A Former esports Pro’s Take on Shutting Down Harassment in a Competitive Environment

When you’re in the heat of the competition, harassment is the last thing you want to get in your way. Here’s a fresh take on how to deal with harassment in a competitive environment.

The following is an excerpt from a chat I had with CLG’s Director of Team Operations: Summer Scott. You can watch the full talk here: https://youtu.be/EDMXXfkfpmY?t=812

missharvey: You’re CLG’s former player development coach, but Summer you have a very diverse background and we’re happy to be able to have this discussion with you today!

Summer Scott: Yes, I’m really excited. I’m excited to get a little weird with it (reader, just you wait). Performance coaching is one of those things that kind of transcends any one medium, right? It can be about gaming. It can be about where you want to be in 10 years. It can be about how you approach health and wellness. It can be about how you learn “adulting” skills. It can be any number of things. And of course, performance can be applied to harassment. Unfortunately it does have an impact on how well you can play, and you do actually need skills to be able to overcome any kind of criticism realistically. That’s how we look at harassment, at least in this context.

missharvey: First, let’s take a look at harassment as part of competition.

Summer: In some ways, in traditional sport, harassment is commonplace. You can look at fan heckling during a penalty kick. There’s some sporting events that purposely hand out distraction implements, to make it easier for the fans to have an influence over the outcome of the game. In that way, by design, competition has included a way to overcome the opponent through mental means. We’re not just trying to out-scale our opponent, we’re trying to out-mental our opponent. Heckling is a very simple example of somebody harassing someone to the point of faltering in their execution. Think about how many sports movies have a coach who is like “get in their head!”

It’s a little bit entwined into the sport culture and whether or not that’s okay, I’m not sure. As far as I’m concerned, there’s a line that you can cross that really takes it out of the realm of being part of the sport, and into something that’s not okay. And that’s when you’re really challenging a core piece of somebodies’ identity.

  • Gender
  • How you present
  • Religion (especially if you wear jewelry or clothing that suggests you care about that religion)
  • Race
  • Nationality
  • Gameplay
  • Communication
  • Attitude

Summer: I personally feel you’ve gone too far when you start to attack somebody on those means. And as a woman in esports, most of the time it comes down to my gender. It’s one of the things that’s the most apparent about me. It’s the easiest thing for somebody to grab onto and belittle me with. When somebody crosses that line, what does that look like, and how can we handle it?

missharvey: In my experience, I’ve always said, “You can complain about me being bad or not coming into the game prepared.” But as soon as you say that I suck because I’m a girl or you attack my gender, that’s when it pisses me off. It’s when it becomes personal. It’s NOT about my skills or my competence, but rather things that are irrelevant to gameplay, especially in a competitive setting.

missharvey: Okay. So let’s say we’re playing a game, take League Of Legends or CS:GO, I know you’re more familiar with these two games, since you’re helping The CLG RED girls during their CS:GO season. So let’s go into that player’s mindset, where they’re trying to work on their competitive game and they’re trying to improve, and they get harassed. Why don’t you lead us on that journey of how to keep our mindsets focused on getting better, and not the negativity of the personal attacks.

Summer: In my experience working with the pros at CLG, there’s a couple of different places that this crops up. In a solo queue (matchmaking with random teammates) where someone is not being awesome in chat or voice chat, or in social media. Steph, because of your experience here [as a former competitor], give me an example where you’re getting distracted by somebody.

missharvey: I think that one thing that really triggers me is let’s say I’m playing a ranked solo-queue, and it’s round two. So that means you have no idea how I play yet. It’s round two, we just met each other and someone assumes my skill level and trashes me for a play I did, or didn’t do right away. Like “you #*!^$ blow” you know, sorry for the cursing but like right away! Like the first thing. And then they never move on. By round three, they’ve made their mind up and now they expect me to be trash at everything I do.

Summer: Is this on your team or the opposing team?

missharvey: MY TEAM! And then random teammate is just telling me I’m bad. Every single round.

Summer: First of all, that sounds really fricking irritating, and I want to validate the feeling. It is irritating. It feels unfair. It feels like it shouldn’t be there.

I want everyone to realize that…that feeling of rejection, of the moment, is what’s going to take you out of your own game. It’s because you actually have not allowed what that person’s saying in. You end up expending energy trying to keep it out rather than allowing it in and letting it exit out naturally.

Another way to look at this is every time you’re streaming or in-game, you’re thrown into a series of “uncontrollables” and your teammates and opponents are both uncontrollable. So imagine a stream of uncontrollables as this: standing in the middle of a raging river, where your only job to hold your own, in the middle of that river.

Photo by Mathias Elle on Unsplash

Now, when you have a situation that you don’t like, and you’re pushing against it, now you’re trying to be dam against the river. You’re trying to like collect sticks and do whatever you can to Beaver the crap out of this river. You’re trying to create a dam so that you can have control over the situation. You’ve done two things:

  1. Wasted a lot of time gathering materials that you didn’t really need, to just stand there in the water and weather it.
  2. Jeopardized yourself, because at any point, these mechanisms that you’ve put in place, the sticks and the rocks and whatever else, can collapse and cease to work.

And now you’re downriver.

So you’ve lost your footing, spending time trying to prevent what was going to happen anyway. So the unfortunate reality is that we do not live in a perfect world. There are things that are unfair. You’re going to be treated unjustly at times. And it does it suck? Absolutely. Do you still have to tolerate it and deal with it? Yes, you do, if you want to get anywhere.

Once you actually develop that level of acceptance where you can stand in there, take it, let it pass through you and let it go all in one moment, then you’re going to be in a better place.

You’ve kind of jeopardized yourself because at any point, these mechanisms that you’ve put in place, meaning the sticks and the rocks and whatever, at any point, they can collapse and cease to work.

Thanks for reading this slice of our chat together. The conversation doesn’t end here though! Look out for part two, and here’s resources to help cope with harassments online, and making online spaces better for all. See https://gameshotline.org/ and https://www.anykey.org/ for more!

5 world championships counter-strike player, former Ubisoft game designer, and now giving back to esports with CLG. Get in touch with me @missharvey, anywhere.