gonna be someone else, but we need these people to show up, even when it’s really early, or the Friday night at 8pm. We need these people to show up and make a difference. Talk to people in school. Do conferences. I would say that 70% of my work is pro bono, because it matters. It does matter to me at least.
Thomas (TGH): That’s great. So what would you say to a girl who’s in middle school right now who really enjoys gaming and thinks she’s good at it, or is really interested in developing games? What’s kind of your message for them? What would you say are some of the most important tips, or most important factors, in getting into those spaces.
Stephanie: I think that one of the things that really helped me when I was kid is that no matter what you do life, it’s gonna be difficult. And following your heart and your passion is actually going to shift that mentality of being difficult to kind of pushing that passion forward. And make it not difficult in the same way. It’s not difficult, because you’re going to like it. Like everyone, you’ve got to start at the bottom, you got to make your way there, but at least you’ll like it. You’ll care about it and you’ll want to make a difference.
And I do believe that’s why I changed my studies. After my Bachelor in architecture, actually, let me try gaming. So I did a Masters in game design and I was like “Okay, yeah, now I get it. Now I know that’s what I want to do,” right? So, I think that everything’s gonna be difficult, so you have to surround yourself with your peers and friends and family that cheer for your success, and even if people tell you, you can’t do it, or you’re not good enough, or whatever, because it’s gonna happen, you have people around you, they’re gonna be like “Well, can you learn from this,” or “The next one is going to be okay,” or “I’ll make your dinner tonight.” Let’s celebrate your small victories.
These little things really go a long way, and I do believe that without my parents we would not be here today. They were my champions. They were my number one fans from day one. If it’s not a parent, it could be a friend. It could be a lover. It could be anyone. You have these allies in life, that it doesn’t matter if you lose, you’ll bounce back. I’ve cut from Counter Strike teams. So many times where I lost salary or lost potential championships. I did attend events that I was like, this is gonna ruin my career. 17 years later I was still there, still ready to win.
So you don’t know what’s gonna happen and it’s not because something else is gonna come. Better is going to come, if you don’t give up. The only thing that will not happen in your career, is that there’s no chance to go where you want if you give up. But if you don’t give up, you will always have a chance to go where you want to go. Even today, I’m like “Maybe I give up.” It’s hard. It’s hard working on the initiatives I work on, just because there’s so many things to work on, and so little resources, and so little time and money. It’s hard, but I chose to not give up. They choose every day to wake up and be like, how can I make tomorrow better.
When the Black Lives Matter happened, the movement when it started, I mean it’s been years ago, but when it became really crazy in the U.S., it was difficult to understand what I could do? What can I do? I’m just a white girl from Canada that doesn’t understand at all what’s going on. And I was like “Maybe I should let someone take this one.” And in a way, I kind of did, because I just learned, got people to indicate be other people in the company rose up, showed us. You know, if we work together, and now we have so many great initiatives within CLG for it. We’re not trying to change the world, but we are trying to make it better. So it’s about showing up. It’s always about waking up and showing up.
Thomas (TGH): That’s great. Yeah, well, I think on that note we should end the interview. I think that that’s a great message, and that should be something that we leave people on. I appreciate your time. Thank you so much. It’s been great meeting you, and I look forward to the episode this weekend. I’ll definitely be tuning in. LS is a bit of a personality, so I think you guys are gonna have a great talk.
For the full interview audio, visit TheGameHaus’ Youtube channel
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