Overwatch Pro Quits After Harassment Over Whether She Was Really Playing

Image: Overwatch

Toward the end of last month, Second Wind — a team competing in Overwatch League’s official minor league, Contenders — made a new roster addition that few fans had heard of before. Their new player simply went by the handle “Ellie,” with her first name and last name never announced and still unknown. This set off a chain reaction of conspiracy theories about her legitimacy, culminating in Ellie leaving the team yesterday.

Second Wind, a high-ranked team heading into the Overwatch Contenders season two playoffs, announced that Ellie had joined Second Wind on December 22, at which point the gossip mills on Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube spun to life with a fury. “Who is Ellie?” many fans asked, with some pointing to her relatively low account level and sudden appearance on Overwatch’s ranked ladder as being grounds for suspicion.

Some speculated that she was a longtime player who’d switched over to a smurf account in order to maintain privacy, an idea that dovetailed with her apparent decision to not give out her legal name. In contrast, every other player on a Contenders roster has their full name listed alongside their gaming handle on the official Overwatch Contenders website.

Some fans believed the mystery about Ellie’s name called her entire identity into question, including her gender. Ellie is one of very few women in Blizzard’s Overwatch Contenders league, and some fans speculated that she could be any number of notable male players impersonating a woman. In answer to these rumours, Ellie played Overwatch on stream and even brought on one player she was suspected of being, a top-500 player named Punisher, to prove that they were different people.

This seemed to only fan the flames of speculation. A handful of other Overwatch pros even got involved, with Atlanta Reign player Daniel “Dafran” Francesca speculating during a stream that “someone is playing on this account, and Ellie is talking right beside them.” Ellie, meanwhile, tweeted out screenshots of what appear to be Discord chat logs of a high-ranked (and banned) Overwatch player named Haunt arguing in favour of doxxing her, “just to figure shit out.”

In the wake of all this, Ellie stepped down from Second Wind yesterday, offering a simple “sorry” on Twitter. Kotaku reached out to both Second Wind and Ellie for further details, but as of publishing, they have yet to reply. Last night, a message from Second Wind’s Twitter account chalked up her departure as being due to “unforeseen reactions.” Shortly after, Second Wind owner Justin Hughes clarified the situation, saying that Ellie was feeling tremendous pressure from multiple directions.

“When we brought her onto the team, people acted like we had brought on a symbol of empowerment,” Hughes wrote. “I get that people meant well, but on one side, we had people questioning her legitimacy, issuing threats, etc. while on the other hand, we had people acting like they had found their Messiah. 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. We wanted a player, but it seemed like the public wanted something else.”

Esports is not a meritocracy; it’s a male-dominated scene in which gender essentialism runs rampant, and in which women are often made to feel unwelcome. Even in a game as ostensibly inclusive as Overwatch, a woman can’t just be “a player” — not without ample infrastructural support from an understanding team — and Ellie’s situation exemplifies why.

This situation has led some fans to question what Second Wind did to help Ellie before she left and why the team didn’t publicly decry the harassment she was enduring before her departure. On Twitter, Hughes replied that “we do what we can for our players, but when it comes down to it, there are only so many things we can do when safety of a player comes into question.”

Ellie’s departure from the team has garnered a wide range of responses from the Overwatch esports community. One Overwatch League player, Luís “Greyy” Perestrelo of Paris Eternal, reacted by tweeting “xd” a playful emoticon that implied he was making light of the situation, but he later apologised. Other responses were more celebratory and continued to perpetuate conspiracy theories about Ellie’s identity.

Some players have offered messages of sympathy and anger on Ellie’s behalf. Pros like Gladiator Legions player Daniel “Gods” Graeser and Guangzhou Charge player Charlie “Nero” Zwarg reacted with sadness. Washington Justice assistant general manager Kate Mitchell had particularly strong words.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable for members of this community to bully, harass or doxx players for their gender,” she said on Twitter. “It shows why there’s so few women in this sport. We have to do better, not just for the women and girls playing this game now, but for those growing up watching us.”


Comments

    Why do some small sections of the esports community feel so threatened by women? It's puzzling.

      I am of the opinion its less "threatened" and more easy scoring drama points for views/clicks for these tools.

