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.
I am seven goddamn thousand levels of livid about this Ellie situation. People involved aside, this "stunt" will ha… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Liz Richardson (@mizliz_) January 04, 2019
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.
It was a hard day to be a woman in Overwatch esports. But you know what you can do to stick your middle finger in t… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Liz Richardson (@mizliz_) January 05, 2019
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.