FlyQuest MissHarvey: "The battle is not done, we are just starting"

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    In women’s esports, there are not many names as celebrated as Stephanie "MissHarvey" Harvey. With a career in the industry that has spanned over many years, she’s covered numerous roles ranging from a professional player to coach and, most recently, executive.

    In the spring of 2023, with the dissolution of Counter Logic Gaming, its RED division, which famously featured professional female players and had been one of the center pieces of the women's esports scene since 2015, met the same fate. That meant its Counter-Strike and Valorant teams would operate without a sponsor for their ensuing competitions. That then led to those teams appearing as independent squads for most of the ESL Impact League Season 3 and the VCT Game Changers North America Series 2 competitions.

    However, that all changed once summer rolled around. Thanks to the diligence of MissHarvey, and with the assistance of her ex-CLG colleagues, CLG RED essentially found a new home in the form of FlyQuest, who would go on to adopt the RED name and thereby preserve its legacy while also continuing its existence to the present day. Not only that, in addition to manufacturing FlyQuest's acquisition of RED, MissHarvey also became FlyQuest's Chief Culture Officer where she takes into account the creation and sustenance of a healthy environment throughout the org.

    All this maps out yet another major chapter in the already heralded career of MissHarvey. Taking that into account, BLIX sat down with MissHarvey for an interview about her current stint with FlyQuest, her role as the Chief Culture Officer and what it entails, her current view on the current generation of female gamers and much more.

    Working in FlyQuest

    Pedro Romero, BLIX: I want to start off this conversation by talking about your current position in FlyQuest. Your position says that you are the Chief Culture Officer but exactly what does that entail? What do you do under that role?

    Stephanie "MissHarvey" Harvey: I'm the Chief Culture Officer as well as the RED Director. The RED part is probably easier to understand. I'm kind of the general manager of everything that has to do with RED, and when it comes to the Chief Culture Officer stuff, it's a relatively new role in tech and in companies that focuses on the culture within the company. As we all know, mental health and employee retention and overall just having a purpose in your job is really important so my role at FlyQuest is to make sure that for everything that we do, we do it according to our values but we also define what these values are. If we have to do a campaign, we make sure that, if it fits with our values, so we make sure that DNI (diversity, equity and inclusivity) is really important for us. And that's also in my wheelhouse so I make sure that we are true to these values and that diversity is really important within the company.

    BLIX: How much of a challenge has that been in working as the Chief Cultural Officer compared to your past roles for different teams?

    MissHarvey: I actually think my transition as Chief Culture Officer has been pretty smooth. Although I'm still at the beginning of it, it takes a long time to build a culture and also assess the culture. I find that it was relatively similar to a lot of the things I was already doing at CLG. I was a Development Director at CLG and for me, a lot of it was resonating with culture already. The things that are more challenging for me right now is really learning how to be a GM or director to the RED division because that's not something I did in the past. At CLG, I wasn't involved at all—I didn't want to be involved, but at FlyQuest I'm really in charge of everything that has to do with the RED program. I love learning and I love being part of having my hands deep in esports with both rosters at the moment, but definitely a lot of it is new to me.

    From CLG RED to FlyQuest RED

    BLIX: One of the major things that you have to go through, besides being the Chief Culture Officer, is managing the RED roster and transitioning that from CLG to FlyQuest. How's it been supporting and managing the RED teams in both Valorant and CS?

    MissHarvey: Well, I had to learn really quickly because we signed with FlyQuest the day that we started ESL Dallas and two weeks after Game Changers Series 2 was starting with Valorant so I took on two rosters that were already built and had a lot of history. I had to get familiar with the girls and everything and right away, we had coaching staff changes because flashie [Viktor Tamás Bea] got an opportunity with NAVI and we changed the coach on [the] Valorant team. I pretty much acted as a part-time coach, part-time manager and part-time GM for the last two months with these squads so it's been very intense.

    Their practices were not overlapping so they were next to each other. I would sit on practice with Valorant and as soon as that was over, I would sit on practice with CS while I was doing all my other responsibilities so it's been very interesting, but I think that right now, we are setting ourselves up for success. We were able to hire a team manager, we were able to hire two coaches, we were able to finally stabilize some things behind the scene. FlyQuest only had their League of Legends vertical and then two Smash players before we joined and now we have two brand new rosters and we also have five new fighting game players, which total seven, and I'm also in charge of them.

    BLIX: I can only imagine what it was like when the announcement was made about CLG finishing its operations and then leaving RED in a very dire situation if I might say so. Going back into that timeframe, was that the hardest obstacle you had to go through in your career?

    MissHarvey: It was extremely difficult. Obviously, it really caught us off guard and both teams were in the middle of their season. I'm just talking about RED but everything that we've built at CLG completely disappeared just like that so obviously I had lots to do. On top of it, I didn't even think we were worth shutting down. I actually think we were doing great things and we were not doing it in a costly matter unlike other orgs so I was extremely hurt by this.

