You might recall a story last week where an Overwatch Contenders team dropped the League’s only female pro amid a wave of controversy.
Second Wind drew a lot of flak after dropping a player named “Ellie”, amid rumours surrounding the player’s identity. Over the weekend, it was confirmed that Ellie was, in fact, a hoax.
Rock Paper Shotgun reported Saturday that Ellie was a fabrication, likely perpetrated by an unsigned top-500 player named Punisher. Former Second Wind player named Colin “Coluge” Arai initially claimed he was Ellie, before sharing messages from Punisher boasting of his “girl account”
Alright that’s it I’m tired of hiding behind this alternate name I made. I’m Ellie yea I fucking said it. It was me the whole time. I just wanted people to stop thinking Coluge was toxic or coluge is washed up. I’m not I just wanted it to be different.— Later (@Colugeisgone) January 4, 2019
These claims were backed up by esports personality Rod “Slasher” Breslau, with additional information from another player named Cattsui. Breslau also claims more than one player may have played on the Ellie account, and that the girl speaking on voice comms admitted to not being the same person playing in games.
I have received screenshots of Punisher in a private message conversation with a woman Overwatch player 'Catsui', who was not aware of this incident until recently. Punisher, seen in a Battlenet conversation under Ellie, uses his 'egirl smurf' to grief OWL and other top players. pic.twitter.com/K1Tb2PFVLL— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) January 5, 2019
Meanwhile, an Overwatch streamer named Aspen claimed that Punisher had confessed his actions to her on-stream.
“The whole situation was meant to be, in a way, like a social experiment,” said Aspen.
Social experiment or straight up trolling, this debacle has empowered those who perpetrated harassment and conspiracy around a female pro’s identity. After all, they were proved right.
But there are many legitimate reasons for a prospective female pro in esports to be cagey about their identity, and this situation gives fuel to the constant flames real female players face in being taken seriously in an often hostile space. In Overwatch, female pro players have faced barriers to even being hired, with the League’s inaugural season starring only one woman.
A similar situation occurred back in 2015 regarding Hearthstone pro Lee “MagicAmy” Hyerim, which Kotaku reported ended in Hyerim’s pro team clearing her name. But Second Wind operated without ever meeting its players face-to-face, letting opportunity arise for this kind of behaviour.