OCEANSIDE — Forget your misconceptions of gaming being solely about kids sitting on the couch frantically hitting buttons on a console. The industry of esports, or competitive gaming, is booming — paving the way now for college scholarships, corporate sponsorships and full-time employment.
Just ask Stephanie Harvey, who uses the gaming handle missharvey. She left her day job three years ago and makes a living as a professional gamer through a team contract, sponsors like HP Canada, paid appearances and revenues generated via live-streaming service Twitch and YouTube.
Harvey — a French Canadian five-time world champion gamer who lives in Quebec City — will be competing with her team this Sunday at Supergirl Gamer Pro in Oceanside. Gamer Pro is part of the larger Paul Mitchell Supergirl Pro festival, which features contests for women professional surfers, skateboarders, DJs, gamers and more.
As the only multi-title female esports tournament offered in the United States, the event provides not only a competitive platform for girl and women gamers, but it also seeks to lead by example. The idea is to inspire girls and women as well as reinforce that they do indeed have a place within competitive gaming.
According to an event press release, “The tournament addresses the massive inequality in esports right now: 47 percent of all gamers are women, yet women are only getting ½ of one percent of all tournament spots in esports.”
In an interview with The Coast News, Harvey said that there are only about 20 to 50 professional women gamers, the range owing to how you define professional. Although she sees the online treatment of female gamers improving, she said, “There’s still hate and cyberbullying of those who are different.” Since women are so underrepresented in competitive gaming, Harvey mostly competes against men.
Nonetheless, she chooses to be on an all-women team, rather than a mixed-gender one, because she prefers it. She said, “There’s more stability with a women’s team because we work through issues together. It’s only about the game and nothing else. There’s no flirting, for example. It’s just refreshing.”
Harvey’s team, Counter Logic Gaming Red, is owned by parent corporation The Madison Square Garden Company, which in turn owns the arena for which it is named, the New York Knicks and other major teams and entertainment rights.
Like any other professional competitor, Harvey trains hard. She spends at least five hours a day (and often more) playing solo and with her teammates the game “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.” Harvey said what she likes most about this game is that it’s “very teamwork-based and strategic.”
Harvey compared her gaming competition to football, with defensive and offensive strategies that require countless hours of drills and other training. Like football, Harvey said, “You only get one shot at making it work at game time.”
Supergirl Gamer Pro returns for its second year on Friday, July 27, in Oceanside and runs through Sunday with both open tournaments and dedicated game play. Registration and attendance are free. Game play will be live-streamed on Twitch.
The games featured are “Fortnite,” “League of Legends,” “Hearthstone,” “Super Smash Bros. 4” and “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.” Event information can be found at http://supergirlpro.com/gamer/.
To connect with the event via social media, follow @SupergirlPro on Instagram and Twitter, visit Facebook.com/SupergirlPro and use #NeonSupergirlPro.