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Cybersmile Gaming Ambassador Stephanie Harvey In The Hot Seat!

As well as being a five-time World Champion gamer, Stephanie is also a game designer at Ubisoft Montreal, Gaming Ambassador for Cybersmile and a co founder of Misscliks.
What is your current favourite game? Did you have a favourite growing up?

My current favourite game is Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. I play that game competitively and professionally and I must admit that Counter-Strike has been my life for the past 14 years. When I was a kid, I was more into action adventure games or RPG. I would play mostly consoles and portable gaming machines. It wasn’t until my teenage years that I started focussing on multiplayer PC games.

How did you find yourself working in the games industry?

After spending so much time gaming, I decided to stop splitting my career and my passion and combine them! Gaming is my life and I was trying to create a barrier between both not to “only do gaming”. I eventually just jumped in and followed my passion. It wasn’t easy but even with how rough the first years were (I had low pay and low success), I knew that’s what I wanted to do. 7 years later, I don’t regret anything.

What is your official job title and what are your day to day responsibilities at your company?

My official job title at Ubisoft Montreal is Game Designer. I am the owner of specific game features from start to the end. I design them following the Creative Director’s vision and follow their implementations until they are in the game, up and running (you can find lots of advice for a career in the games industry in our gaming blog). Then I make sure the features work well and are balanced. All of this really is a team effort but I am the one making sure we are working in the same direction and towards the same goal. I have a full team behind me supporting the features; I couldn’t do my job without my peers as I mainly work with technical documents, excel sheets and emails.

Would you say choosing and achieving a career in gaming today is easier or more difficult than 10 years ago?

I would say that choosing a career in gaming is much easier now than 10 years ago. Working day and night because there were almost no schools giving degrees to do the job I’m doing; no real process to be a game designer and the path to get there was really unclear. The industry was much younger and it was much harder to convince your friends and family at a young age that this¬†is what you wanted to do and that it was going to pay off! But times changed and it is now a very suitable career path with lots of opportunities and possibilities of growth.

What is the biggest perk/favourite part of your job?

Flexibility. Because of my double career (I am also a professional gamer for Counter Logic Gaming), I need to be able to travel a lot and focus on my pro gaming career when needed. Ubisoft knows how important this is for me and they are helping me achieve my goal, inside and outside of the company. I couldn’t have done everything that I have in the last years without their support.

Tell us about Misscliks, what is it?

A few friends and I created Misscliks in 2013 in an effort to uplift geeks and gamers in a positive way. We wanted to provide support and exposure for women as role models in the geek and gaming culture. We had a long term vision for the concept but started small with a Dungeons & Dragons stream campaign on Twitch, to eventually become a daily network where we showcase females on a bunch of different geek shows. We are still at very early days but we hope to inspire and promote diversity in every way possible with our actions.

What advice would you have for any girls/women hoping for a career in the gaming industry?

To focus on yourself. What are YOUR goals? What are YOUR aspirations? What can YOU do to make it happen? Forget about others and especially don’t compare yourself. The industry can be hard because a lot of it is a question of timing, politics and perceptions, so don’t give up and keep working hard, you can do great things if you do. I repeat DON’T GIVE UP! Do what YOU want to do in life, not what others think you should do.

Have you ever been abused online? If so, how did you handle it?

Yes I have and there’s no right way to handle it. You gotta do what works for you. For me it is to ignore it and work towards not letting it affect me by focussing on myself and my happiness. It took me years to get to that level of serenity and even today I still get touched by some comments. Frankly to be fair it’s normal to be affected, I am human! My goal is to keep my motivation and focus on my goals and leave behind everything that gets in the way (If you are affected by gaming related abuse, you might find our gaming abuse coping strategies a useful read).

Where do you think the line should be drawn between healthy competitive behaviour and digital abuse when playing a game online?

Anything personal is out of line in my book. You don’t know anything about their lives so why get involved and possibly create a conflict. You never know how the other person will react and especially how they will take what you say, its definitely best avoided.

Is it considered important to be ‘thick skinned’ if you are a female looking for a career in the games industry?

I think its important to be thick skinned in general, woman or not, and no matter the industry. But thick skin doesn’t necessarily mean to fight back. To me, being thick skinned means being able to let go of a lot of things to continue my journey. It also means to accept myself and be happy in my own skin, without losing focus on trying to always be a better person. This helps tremendously when facing obstacles in life, especially since our society is particularly rough for career orientated women. The main issues for the gaming industry is that it combines a bunch of factors that pile up – women being a minority, online anonymity and a young/worldwide demographic.

With sexist and threatening abuse on social media and in games so widespread, what advice would you give to anyone being affected by it?

Find allies to overcome the abuse and more importantly to vent your frustrations with. Be part of a community that will work on the positive side of things and lift you up instead of dragging you down. Get involved positively and don’t let yourself get caught in the negative game. Also, don’t forget to stand up for your values but be careful – is every single negative comment you receive worth being addressed? Should you denunciate every single message of abuse that you get? I believe you shouldn’t. You should pick when to confront very carefully and have maximum impact if you decide to act on it.

What do you think can be done to reduce the amount of ‘line crossing’ (threats of rape, violence, racism and sexism etc) abuse online?

By raising awareness of cyberbullying and digital abuse, we will help the parents with young children today, to raise the technology users of tomorrow to become a society that doesn’t let things go and refuses to accept that its ok to say hurtful things from behind a screen.

What do you think about Intel’s $300m commitment to address diversity related issues within the tech industry?

I believe this is an incredibly important initiative. It will take a long time to address a lot of the issues from our industry and society but now we can do something and make the online world a better place. Raising awareness of the current issues of abuse is very important and we can’t let the online trolls win!

Remember we have a Gaming Support Centre if you require any support with issues discussed in this interview. You can also visit our Total Access Support section to see the different ways to access our support facilities. For further information about Cybersmile and the work we do, please explore the following suggestions.

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