      Some people attract audience through drama and nothing is as click baity and drama as online harrasment.. specially the "easy" target of the opposite gender

      I think its partly due to the fact that men and women don't generally complete against each other, even in spots where it should be easily done such as Cricket, Tennis, badminton and any other bat-and-ball sport.

      You then compounded that with no real name, a new account being in the top tier, and what ever else is going on, and you get the mess that happens.

      She was proven to be fake. People were questioning whether this account was real because it came out of no where and the female’s calls were always delayed and didn’t represent the skill level of play.

        This is not the first instance thought of a female overwatch player that is good having their skills called into question just because they are female.

        A while back there was this Korean girl that was a god at Zarya and everyone kept claiming she was a fake.

        These things only ever seem to happen to women who have high skill.

        I can almost guarantee this whole episode would have never occurred had she been a different gender. These small rabid sections of the fanbase are making us all look bad.

          Sometimes that is true however in this instance the callouts didn’t occur until the factors I mentioned started happening. Let’s be honest here, these two wanted to cash in on some of that sweet twitch thot money and got caught out.

          Well, this all went down in a flaming ball of 'holy shit' when she came out and admitted she was fake...

    Granted she absolutely shouldn't have to, but wouldn't just proving she was legit on stream immediately solve the issue? Why the needless secrecy?

      Read why...
      Half the community was already calling the coming of Christ and the other the coming of the devil.

      What rookie would want to start with those expectations

      I just think that with all the fervour on the subject, simply doing what Geguri did and show yourself playing would instantly shut anyone up and prove your skill to the world. Ellie's twitch channel seems to be fully erased of any videos too so that itself is pretty darn strange. Either it turns out she really is just that damn good, or there is some fuckery afoot. Either way the situation is put to rest. Instead we get this situation which only fuels the situation, however unpleasant it is, more.

        Why is that when a female is good at the game something has to be wrong, but when it's a dude it's no big deal?.

          It shouldnt be... but to be perfectly fair most out of nowhere players get the same treatment some established pros in dota used to just be accused of being just pub stars or one hero wonders until they threw down in 'real' matches and earned their stars so to speak...

          That being said there is an insane amount more of this rubbish shennanigans when it comes to someone of the opposite sex.. both from the trolling and the coverage.

          ikr, guarantee if it was some rookie with the handle "Mike" and kept everything else a secret no one would have even cared.

            Umm what? What about ropz and d0cc in the csgo scene? Both new players who were essentially forced by the community to stream and attend LAN events to prove they were legitimate. Nothing to do with gender at all.

            Also it turns out the accusations about Ellie were true....

    So just to be clear, there is still no proof this "ellie" person was playing the game, right?

    Pretty solid example of how two social extremes feed off each other and create more bullcrap than they are worth.
    One side elevates to a god like status and forces her to be an icon, the other becomes threatened and seeks to destroy her.
    (Both creating a rediculous environment of pressure)

    It really doesn't matter what the truth is because it would've all come out if people just shut up and let her bloody play!

      This.
      Both sides are just as bad as each other.

        So you're saying that those advocating to dox the woman are equally bad to those who were excited to see her play?

          Wonderful fallacy you got there... of cherry picking the most extreme part of one "side" and equating it to the "moderste" part of the other "side"

            So what is the other extreme doing then? What is the equal and opposite of the doxing threats?

              Oh I dunno... perhaps people screaming harassment/hate/whatever at the more moderate folks who were questioning who this Ellie was as there was no record of Ellie having played high level OW games before? Hate mobs tend to work both ways...

              This is why things escalate... you get a reasonable response/question which is perceived as an "attack" which is escalated or taken advantage of by more extreme elements as a way to cause more drama or get attention which in this instance shit stirring by proposing stupid stuff like doxing

                But seriously, who cares? Surely dozens of male players join the competitive scene without being so scrutinised. Why is it so damn important to confirm that indeed she is a woman, and whoa, yeah, she's actually playing and competent? It is not "reasonable".

                  It's less about is she a "woman" and more of "who is this player?" and "where did they come from?". There shouldn't be an issue for fans asking the background of a new player being added to the top leagues. And there is a fine difference between joining competitive play and then suddenly being added to an esports team. It's like some random guy suddenly pops up and joins the Cronulla Sharks or Lakers one day. Of course people will be curious on who the person is.

