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Overwatch: What to Take Away from the Ellie Social Experiment

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On Wednesday, Second Wind, a North American Contenders team announced the departure of one of their players, “Ellie“. This announcement was made mere weeks after she was signed. Her departure sparked massive online backlash because she was stepping down due to general harassment about her identity and threats of doxxing by other players.

However, things were not what they seemed. Ellie, as it turned out, was not who many people had hoped she was.

Who is Ellie?

According to Cloud9 streamer “Aspen,” Ellie is a male competitive Overwatch player named “Punisher.” For reasons yet unknown, Punisher decided to pretend to be a female player for a “social experiment.”

Ellie appeared out of nowhere, both on the ladder and in the professional scene. It was clear that Ellie’s gender is what initially raised eyebrows at Second Wind’s decision to sign the previously unknown player. Since Second Wind’s announcement, Ellie faced harassment from a vocal minority in the Overwatch community. At one point, Ellie even shed some light on an instance in which a male player approached and threatened to expose her as a fraud.

The player in question, “Haunt’, is a known account booster and many theorized that Haunt had boosted Ellie’s new account. Ellie’s signing to Second Wind was thought to be the motivation behind his threats to dox her. Knowing what we know now, one can only wonder if Haunt was in on the act as well?

Assistant Dallas Fuel coach Justin “Jayne” Conroy offered another possible theory regarding the Ellie situation. In the clip, Jayne theorizes that Second Wind was behind the social experiment though sources claim that Second Wind had no idea that Ellie was a fake. Jayne believes that Ellie’s creation was for Second Wind to save face after team captain Robert “Haku” Blohm made sexist comments regarding female players on Twitter.

Backlash

So what point was Punisher trying to prove by this little social experiment? That some men in the Overwatch community treat women badly? News flash: the community already knows this, and sometimes it seems they elect to ignore it.

Women have been telling stories of harassment for years. There are new clips continuing to come out, of female Overwatch streamers experiencing multiple levels of harassment and this has happened since the game’s launch in 2016. Many prominent female streamers have even stopped playing the game entirely due to toxicity they faced in ladder games. Why did it take a man pretending to be a teenage girl for people to take these stories seriously?

Now that Ellie has been exposed as a fraud, people will no doubt use this to justify any future witch hunts regarding female players. “Remember Ellie?” will become a legitimate argument against any woman looking to enter the professional scene.

Gender clearly has everything to do with the community’s original reaction to Ellie. The mere thought of a woman trying to join the ranks was enough to have male players threaten to dox and expose a teenage girl. Punisher turning out to be Ellie does not diminish the community’s response to a female player trying to enter the professional scene.

And this isn’t the first time something like this has happened.

Sexism in the Overwatch League

Ellie is not the first incident in which the Overwatch community has seen blatant sexism come out of the woodwork to try and defraud a female player.

2018-04-04 / Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Kim “Geguri” Se-yeon went through hell to prove herself before joining the Shanghai Dragons. Before joining the Overwatch League, Geguri was accused of cheating as she had impeccable aim. Many marveled at her tracking skills. Former members of team Dizziness accused her of cheating when Geguri was merely 16 years old. Dizziness was a team that UW Artisan defeated during an amateur Overwatch tournament in 2016. They could not believe that a girl could be as good, if not better, at Overwatch than they were. She had to be hacking, right?

Even after a live demonstration of her skills, Geguri continued to stream with a camera focused on her hands to prove that she was not cheating. She also considered using a voice changer at one point to avoid harassment from fellow players.

Geguri, unfortunately, is not the only woman in the Overwatch League to have experienced sexism first-hand. Susie Kim, general manager for the London Spitfire, recently revealed that she was secretly married to long-time esports caster Christopher “MonteCristo” Myckles for a year. The pair kept their five-year relationship under wraps so Kim would not face any backlash regarding her career path. She did not want people to assume she got to where she is because of who she was dating.

Another more recent incident brought expansion team Paris Eternal under fire with the announcement of their team manager, Lisa Lingvall. Lingvall, also known as “Lizlin,” is referred to as the team’s “mama” in the original tweet. The “mama-nager” incident sparked a furious debate over whether or not the announcement was appropriate.

Where Do We Go from here?

Second Wind talked with Blizzard over the Ellie situation. For now, fans will have to wait and see what the outcome for the Contenders team will be. Since Blizzard is getting involved, one can hope that this means they will start to take better care of Overwatch’s tier two scene overall.

This situation should never have happened to begin with. If Blizzard paid better attention to Contenders in the first place, there might have been a better vetting system in place to prevent Punisher from tricking the community the way that he did.

This entire situation is scummy. The community’s original outlash at Ellie’s existence was disturbing, but not surprising. Women in gaming have been in this kind of position too many times before. After yesterday’s nonsense, woman in gaming are tired and angry, but ultimately want their voices to be heard and taken seriously. They want their stories to matter and they want them to matter when a man isn’t at the forefront trying to encourage other men to stop harassing us.

If you are a male and you see a woman being harassed in your games, speak up. If you see women being harassed on Twitter, Facebook, etc, speak up. They need your voices; They shouldn’t have to need them, but they do.

And for any women looking to enter the professional scene, please know that there is a good majority of women already making waves in the community who are willing to back you up. Do not let this incident keep you from pursuing your dreams.

We are here for you, and we need you.


You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other TGH writers along with Kate (@Sybil_OW).

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