A recent controversy unfolded in the Overwatch Contender scene surrounding the acquisition of a female player to the roster Second Wind. After the player, whose name was only known to the community as “Ellie,” stood down from the roster following alleged harassment the games press started to publish articles stating that this situation proved that esports was a hostile environment for all female professionals.
As Bo Moore from PC Gamer put it in his report “Ellie clearly had the skill needed to play in Overwatch Contenders—the toxicity of the esports community prevented that from happening,” there was just one problem. “Ellie” wasn’t real and it was obvious even with a cursory examination that this was the case.
The Twitter account had only come into existence mid-way through December and the game account associated with it had low hours for its associated skill level, indicating it was most likely another player’s alternate account. There was no discernible digital footprint for anyone associated with the account and the Twitter account came into existence the day after a Second Wind player Robert “HaKu” Blohm had to apologize for disparaging remarks he made about female players on his personal Twitter account. The media that jumped to conclusions and unquestioningly presented “Ellie” as real were left with egg on their faces, but now sources have approached VPEsports to inform us that Blizzard had been made aware of the likelihood that Ellie was a fake weeks before the drama unfolded in public. It begs the question could the whole situation have been avoided at all.
One source who works within the Overwatch League told us that they had become aware that there were players who were fooling around with female named alt accounts to “troll” other players prior to the player joining Second Wind. “I told them [organisations] that if they were looking to recruit any players at this time to be very careful as there were players out there who weren’t being honest about who they were,” they said. They also said that this was days before the announcement of Second Wind adding “Ellie” to the roster, which took place on the 21st December, just five days after the Ellie Twitter account came into existence.
At this point another source who also works within the Overwatch League approached Second Wind to tell them that they believed the player was not real, echoing the sentiments of the above source. They told VPE, “I and several others advised Second Wind to go to Blizzard and make sure the identity with Ellie was real because it looked like clear bait to us. They requested a check before Christmas but Blizzard didn’t do anything about it and let it spiral out of control for almost 3 weeks.”
Sources close to the Second Wind organisation have stated that they did make the request for Blizzard to investigate “Ellie” before Christmas and did so approximately on the 22nd December, a day or so after they made their public announcement of the player. In that request they specifically mentioned what they had been told regarding “Ellie” potentially being a hoax.
“We forwarded our concerns to them before the Christmas break” the source said.
It is the understanding of VPEsports that during the holiday period the Overwatch esports team had taken a leave of absence. This perhaps explains why the investigation into the identity of “Ellie,” which was cleared up within 24 hours after the drama had gone public and hit the news cycle, may have been deferred. It also perhaps because of this that Blizzard, following a meeting with Second Wind, have decided to take no punitive measures against the organisation.
Sources state that Second Wind shouldn’t have announced the player publicly without waiting for Blizzard to conduct their background and player eligibility check. Despite this, because of the slow turnaround on the background check that revealed the player wasn’t who they said they were, it seems Second Wind shall be given a reprieve.
Blizzard have been mostly quiet on the latest embarrassment to affect Overwatch but they did give a statement to reporter Dustin Steiner at Unikrn.com where they said the following:
“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.”