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Overwatch Contenders’ ‘Ellie’ controversy sets back women in esports

A female pro player named Ellie in Overwatch Contenders turned out to be an impostor, an alleged social experiment that did more harm than good to women in esports.

It all started when Second Wind, an esports team participating in Overwatch Contenders, contacted Ellie, the fourth-ranked player on North American servers, to join their team. Overwatch Contenders is a series of tournaments held around the world that gives aspiring pros their best shot at being scouted to join Overwatch League teams.

Ellie, however, was forced to quit from Second Wind after being harassed, as she was accused of being fake due to her anonymity. It turned out that she really was fake, as the player behind the username was Punisher, a male North American pro player.

In a statement, Second Wind said that it desperately needed to fill out its roster for Overwatch Contenders after losing players for various reasons. However, it admitted that it overlooked crucial information that resulted in the controversy, with Blizzard eventually informing Second Wind that Ellie was a fake account.

“We apologize to the community as a whole for not handling this situation better when we should have, and we will aim to do better,” Second Wind said.

“After investigating the matter, we found that ‘Ellie’ was a fabricated identity and is a smurf account — created by a veteran player to obfuscate their identity,” said an Overwatch representative.

On Twitch, streamer Becca Rukavina, better known as Aspen, confirmed that Ellie was Punisher, and that the whole thing was an ill-advised social experiment that went “out of hand.”

The social experiment apparently intended to make a point to support women in esports, but it ended up damaging the cause. Liz Richardson, Managing Editor of Overwatchscore, sums up the effect of the Ellie controversy perfectly in her tweet.

I am seven goddamn thousand levels of livid about this Ellie situation. People involved aside, this "stunt" will have lasting ramifications for ANY woman/nb person trying to get into Contenders. They will ALL now be subject to "lol are you real??" harassment.

— Liz Richardson (@mizliz_) January 4, 2019

Punisher has not yet issued a statement regarding this social experiment. It remains unclear what he was trying to prove by masquerading as a female pro player and signing up with an Overwatch Contenders team.

Overwatch esports was heading in the right direction with the addition of Kim Se-Yeon, the Overwatch League’s first female player, to the Shanghai Dragons. The controversy has set back progress, but here’s hoping that the community will be able to rally together because of it.

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 the air, if you have the energy?

Play the game. Stay angry. Stand up for other women in the scene. We get through this together. ????

— Liz Richardson (@mizliz_) January 5, 2019

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