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Earlier this week, the Overwatch competitive scene was shaken when it was revealed that “Ellie,” the Contenders NA league’s lone female player, had left her team Second Wind amid a storm of controversy. As suggested by a statement released by the team, it seemed that the negative backlash against Ellie’s appointment had led to her departure. However, it has now been revealed that Ellie wasn’t the person that Second Wind thought she was, with evidence mounting that male player ‘Punisher’ was posing as the female competitor.
When Second Wind announced that Ellie had joined the team, there was some confusion among the game’s competitive community. With her having never competed at a professional level before, some were also suspicious of her lack of online presence. As a result, many began to cast doubt on her legitimacy as a competitor, suggesting that another player was posing as her.
Ellie appeared on voice chat in a few Overwatch Twitch streams, though many continued to uphold the belief that someone else was playing the game. With some of these accusations inevitably stemming from sexist attitudes towards women in competitive gaming, legitimate concerns were muddied by threats of doxxing the individual purporting to be Ellie. Second Wind’s founder Justin Hughes tweeted about her departure: “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.”
But now Second Wind has confirmed that Ellie was not who they believed her to be. In a statement released on Twitlonger, the team described how Ellie had received “doxxing and personal threats due to their anonymity,” and that they had attempted to schedule her for appearances in order to quell the abuse. They had also requested that Blizzard not include her name on the Contenders site in order to respect for privacy, which the team admits was “handled poorly.”
Second Wind stated that on top of stumbling when it came to the privacy of one of their competitors, they had also failed to perform the necessary background checks prior to signing her.
“Due to our desperation to fill a roster, we unfortunately overlooked crucial information that should have been paid more attention to,” they said. “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.”
After Second Wind notified Blizzard of Ellie’s departure, the Overwatch developer performed background checks on her. The company found that they “were not who they claimed to be,” and that the Ellie account had been used for purposes that Second Wind “do not support.”
While Ellie’s identity has not been revealed, evidence suggests that it is another male player going by the handle Punisher. Overwatch player Aspen made the accusation during a Twitch stream, saying that Punisher had revealed the situation to her. According to Aspen, Punisher believed his actions to be part of a “social experiment.” Punisher is a top-500 player and a friend of Aspen’s, with his name having previously been brought up in accusations made against Ellie.
Further alleged proof surfaced in the form of chat logs revealed in the below YouTube video, suggesting that Ellie was an alternate account used by Punisher that he had used to enter Second Wind. The voice of Ellie is said to have been an acquaintance of Punisher’s, with him enlisting the unnamed woman’s aid in an effort to help continue his “experiment.”
The video can be viewed below:
At the time of this writing, it is still unclear who the real Ellie actually is. While many signs point to Punisher, official confirmation has yet to be given, aside from Second Wind’s statement that the Ellie account had been used improperly. With Second Wind having only been informed of Ellie’s identity after the owner of the account departed the team, it’s unclear if they plan to reveal who was behind the hoax, or if they will conceal the identities of those involved to prevent further backlash.
Either way, this is a terrible look for Overwatch and its competitive scene, with Second Wind’s inability to perform proper background checks likely sparking further issues for female competitive gamers in the future. Hopefully, Overwatch‘s competitive teams use this as an incentive to tighten up their scouting process from here on out.