In another stunning bit of stupidity by a gamer who thought they were “helping” by uncovering harassment in gaming spaces, it turns out that a controversy surrounding an professional Overwatch player who quit their team due to harassment was in fact an idiotic ploy by someone pretending to be someone they’re not.
It’s alleged that another Overwatch pro by the name of Punisher was outed as the actual person behind the claims of an unknown player, going by the pseudonym “Ellie”. The original claim goes something like this: a female professional player who had signed up with Second Wind was forced to quit after facing constant harassment, toxicity, and doxing threats. Justin Hughes, who is the Second Wind team owner went on to provide the following response.
“When we brought her onto the team, people acted like we had brought on a symbol of empowerment. I get that people meant well, but on one side, we had people questioning her legitimacy, issuing threats, etc. while on the other hand, we had people acting like they had found their Messiah. Between needing a player to live up to huge expectations and having to question their own safety, it seems that the OW community isn’t ready to just view a player as just a player. We wanted a player, but it seemed like the public wanted something else. Sorry about my pronoun usage. However, the message remains the same.”
And despite these claims, a lot of people didn’t believe that “Ellie” was in fact facing any such harassment. People began connecting the dots and drawing conclusions about the identity of Ellie. It was eventually uncovered by Blizzard that the player behind the “Ellie” account was not who they were claiming to be,
Justin Hughes once again issued a statement, which can be found below.
“When we originally onboarded Ellie, we had just recently lost players for various reasons and we desperately needed to find a substitute. As a team, we have always had faith in the leaderboard when it comes to scouting for players, and in our search for a new player we found Ellie as rank 4 in the North American servers. Our team members had played with them in the competitive ladder several times and saw them to be very skilled with a deep hero pool. Due to our need to fill a main position as well, a closing in deadline for roster submissions, and our team having experience with the player, we extended an offer to play on Second Wind as a substitute. When we originally contacted Ellie, there was nothing that would spark suspicion. They seemed to be very genuine and willing to work with us on calls and within private messages. Due to the fact that we do not have any physical contact with our players, we wanted to verify their identity but also wanted to respect their privacy as well. 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.”
“As soon as Ellie was announced, many questions came up regarding the legitimacy of the player. We reached out to Blizzard early on to help verify their identity and calm the suspicions about our newest player, doing the best we could for the time being. During this time, we worked with Ellie to improve their public presence by prepping them for interviews, streams, and encouraging an environment where they could play with other team members publicly. This, unfortunately, fell through due to Ellie opting out for “personal reasons” we did not want to press them for. Ellie began receiving doxxing and personal threats due to their anonymity. In a bid to respect Ellie’s request for privacy, we contacted Blizzard about not having their name published on the Contenders website. As a team, we admit we handled this poorly. More could have been done to support our players, but we had found ourselves unprepared for the attention Ellie got upon their onboarding; we had full faith in them. Due to our desperation to fill a roster, we, unfortunately, overlooked crucial information that should have been paid more attention to. 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.”
“Ellie decided to step down on their own, and shortly afterward we announced their departure from the team. 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. 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 has promised to revamp their recruitment as a result of this development, and we hope the rest of the OWL follows suit. Because this kind of idiocy does no one any good. At least there has been some progress against harassment and toxicity as the Endorsements system has had a major impact.
And of course, other responses to this reveal have been themselves called into question by people either completely missing the point, or downplaying the significance of said harassment. Dozens, sometimes even hundreds, of “Gamers” seem to love to flock to any mention of progress against these issues and attack the messenger. The not-so-funny part about this behavior is that it directly serves to illustrate the trend of victims of harassment and gendered violence not being taken seriously, or being blamed for their own victimhood. The even more infuriating attitude is to suggest that drawing attention to harassment faced by women and non-binary folks somehow downplays harassment faced by men, which is something that can be seen here as well. Despite tons of public awareness about the core problem and misinformed responses to it, toxic idiots keep repeating this rhetoric nonetheless. It seems that once again these kinds of falsified claims of harassment will lead to less actual victims being taken seriously.
Luckily, it seems a significant number of people have landed on the correct side of the issues at hand, and both express shock that someone could think this whole scam was a good idea, while also understanding the impact both it and wider harassment have.
People are rightfully calling out Punisher for their mistake, while also trying to call attention to harassment faced by players in online games. And whatever happens with Punisher and the rest of the fallout from this, the lesson learned should be that harassment isn’t OK, and that trying to “prove” the trend exists by faking it is never a good idea.