The story about the supposed first female Overwatch Contenders recruit for the e-sports team, Second Wind, has managed to spread all over the games media circuit. The player’s name was “Ellie”, with no other identifying information made available. Ellie claimed to be a female,seemingly came out of nowhere, and managed to be recruited by Second Wind without any accomplishments or tournament wins under her belt. The community got suspicious of this move and began investigating Ellie, claiming that “she” was likely a he and that it was probably a smurf account for a high-level player. Shortly thereafter, Ellie quit the Second Wind team and the story from the media went that Ellie was nearly doxed and harassed out of e-sports due to sexist harassers. However, that’s not true.
“[…] there was a largely hostile atmosphere surrounding Ellie’s involvement in the Contenders League – a league that acts as a stepping stone towards the Overwatch League proper. Earlier this week, Second Wind announced that Ellie has decided to step down from the team roster. […]
“Rather frustratingly, Second Wind owner Justin Hughes offered a very “both sides” clarification. Naturally, female fans will be excited to see themselves represented in on a professional level, but this excitement is portrayed as just as guilty as the extensive harassment.
“At the heart of the toxicity and conspiracy surrounding Ellie’s involvement is a simple question – if she really is a higher-level Pro player smurfing, why would they pretend to be a woman in an environment that has proven itself extremely to female players?
“Esports has yet to prove that it can be a welcoming place for anyone who fails to fit an extremely limited set of criteria.”
Why would they pretend to be a woman in an environment that has proven itself to be extremely hostile to female players? Perhaps Clayton should ask the man who was Ellie’s puppeteer.
Yes, in reality, Ellie doesn’t actually exist. She was made up by a top 500 player in Overwatch that goes by the handle Punisher. He had a 17-year-old female who was a newbie at Overwatch to stream the game live in order to prove that Ellie was a female. However, all of the actual competitive play was handled by Punisher. This complicated tactic was used to prove to naysayers and skeptics that Ellie was actually a female, even though in actuality Ellie, as a player, was not female.
So why did Punisher go through all of this? Well, according to him, it was part of a “social experiment”. However, between the time that Ellie “quit” the Second Wind team and Punisher was revealed to be the real culprit behind the creation of Ellie, the gaming media had a field day using the harassment angle as a narrative to push ideological nonsense into the news sphere.
GameReactor was one of those outlets, publishing an article on January 4th, 2019, with author Sam Bishop picking up the story from Dexerto, writing…
“It was a great day for inclusivity in gaming and esports when the North American Overwatch Contenders team Second Wind announced the signing of a player called Ellie on December 22, but as reported by Dexerto, this promising young player has chosen to step down from the team before even playing a match. […]
“[…] As is evident from comments on this thread, many have pointed out that these kinds of things are the reasons why getting women into esports can be so troublesome, and why Ellie might have been justified in keeping her identity hidden in the first place.
“For more on women in esports be sure to check out our article from last year in which we talk to Hurrah’s Angela Natividad about opportunities, issues, and what the future holds for the field.
“Are you sad to see Ellie go?”
The bigger question is: would GameReactor still be sad to see Ellie go knowing Ellie is actually a dude?
E-sports analyst Rod Breslau broke the story via a Twitter thread on January 4th, 2019, revealing that Punisher had used Ellie as a smurf account, and was trying to recruit other females into the fold.
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
This was further confirmed by Cloud9’s Becca “Aspen” Rukavina, who explained that Punisher revealed to her that Ellie wasn’t actually Ellie.
Ironically enough, GameReactor’s citation of Dexerto’s article points out how a game of telephone can start (or end) in a way that can spread misinformation.
In this case, the original Dexerto article covering the matter only covers the base facts that were available at the time without delving into any of the other sociopolitical aspects of gender identity or sexism or misogyny or harassment in gaming. In fact, Dexerto was also one of the first sites to publish an article on January 5th, 2019 outlining how the whole Ellie fiasco was just a ruse by Punisher, linking to Breslau’s tweets and Aspen’s Twitch stream that exposed the whole hoax.
Basically, none of the sites could have known that Ellie was a fake since Punisher was unwilling to talk to the press and the team Second Wind played Ellie’s recruitment close to the chest due to how they recruited her. So they only had the base facts to work with, but in that case extrapolating the story into one about gender identity and furthering the divide between male and female gamers while painting the gaming industry as a “sexist” arena where women are thrown into a coliseum filled with misogynistic lions is wholly false.
In fact, Second Wind had to apologize for the community for perpetuating those falsehoods based on how Ellie was recruited. In a Twitlonger post published on January 5th, 2019 the e-sports outfit revealed that there was pressure to replace some of the players they lost and to bring in a female due to how the media has basically extorted the e-sports scene to recruit females lest they get smeared via innumerable amounts of editorials and “news” pieces. The Overwatch e-sports team wrote…
“When we originally onboarded Ellie, we had just recently lost players for various reasons and we desperately needed to find a substitute. As a team, we have always had faith in the leaderboard when it comes to scouting for players, and in our search for a new player we found Ellie as rank 4 in the North American servers. […]
“[…] As a team, we admit we handled this poorly. More could have been done to support our players, but we had found ourselves unprepared for the attention Ellie got upon their onboarding; we had full faith in them. Due to our desperation to fill a roster, we unfortunately overlooked crucial information that should have been paid more attention to. We did not properly allocate enough time to communicate with the public as a means to support our players, and as a result caused more questioning that could have been avoided.
“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.”
At the time of writing this article, neither PC Games Insider nor GamesReactor have updated their articles, nor offered any retraction of the falsehoods leveled at the gaming community surrounding Ellie actually being a less-than-elaborate hoax.
Of course, this just further proves why #Gamergate was needed all along, to help outline how far gaming journalism has fallen and how they rely on political outrage bait to further drive a wedge between the community and both male and female gamers.
The PC Games Insider and GameReactor articles join a litany of other agenda-pushing articles from other websites on this very topic, including Kotaku, Game Informer, GameRant, ShackNews, J Station X, SyFy, and a dozen other sites all of whom published their articles within a day of each other, as outlined in a post over on Kotaku in Action.
(Thanks for the news tip Blaugast and Lyle)
(Main image courtesy of Commander Corson)