Ellie, Overwatch and the need to stick together

Every so often a news story crops up that keeps running and running, getting worse with every twist and turn revealed through gaming journalism websites. Unfortunately we’ve already had our first one for the new year and we’re only a couple of weeks into 2019.

You’ve probably already heard about Ellie, the talented female Overwatch player who was signed to Second Wind on 21 December 2018 and didn’t want to reveal her identity out of fear of harassment. She resigned from the team just weeks later after receiving doxxing threats and the story continued to snowball; Second Wind admitted they hadn’t completed due diligence because of their need to ‘desperately find a substitute’, and Blizzard eventually confirmed her account was a fake.

The rollercoaster didn’t stop there however. Overwatch streamer Aspen then took to Twitch to claim Ellie was actually a top-500 male player, saying: “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.” Punisher himself hasn’t come forward with any kind of statement (at the time of writing) but further information has been released about his motive, and it’s thought that perhaps the ‘social experiment’ excuse was nothing but a cover to save face after being caught.

On one side we have those involved in the story: they all appear to be accountable in one way or another, and there’s a lot of finger-pointing going on as to who’s to blame. On the other we have the journalists and commentators: they all seem to be trying to use the story to prove different points about the state of gaming, twisting it as necessary to suit their arguments. Then there’s me: entirely confused about the whole thing which just seems like one big mess that has done nothing to help the community.

There’s already evidence of the division this situation has caused on social media. Some say the original harassment of Ellie probably wouldn’t have occurred if the player had been portrayed as an anonymous male, or at least it wouldn’t have blown up in the way it did. Their opponents are hitting back by saying it’s nothing to do with sexual discrimination; people were suspicious of Ellie for not wanting to hand over her personal details, and not because she was a woman. Argh.

If this was indeed a social experiment designed to make a point about women in eSports, it backfired spectacularly. There will be some out there in the dark corners of the internet who feel future attempts to expose female players using doxxing are now justified because of what’s happened here – even though a female player wasn’t caught cheating, the whole thing was created by a guy and Ellie never played in Overwatch Contenders anyway. Argh again.

There’s also the fact that we’re now going to have to put up with endless ‘is she even real’ memes thrown at any skilled female gamers who legitimately want to break into the industry. The Overwatch eSports scene was starting to head in the right direction when Kim Se-Yeon joined the Shanghai Dragons and became the League’s first female player last year, and unfortunately the Ellie story has set back that progress somewhat. One final argh.

There’s always going to be another controversy that blows up our news feeds; differences of opinion between sections of the community; and certain members online who want to increase their reputation by facilitating dumb social experiments. But I’m tired of the drama, the disagreements and the divisions. Will we ever be part of a group that stops hurting itself, where individuals join together for their love of gaming rather than knock each other down?

I really do hope so. Perhaps 2019 is the year when we start to see that happen, if we all stick together.

I’ve not provided links here to the Twitch channels for Aspen and Punisher as I’m sure they’ve received more than enough clicks already as a result of this situation.

14 thoughts on “Ellie, Overwatch and the need to stick together

  1. The larger the community gets, the more idiots there will be, whether they be people who try to fake something for attention/experiments, or those who attempt to knock back anyone who isn’t just like them.
    Gaming is very different now to when I was younger. Almost everyone is a gamer in some capacity now, but some people can’t seem to accept that. Not many, but those that are are loud and belligerent enough to make themselves heard. Unfortunately, situations like this play into the hands of the belligerent, regardless for the reasons they occurred.


    • I first started blogging shortly before Gamergate’ and back then, I remember feeling as though there were so many divides within the community. Things have definitely changed since that time, much for the better; but (and perhaps naively) I thought we would have made further progress by now. It honestly makes me sad to see situations like this still occurring.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so tired of the endless drama… and situations like this just perpetuate it. The journalists in particular play a key role in keeping all these “tensions” going, because they feed off it — the more controversy, the more they can stir the pot and get their clicks.

    “Hatesharing” is the new clickbait; post something that will make people angry for one reason or another, and as soon as they click through onto your site to leave a furious comment, you’ve won, you’ve got their click, nothing else matters. Bonus points if you can then use the comments section as proof of some sort of “coordinated harassment campaign” and perpetuate the whole thing even longer than it needs to be.

    I’m so tired of it. I just want to be able to love games and share my love of them. And yet even though *I* steer clear of all this online drama, I still occasionally get some unprovoked shit for the particular games I’m into.

    Social media was a mistake!


    • Although I’m not the biggest social media user or fan, I can see its potential for the positive: it can bring people together,and help us see things from others’ perspectives. But it can also turn molehills into mountains, and make differences which should be celebrated seem as though they’re the worse thing in the world. 😦

      While I was researching this post, I read a lot of comments left on articles that were simply horrible in their negativity. And the worse thing is that we’re not done with them yet; more articles about ‘Ellie’ cropped up in my news feed this morning. It’s at times like this that I need to stay away from media for a while, in order to regain motivation and get back to feeling as though we can change.

      I’m the same as you. I just want to be able to enjoy video games, and share that enjoyment with others who have a similar interest.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve pretty much switched off from mainstream media altogether after my experiences over the course of the last half-decade or so, including working for the commercial games press.

        That sector doesn’t serve me any more; I don’t get the things I want to read, which is why I do what I do. Because if I’m hungry for a particular type of content, I’m sure other people are too!

        I tend to find it’s best just to step quietly away from raging controversies online, because yelling about them doesn’t achieve anything except wind everyone involved up even more. Positive changes *are* happening in a lot of places and not going acknowledged by the mainstream (both media and consumers) — so it’s up to good people like you and me to highlight the things we think are cool developments.

        Leave those who enjoy antagonising each other in the pit where they belong, I say. Life’s too short for pointless slapfights. There are games to play! 🙂


        • Points to you for managing to get a smile out of me today with that last comment. 😀

          It kind of makes me wonder where the mainstream media would be without controversy… would such websites still be as popular, get as many views or have as much to report on? It’s in their interest to stoke the fire and if you take the way certain articles are worded into account, that’s certainly what their authors are trying to do. Will we ever see mainstream media with a more positive mindset?


  3. I…don’t even have words for this mess. I somehow haven’t heard about it yet, but this certainly sucks for the ladies who are fighting hard to be respected in the competitive gaming scene.


  4. This is fascinating and terribly sad as a social experiment. Same thing happened to Remilia in LoL a few years ago, but she was real, excellent at the game, and got harassed and doxxed right out of the scene. I might reference your post and the article in one I’m working on about how professional eSports is essentially a hostile work environment for women, which is one reason (probably the biggest) why you don’t see more of them.


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