Ever wonder what it would feel like to jump into a boxing ring with Muhammad Ali or hit the race track against Ayrton Senna?
While I won’t ever have a chance to go up against those champs, I got to experience something a bit closer to my heart: playing a round of Counter Strike: Global Offensive against a world championship gamer: Stephanie “missharvey” Harvey.
I also got to pick Harvey’s brain about the hardware she uses and what it’s like to train at the highest level.
Harvey plays on team Counter Logic Gaming Red and though she has several gaming machines, her official game rig is one provided by the team’s sponsor, iBuypower. It’s the Revolt 2 PC, and iBuypower was kind enough to send me a facsimile of an official team box. It felt a little bit like having GM send over a clone of a Chevrolet SS that Danica Patrick drives in Nascar.
The replica featured a Founders Edition GeForce GTX 1060, a Core i7-6700K, 16GB of DDR4/2400, a 240GB Intel 540-series SSD, and a 600 watt PSU. At $1,329, it actually compares well to a rig built using retail parts.
As a gaming box it seems well-suited for today’s games. For a game like Counter Strike: Global Offensive, however, which uses such an old engine, you might think it’s a little overkill.
That’s just what I thought, but I was surprised to hear Harvey say she needs as fast a CPU as she can get coupled with a good video card.
This seems unlikely since you can pretty much get Counter Strike: GO to run on integrated graphics on a dual-core laptop.
But watching Harvey set up on the Revolt 2, I finally understood what she meant when she called the game “CPU intensive.”
Like most pro gamers, Harvey uses lower graphics settings to maximize frame rates. The Revolt 2 she used was clocking 1,000 frames a second. I’ll say that again: 1,000 frames per second. Harvey said she can’t feel 1,000fps, but she does this because as the frame rate approaches and dips below 300fps, it hurts her performance. Yes, a frame rate below 300fps hurts her performance. She prefers as high a performance processor as possible to keep the frame rates sky high all the time.
The three M’s
It’s not just about what’s inside the PC though; it’s also about the three M’s: monitor, mouse, and mouse pad.
Harvey said the typical 60Hz panel doesn’t work for her—all her gaming must be on a high-frame monitor.
Nothing gets as close to a gamer as the mouse, and for that Harvey uses a Razer DeathAdder. Though mice are often marketed on insane DPI rates—up 10,000 DPI in some cases—Harvey uses the DeathAdder at a fairly low 400 DPI setting. She said for her, it’s about the mouse not losing track or skipping.
That means, believe or not, the necessity of a good mouse pad. Harvey uses a SteelSeries QcK+. Her current favorite keyboard is a Corsair K65RGB, which is the same one I favor—so I must be good, right?
With both machines set up, we played one-on-one for a round and it was simply unreal. I’m no twitch gamer but I’ve been around the block a few times. missharvey’s reaction times were simply next-level. I could not step two feet away from cover without instantly being put down. She could head-shot me from across the small map with an AK.
Only after being insta-killed eight or nine times did she lose interest and I was able to score a few hits. They weren’t death blows, but I at least had the moral victory in scoring a few shots. In the end, my kill-to-death ratio must have been 1:30.
At home in a pickup game, I would have long ago rage-quit—after typing “cheaterz aimbots!”—but seeing her warm up (yes, warm up—do you warm up before playing a video game?) and witnessing her next-level reaction times, it was actually a privilege to get so completely blown out by her.
Being a pro-gamer isn’t Hot Pockets and LOLS all day, either. Harvey currently lives in a “gaming house” with other team members, which sounds like an MTV Cribs episode of fun and hijinks, but is actually serious business.
There’s a strict healthy diet to be adhered to, and physical workouts to stay in shape. A healthier player is a better player, and when you have to sit in a chair and play games for hours on end, being in poor shape is a drag on the player and a drag on the team.
They don’t even get to stay up and party. Harvey said getting plenty of sleep to prepare for the grueling hours is also key to victory. Sounds like, well, an athlete’s kind of life style.