In late December of 2018 a player named “Ellie” was signed on to the Overwatch Contenders team called Second Wind. “Ellie” had no last name, no personal details available, and was portrayed as a female e-sports player. The community was suspicious and began digging around for info on this new player who was picked up for Second Wind seemingly out of nowhere. It was later reported that Ellie quit Overwatch due to harassment. However, all of this turned out to be false because Ellie wasn’t an actual female e-sports player, “she” was a “social experiment” by a male player going by the handle Punisher.
Nevertheless, before any of the news media got their hands on any of the facts, they felt it was a juicy enough story to scuttle their reputation in order to push the narrative that the gaming industry is a den of harassment and sexism. They did this knowing that if it turned out to be false all of them would be vindicating all of the complaints from #GamerGate that games media was corrupt, ideologically driven, and peddlers of propaganda.
Well, GameRant, Game Informer, and ShackNews, among nearly two dozen other websites, all jumped on the bait and ran with the story without getting any of the basic facts about the “who” in the four ‘W’s.
In this case, Ellie wasn’t actually a top female player; but on January 3rd, 2019 Game Informer’s Imran Khan published an article originally claiming that Ellie had been harassed out of the Overwatch’s e-sports Contenders league. Parts of the article attempts to stay objective, but then Khan proceeds to discount the possibility raised by skeptics that Ellie may have been a hoax concocted by a male player to ruse the community. Khan wrote…
“Speculation about the mysterious lives of players will happen as long as society maintains and encourages parasocial relationships with people they’ve never met, but I genuinely do not believe any of this would happen to this extent if Ellie’s name was Steve and she was a man. I don’t think it’s even arguable that it would. Even if she wasn’t who she says – a claim for which there is zero evidence but let’s engage the hypothetical – what right does anyone else really have to know? The claims of esports being a meritocracy where anyone can be good enough to be a part of the club as long as they can play have long been suspect, but this saga essentially proves them wrong. It is no longer about whether you can play, it’s about whether you can prove yourself worthy of the onus we put upon you.”
Ellie actually turned out to be a male operated by a top 500 player in Overwatch, as admitted to by Punisher’s friend, Cloud9’s Aspen, who made an admission about Ellie not being Ellie. It turned out that Punisher had a 17-year-old girl to pretend to a top Overwatch player, but he did the actual playing, making the actual Ellie a fake. This occurred during a livestream on Twitch that was posted January 4th, 2019.
But Game Informer wasn’t the only one who completely discounted objective journalism in the face of pushing the sociopolitical constantly being spearheaded by Leftists in the media that have effectively turned their platforms into propaganda machines.
ShackNews and GameRant joined in on the information grifting as well.
GameRant published an article on the coattails of Game Informer on January 4th, 2019, with Dalton Cooper writing…
“The online harassment aimed at Ellie stemmed from a conspiracy theory that Ellie wasn’t real, and was instead a male professional Overwatch player posing as a female. It seems this conspiracy theory mainly started because Ellie chose not to use her legal name after signing to Second Wind, whereas the other members of her team did, and that her Twitter account was brand new.
“Despite Ellie quitting Second Wind, it seems the online harassment against her has continued. According to fellow pro Overwatch player Mini, anytime they play a game with Ellie, ‘people just hard flame and leave the game.’
“It’s unfortunate what Ellie has had to deal with since signing with Second Wind, especially since there is currently no actual evidence to support the conspiracy theory. Hopefully the online harassment against Ellie stops, but it seems like it’s continuing for the time being.”
E-sports analyst and consultant, Rod Breslau, got to the bottom of the kerfuffle and revealed the conspiracy theorists were right all along, and Ellie was, indeed, fake. Following up on Aspen’s livestream, Breslau shared information on January 4th, 2019 on how Punisher put together his plot and shared screenshots of Punisher admitting that Ellie was a smurf account as part of his “social experiment”.
Catsui tells me over the phone that Punisher also proposed to her a similar ‘social experiment’ as his playing through/with Ellie, and she says that he apparently had asked several women in the Overwatch community the same.
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) January 5, 2019
GameRant at least had the courtesy to update their article following the publication of the piece, but opted not to include the more damning details that completely discredited their take on the situation and proved them wrong.
ShackNews wasn’t much better, though.
On January 4th, 2019, Charles Singletary Jr wrote…
“After constant harassment ultimately spurned by sexism, a professional Overwatch League player has quit her team. The player known as the handle “Ellie” stepped away from Second Wind, a team competing in the Overwatch minor league Contenders, after her identity was regularly questioned despite livestreaming to prove herself. […]
“Kotaku reported that fans believe initial speculation about Ellie started because of her full legal not being added to the roster like her other counterparts in the league. “Who is Ellie?” focused gossip sprung up, with the foundation of theories being that a male player was impersonating a female professional. […]”
Those theories were correct, as admitted to by Second Wind. Unfortunately, as of the publishing of this article ShackNews has not updated nor corrected the misinformation in their piece.
The team confessed that due to the pressure to get a female in the league and due to the shortage of players on their team, they failed to vet “Ellie” and communicate their recruiting process to the public, which left the community to crowdsource common sense and put “Ellie’s” skills and credentials through the proper process of scrutiny. Second Wind posted a message on Twitlonger on January 5th, 2019, with text that reads like it was wrung through a washboard of shame, which states…
“Ellie decided to step down on their own, and shortly afterwards we announced their departure from the team. As of today, Blizzard had gotten back to us on the background of Ellie, and notified us that they were not who they claimed to be, and discovered that the Ellie account was used for purposes we do not support. We apologize to the community as a whole for not handling this situation better when we should have, and we will aim to do better.”
While the press may not have been able to know that Ellie was actually a dude trying to pull a fast one on the community, what they could have done was hold off on running the anti-gaming narrative about “sexism” and “harassment” before getting the full details. To the credit of Variety, at least it sticks solely to the facts without going off on tangents, and that’s why they aren’t being discussed in this series of articles where journalistic malfeasance was afoot from outlets like Game Informer, GameRant, and ShackNews using their platforms to push a blatantly sociopolitcal agenda against their own community.
These sites have retroactively justified every legitimate criticism that #GamerGate lobbed at the gaming press and their tendencies to slide into corruption.
(Thanks for the news tip Lyle and Blaugast)
(Main image courtesy of JunkyRaty)