    But I think the next day that it happened—and you also have to know that Potter and I merged UBINITED to CLG so I technically sold the company to that org so it really meant a lot to me. And then the thing that helped me after that was just that I was gonna do everything I can to find the girls a new home, whatever that means. In my mind, when [RED] died, I wanted to make sure that all the girls wanted the same thing and make sure I had their best interests at heart and, to be honest, that was my only North Star for a month and a half.

    Bolstered by the support of FlyQuest, FlyQuest RED finished 3-4th in the ESL Impact Season 3 Finals. Credit: Adela Sznajder/ESL

    BLIX: There was a period for a few months in which the both RED rosters technically went about their separate ways. The Valorant team was with Moist Moguls for Series 2 and the CS team played as an independent unit up until the time both teams were signed.

    What made FlyQuest the next home for the RED roster? Was it because of looking at what FlyQuest was as an organization? Or was it just you trying to preserve and continue the existence of the RED team since it obviously has a profound place in your heart?

    MissHarvey: I think the RED program is the best women's esports program in the world and I really think that we do it for the best of the players and that we care for the players. Honestly, it was so heartbreaking for me to see it die so I didn't want it to die. I think it had a future and I did my best to find the right program at home and pretty much that's what happened.

    BLIX: And how exactly did those initial discussions come about between yourself and FlyQuest? What was that timeframe like?

    MissHarvey: The timeframe was pretty aggressive because a lot of other players were under visa so we needed to figure out things really quickly, but we were talking to—and I don't want to say a lot of people—different parties.

    There were parties who just wanted a specific amount of players and other parties who wanted just one squad out of two and all 10 players really wanted to stick as 10 if possible so that was really my priority. FlyQuest gave me so much trust in the way that they were trying to build the organization but also how they wanted RED to become a part of the organization and really have our own identity rather than just be tokenized.

    BLIX: And going into RED's current whereabouts for this year, we've seen them perform in both Game Changers and ESL Impact. In fact, I was there in person to see the CS team reach the semifinals in the Impact League Season 3 Finals, and although you guys weren't able to have as much success in the Series 3 Main Event, you guys were able to continue maintaining your position as one of the best women's Valorant teams in the region. What's been the biggest difference for you when it comes to managing both the Valorant and CS roster?

    MissHarvey: Well, they are two different teams and each team has their own identity, their own culture and their own processes. What's been really important for me is to keep that core culture and process intact and not try to disrupt it too much. I know when I need to come in and voice up and when I should just step back so that's been a challenge to learn how to do that.

    Also, each player has a different personality. It's like a job with 10 children. I had to get to know them and make sure that I treated them right and all that kind of stuff so it's been very interesting to me to build that relationship. It's also kind of trial and error. It's been, not a long time. We signed with FlyQuest in June and we're in October so it's been a bit less than five months that I'm working with these teams and it's not a lot when you think about how long we were at CLG.

    BLIX: You mentioned the identities of both teams. Can you describe exactly what the identity is like for both teams? Can you pinpoint that?

    MissHarvey: I would say the CS team has more structure, is more used to being independent and has been more stable overall not only on their roster but on their success for a long time while the Valorant team is composed of younger players and they've had it rough. They changed organizations three times in the last eight months so they're not in a situation to have been able to progress as much as they wished so I had to do more support and intervention on the Valorant side to make sure that they are set up for success.

    Also, the stakes are totally different in both scenes. Valorant doesn't have leagues. They only have three events a year, while for CS, we are part of multiple leagues and do multiple events. We're extremely diverse when it comes to competing so the stakes are different and it feels like they're higher on Valorant because of the way Riot built the ecosystem which I think is a shame but it's just the reality of it.

    On today’s female gamers

    BLIX: When it comes to you who emerged to become a pro player on a particular road in the past, how have you viewed the difference between how you became a pro and the manner in which the current generation of girl gamers have emerged in their own right?

    MissHarvey: The main difference right now is a lot of players, if they're not getting paid, they don't really compete or they don't want to do it long term. In my time, no one was getting paid so it was pretty different when it comes to that. Otherwise, it's more accepted now that you're a woman in gaming. It was really difficult when I was younger. In general, professionalism didn't really exist in gaming before so there's that and often women were used in being tokenized.

    That's how it was, but in general, it's night and day the support that they get compared to what I got. If I just think about the FlyQuest RED roster, just being able to sleep in beds at boot camp seems like a luxury to me. We never slept in beds on boot camp. I slept on the floor or inflatable mattresses multiple times during boot camps. It's very small things like that. They have it really good but we also expect them to have really higher standards of discipline and make sure that, in the end, the RED program means excellence.

    BLIX: And when you see the progression of managing women's teams and seeing them compete in actual major events like the Impact League finals and the Game Changers Championship, what does that tell you about the progression of the women's esports scene in general from those dog days of when you were a player up until now?