                  The problem here is the escalation of being plain curious/asking to flat out harassing/accusations. There really shouldn't BE an issue here. Someone should be able to politely ask for a players history or look into it and not be accused of "harassing" someone until they actually do step over the line such as bad mouthing the player, doxxing, etc. etc.

                  Just let me state it again... what I don't like is the inevitable escalation that happens. A civilised "who is this person?" should be an acceptable response to anybody new being added to a roster of a team. It's the hyper bolic responses, counter responses that happens after that I have issues with.

                  @rock_m
                  Yeah, ok, that's fair. Sadly, there are so many instances of gatekeeping and/or harassing/stalking of female players, that it is hard not to assume that's the motivation, and really, I wouldn't be surprised that at least some of the people scrutinising her had such motivations.

    I'm confused as to why this is SO much an issue of gender.

    I think it would be reasonable for people to be upset at a player not displaying certain credentials i.e. name etc. - if that's a common thing to do in the relevant community.

    Just me? Maybe I'm just ignorant lol.

      It wasn't a gender issue. It was one where it was 'is this person actually real? Because the details seem sketchy.'

      Turns out it was a fake.

    Article is poorly written and leaves out key details and events, also this is old news as we have had pros and even female players come out and confirm it was a social experiment so probably a moot point this whole thing

    I was the first female to attend LANS and actually play in Sydney (we are talking Q1 and Q2 and the first iteration of CS at the beginning here so a looooong time ago) Not only was I female - I was old even then at about 32 - single, good looking and a good player. Half the guys loved me and the other half had this deep hatred for me for no reason other than what I was. The abuse I copped was amazing - rape threats, death threats etc etc. Online was worse of course but some even did it at LANS like I couldn't just find them in the room. I used to confront them in person to ask what their problem was at which point they would suddenly become mute and unable to form sentences. I smacked one guy right out of his chair when I lost it one day. The majority of the haters were definitely the younger types who didn't have any real life women experience (apart from their mummies). I see things haven't changed that much! Except that these days "young guys" seem to be young into their 20's. Too much game playing and not enough socialisation!

    This was fake. Can we expect an update or follow up article apologising for not doing proper research before virtue signaling?

      the mods are asleep, here's the update from the us site.
      Also you can't research stuff that hasn't happened yet.
      Update - 10:30 PM, 1/04/19: Since the publication of this story, new signs have emerged that Ellie may not have been who people thought she was. Earlier today, Aspen, an Overwatch streamer for esports organization Cloud 9, claimed that top-500 player Punisher—her friend—was Ellie after all. “Ellie is not Ellie,” she said during a stream. “The whole situation was meant to be, in a way, a social experiment. Ellie is actually Punisher, and he told me yesterday, so there you go.”

      Since then, Ellie’s ex-team, Second Wind, has confirmed that Ellie was an impostor and that “the Ellie account was used for purposes we do not support.”

      Rumors have circulated, but as of right now, there’s still no clear answer to who Ellie actually is. Kotaku has reached out again to all of the relevant parties and will continue to follow this story as new information emerges.

        All the author had to do was reach out to the person the article was about. Thought he would have learned the importance of vetting information from that time he fell for the trans CS:GO team being banned prank in 2017.

          so you assume the author didn't try to contact any of the parties, and that those parties were ready and willing to talk to them before coming clean after the article was originally published?

            well, they did write an article without actually knowing the facts. It's more of a rumor puff piece than anything.

          Yeah, but than Kotaku couldn't push the agenda they want.

          The real story here was 'something is questionable about a player, people rightfully questioned it'. This then turned into 'Sexism in games! Leave the pro female player alone! She quit due to harassment!'.

    She was the only top level player not providing a real name, and Donald Trump is the only major party candidate not providing tax returns. Suspicion is inevitable in both cases.

    Come on kotaku au.... if you cant put up the follow up article at the very least at least put a small update pragraph to this article that it was an elaborate hoax.

    Its already tuesday here in aus. Plenty of time for an editor to update this one article....

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