Nerd Street recently talked with Tricia Sugita, CEO of FlyQuest and former esports player about the importance of mental health from her perspective. The discussion delved into some of the great things she’s doing with MeQuest, the company’s mental health initiative to get awareness out for recognizing mental health and making it a priority in gamers’ lives.
Nerd Street: Tell me about yourself as a gamer, an esports player and as a CEO -- who are you?
Sugita: I'm the CEO of FlyQuest. I've been working in esports for over a decade now. And I've done everything from playing competitively, to hosting major events like IGN’s IPL. Those were the biggest tournaments in the days when 50K was the biggest prize pool back in the day in like 2012.
I've hosted things from Starcraft to League of Legends and fighting game tournaments. And I've done coaching. Most notably, I coached Gordon Hayward for a little bit in Starcraft. I've cast at tournaments, and I've done interviews for them. So I’ve pretty much done everything on the talent side from hosting, casting interviews, to playing myself, and then I've also worked on the streaming side, I worked at Azubu, which was a competitor to Twitch TV. Prior to that, I used to do CRM and ERP implementation. And a lot of sales. I've taken those skills to esports.
Nerd Street: What brought you to FlyQuest? What made you decide after all the things that you’ve done to become the head of the company?
Sugita: I actually was brought on as COO in 2018, in January for FlyQuest. So I started off as COO at FlyQuest and worked on all of the foundation. And the first thing I worked on was our company vision of “showcase greatness.” And that is the belief that greatness already exists within everyone, and [we] want to help them find and showcase it. And the reason why we started on that first is because I think [creating a purpose is] the very first thing a company should do. So we started with our company vision, and from there we hired the whole team.
In January 2020, I was promoted to CEO. And you asked why I joined FlyQuest? It was my opportunity to create a company vision for the first time in my career. I've always had the privilege of doing cool things like negotiating multimillion dollar deals, and you know, managing those contracts and setting up large companies, but I've never had the opportunity to create a company vision and do it from the start. So FlyQuest was my opportunity to create it from the ground up; what FlyQuest would stand for and why we would be here as an esports organization.
Nerd Street: What's been your experience as someone who's gone through mental health issues as an esports player?
Sugita: So first and foremost, I am a workaholic. I know that, but I've also learned that it's not necessarily a negative thing. I think we all have a different threshold for work. And that's something that I've learned on my own. That being said, learning healthy boundaries is for all of us. And my struggle in epports was I literally worked myself to the bone working 16-plus hours a day seven days a week never taking a break.
As I mentioned, at Azubu we had a global team, so we had everyone from Korea to Brazil to Vietnam to Taiwan to Europe and different parts of Europe reporting to me. I am very privileged to work on those things, at the same time it did take a toll. So I would work at 10 p.m., and by work, I mean go home and log on to Skype and eat something really quick and just be ready for my Korea accounts. And I did that so long that I ended up getting three bald spots on the top of my head and losing hair.
And I think through that experience and through other experiences, helped me put things in perspective of what's important. Obviously work is important, but I realized how much I sacrificed to excel in my career. I'm not saying I regret anything because you need to sacrifice some things, but I realized I sacrificed too much, and I’m still learning how to better balance that. I think esports is doing better than before and how they are treating mental health, not just esports, but just in general. It's becoming more of a normal topic that people talk about at the workplace, which I'm really excited about, but I do think that there's definitely much more to be done.
Nerd Street: How have you and your team helped change the perception of mental health through MeQuest?
Sugita: Yeah, so MeQuest is super special. Well, all of our quests are very special, we put a lot of heart into it and thought. It all started because before we signed Joedat "Voyboy" Esfahani. We wanted to make sure that when he joined it was something special -- that we're really doing something more than just him being a streamer or an influencer for us. And so I asked what's important to him, and he talked about mental health. And that's something that's totally aligned with us.
Long story short, we put new quests together. And the most important thing was we wanted it to have action applied to it. For example, our “go green” initiative, we wanted to help save the planet. Well, we do that by also spreading awareness, but we also planted over 10,000 trees. So, similarly with MeQuest, we were like, “Great, let's talk about mental health.” And I really wanted it to be a movement inspired by fitness movements, where people share their progress, people talk about their struggles, and they have a support group and team.
Nerd Street: What’s been the response for people who’ve been a part of MeQuest?
Sugita: So internally, you can see our staff talking about it, our players too, from just getting back to the gym or playing basketball to treating yourself. Our fans have been very welcoming and kind and vulnerable to share their journey, so we've literally seen pictures and videos of people.
I think it's doing exactly what we had intended and more, and we couldn't be more grateful because it's -- as much as we've made this for the community -- the community has also helped us to keep going, and that's why we've continued to do it. And I think actually I've told the staff that like I can't see this going away, it’s a quest I kind of don't want to end because it's so successful and motivates people to talk about it regularly, and it's just exactly what we had hoped for -- to really be a movement for the community for everybody to join.
Nerd Street: What are you looking forward to doing in the next few years with MeQuest or FlyQuest?
Sugita: Well, I know for sure that I will be finding ways to help humanity and serve humanity and try to make others happy. My hope is I'm improving on the ways I'm doing that where it's more impactful, reaching more people, and hopefully inspiring others.
Nerd Street: For people who don't know anything about FlyQuest, what do you want them to know?
Sugita: We are an esports organization, but at the end of the day, I want you to know that while we compete in League of Legends, and obviously that's what we do, we want to showcase greatness in all forms. I hope that they know that what we stand for at the end of the day is showcasing greatness, and that we believe greatness already exists within everyone, and we want to help them find it and showcase it.
Lead photo credit: FlyQuest