Earlier this week, a player going by the handle Ellie—no first or last name provided—departed Overwatch Contenders team Second Wind after facing harassment and doxxing threats surrounding their identity. This evening, rumors circulated that they may have been an impostor after all. Now their former team has confirmed as much.
In a TwitLonger post, Second Wind’s management did not clear up the player’s real identity, but confirmed that Ellie definitely wasn’t who they had said they were.
“As of today, Blizzard had gotten back to us on the background of Ellie, and notified us that they were not who they claimed to be, and discovered that the Ellie account was used for purposes we do not support,” the team wrote. “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.”
As for why Second Wind didn’t vet Ellie after discovering them on Overwatch’s competitive ladder, the team’s management admitted that they “desperately needed to find a substitute” after losing players, didn’t come across anything that immediately aroused suspicion, and wanted to respect Ellie’s privacy. “We genuinely had no idea of what was to come, and at the time we underestimated how important it would be to set an example as the first team to take on a female player for Contenders,” Second Wind wrote.
Second Wind says it made contact with Blizzard to verify Ellie’s identity and, in the meantime, tried to talk to the player to prepare them for interviews, streams, and public-facing obligations of the like. That fell through, with Ellie citing “personal reasons.”
“Due to our desperation to fill a roster, we unfortunately overlooked crucial information that should have been paid more attention to,” said Second Wind. “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.”
Prior to Second Wind’s statement, the competitive Overwatch scene was rife with speculation about Ellie’s true identity. Earlier today, a streamer named Aspen claimed that top-500 player Punisher—a friend of hers who was linked to Ellie early on and was even accused of being them—was Ellie after all. “Ellie is not Ellie,” she said during a stream. “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.”
Aspen was unable to offer full details on why Punisher did it, who provided Ellie’s voice in streams, or how he managed to pull it all off, but she painted the whole thing as a “social experiment gone wrong” that ultimately revealed how difficult it is to be a woman in competitive gaming spaces. As of now, Ellie’s true identity is still not fully known. Aspen, Punisher, and the Ellie account have not responded to Kotaku’s requests for comment.
These new revelations have puzzled and enraged the competitive Overwatch community, who fear that this whole fiasco will serve as yet another unfair hurdle for prospective women players to clear while dragging themselves up the daunting mountain that is esports.
“I am seven goddamn thousand levels of livid about this Ellie situation,” said Liz Richardson, managing editor at Overwatch esports site Overwatchscore. “People involved aside, this ‘stunt’ will have lasting ramifications for ANY woman/[non-binary] person trying to get into Contenders. They will ALL now be subject to ‘lol are you real??’ harassment.”
UPDATE 1/05/2019 4:45 p.m. ET: Blizzard has provided Kotaku with the following statement that includes some further clarification as to the identity of Ellie, such as that this player was never officially enlisted as part of Second Wind’s active roster:
“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. The owner of Ellie’s account is a player with no current or prior involvement with any Overwatch Contenders or Overwatch League team. ‘Ellie’ was never formally submitted to the active roster of Second Wind and never played in a Contenders match.
“As part of the process to officially add a player to a Contenders or Overwatch League roster, we do background checks to ensure that players are who they say they are as well as meet other eligibility requirements, and will take action against players if we discover any behavior that warrants it.”