Two prominent enthusiast media outlets covering digital entertainment have published fake news regarding a story about a supposed female e-sports competitor who quit the Overwatch Contenders team, Second Wind, due to harassment.
On January 4th, 2019 Jasmine Henry from J Station X covered a story about a supposed female e-sports competitor going by the name of “Ellie”. This person had no personal identifying information made available about them, but they claimed to be a female. They were brought onto the Second Wind team without having much of a record to show that they deserved to be on the team, and a lot of people began scrutinizing the pick and wondering if Ellie was actually a man in disguise.
Ellie ended up quitting the Second Wind team abruptly, and the team used the excuse of high expectations and harassment that led to Ellie’s departure. Henry wrote…
“In a thread on Twitter, Second Wind team owner Justin Hughes indicated that the support for Ellie was also a problem, along with the harassment and doxxing threats. Hughes wrote that some people treated Ellie like their “Messiah” and “Between needing a player to live up to huge expectations and having to question their own safety, it seems that the OW community isn’t ready to just view a player as just a player.”
“Hughes comments are a false equivalency – fans being enthusiastic about another female player are not the same as people issuing harassment and threats towards a player because of their gender. However, some would argue that if more female Overwatch players were involved in the game’s esports scene and more was being done to crack down on abusive behavior, there would be no so-called “Messiah” treatment and bullying would be far less effective too.”
J Station X wasn’t the only one who published a story running with the angle that gamers harassed a female e-sports competitor out of the Overwatch Contenders league. Syfy tapped into some hyperbole based on a story they picked up from an article published on Variety on January 3rd, 2019.
Syfy’s Heather Mason wrote…
“While obviously expectations and threats are very different problems, they’re both issues female gamers experience more intensely than their male counterparts.
“Many members of the gaming community tweeted their support for Ellie and expressed concerns over the harassment within the Overwatch community. […]
“This only serves as another reminder that online harassment is still a major issue the gaming community has yet to find a way to adequately address.”
Well, it turns out that Ellie was never a female gamer to begin with.
In a Twitch stream from C9 Aspen posted on January 4th, 2019, it was revealed that Ellie was just a smurf account for a player named Punisher, who was a top 500 player in Overwatch looking to carry out a “social experiment”.
This was followed up with additional information from e-sports consultant Rod Breslau, who confirmed that Ellie was indeed a fake, and that it was all part of a concoction by Punisher, as revealed in a Twitter thread on January 4th, 2019.
A Twitlonger post was made by Second Wind on January 5th, 2019 explaining how they ended up recruiting Ellie and why they didn’t vet any of the information beforehand, stating that they were losing players and desperately needed to fill slots…
“When we originally contacted Ellie, there was nothing that would spark suspicion. They seemed to be very genuine and willing to work with us on calls and within private messages. Due to the fact that we do not have any physical contact with our players, we wanted to verify their identity but also wanted to respect their privacy as well. We genuinely had no idea of what was to come, and at the time we underestimated how important it would be to set an example as the first team to take on a female player for Contenders.”
“[…]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.”
In a way, journalists were only going on the information that was made available to them, and that information was limited by what was available due to Second Wind’s shortcomings in communication and failing to vet the information of a player. Worse yet, Second Wind chose to act recklessly by recruiting based on a criteria gender, a criteria which has been fostered by corrupt media outlets.
In result, enthusiast sites like Kotaku ran with a story that was never true to begin with: Ellie was never what they were portrayed to be.
The media, however, failed doubly here because first: The media is the one who fostered this toxic atmosphere of gender identity and identitarianism becoming rampant, pointless factors in hiring and recruiting practices within the gaming industry. Second: In a bid to be proven correct about their incorrect assessment regarding gender and gaming, they were quick to publish articles about “Ellie” because it adhered to their confirmation bias about the gaming industry being a cesspit of sexism and harassment.
Skeptical players had consistently tried to put forward the notion that Ellie was being operated by a man (which was true), but the gaming media purposefully ignored this criticism because it didn’t align with their sociopolitical agenda, and therefore, they opted instead to publish fake news, thus proving #GamerGate right about game journalists being corrupt.
At the time of writing this article, neither SyFy nor J Station X have updated their stories to correct the misinformation.
(Thanks for the news tip Lyle and Blaugast)
(Main image courtesy of Saturn)