    MissHarvey: The difference is unreal and we always knew that talking about it as much as we could would normalize it. We're still kind of in that time where we need to talk about it to be able to normalize it. We need to make sure that we continue pushing. The battle is not done. We are just starting. Equality in esports is not there yet. It's much better than 20 years ago when I started, but we are still fighting to have access to a lot of the things that men already have access, whether it's in gaming or just in general in the world, so that's something that I deeply care about.

    "We need to make sure that we continue pushing. The battle is not done. We are just starting. Equality in esports is not there yet."

    BLIX: And of course, I'd be remiss if I don't mention the fact that a few months ago, Potter [Christine Chi], one of your past teammates, was able to win Champions as a coach for Evil Geniuses. It's been mentioned countless times that it is the first time a woman has won a world championship as a coach. To see her win the title as a former teammate of hers, how did you feel in looking at that happen?

    MissHarvey: I'm incredibly proud. I've always thought Potter was an extremely talented individual and she knew how to win and I've been extremely fortunate to be her teammates all these years and still be close friends with her. I want to say she's an inspiration for everyone not only because she successfully won an event, but also because she never ever used her gender in anything that she's ever done and I think that's something that sometimes people can get upset at and think she only got the position because she's a woman and that kind of stuff.

    And to be fair, even though those are non-arguments and I really don't agree with that, you can't even say that about her, right? She earned her position fair and square and I hope that she inspires the next generation in seeing that it's not just about competing, but there's also other positions you can do that will also help you raise that trophy.

    Looking back and forward

    BLIX: With the conclusion of CSGO, I'm curious to see how you look back on your days as a pro player back in that game. That said, which moment do you view as your favorite moment that you've experienced as a player?

    MissHarvey: There's lots of moments in CSGO. I think winning the first CS:GO World Championship was pretty nuts in 2012. We won it even before the men because the men's final was after hours so I thought that was really insane. It was also the craziest comebacks I've ever done in my career. And overall, the series lasted, I think five hours and a half or something. I think we were nominated for the best game of the year when it comes to any esports game so it was pretty nutty. And then I'm gonna have to say in 2015, I won ESWC at home under CLG around after signing. It was in Montreal so obviously that was a big deal for me.

    BLIX: As I mentioned before, you've been at this for quite a long time both in-game and out of game and have also contributed to the women's scene in CSGO and are also looking to do the same in CS2. As someone who is revered as a major figure within the women's esports scene, how would you want your legacy to look like through your contribution to women CS and CLG RED (now FlyQuest RED)?

    MissHarvey: That's a really hard question. I just want to make a difference and make the space better so that's my contribution. At FlyQuest, I'm in a really good position to make that happen and continue doing that, but everything that I do and all the projects that I take on is usually to make a difference. I'm also a professor at a university in Quebec when it comes to health, wellness and ethics in esports. Overall, I'm very involved in the community and do so many conferences and speak out for diversity everywhere I can so I'm just trying to make a difference in everything that I do and the decisions that I take is pretty important for me.

    BLIX: I'd like to also know how you view the improvement in skill for women's players and also their general play within both CS and Valorant. I've seen that the RED CS roster has been able to do well in ESEA events this year. When it comes to observing the skill level that women's teams have shown over the years compared to the men's teams. What does that skill gap look like in your eyes at this moment of time between both sides?

    MissHarvey: I don't know how to answer this. There's definitely still a skill gap in CS and in Valorant but that gap is getting thinner and thinner every year. I think the players are getting better and better every year too, so as players are getting better and women are getting better, the gap is closing a little bit, but it's still there because everyone's getting better. I'm gonna say the goal is to reduce that skill gap as much as we can if we treat and train our teams to do the best that it can, but right now, it's definitely still there and our goal is to do everything we can to make it smaller and smaller.

    BLIX: One more question and it concerns Valorant. So far this year, we've been seeing a bit of talk about how a few GC players has been standing out from the rest of the field and whether or not they have the potential to compete in Tier-1 teams (an example is florescent [Ava Eugene]. When do you feel women players are going to play in Tier-1 teams in both games? When do you think that is going to happen?

    MissHarvey: I can't say—no one can but it happened before. I played on Tier-1 teams back in 2009. Alice Lew played in Tier-1 teams back in 2003 and 2004 so it happened before and it wouldn't be the first time it happens. There's a part of me that thinks it's a conversation piece that shouldn't even exist and that it's just gonna happen when it happens, but I'm looking forward to it. I hope that it's sooner than later, but at the moment, it's going to take a lot of parties to make sure that this is possible.

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    CS Virtual Trade Ltd, reg. no. HE 389299 Registered address and the principal place of business: 705, Spyrou Araouzou & Koumantarias, Fayza House, 3036, Limassol, Cyprus
    Copyright © 2024 BLIX.GG. All rights reserved.