Blizzard Entertainment releases an official statement in response to the kerfuffle about the fake Overwatch pro player 'Ellie.' Last week, Overwatch team Second Wind announced that Ellie, its only female player, would be leaving the team due to harassment and doxxing attempts, but it turned out that Ellie's situation was a bit trickier than previously known - she doesn't even exist.
The Overwatch Contenders league is the minor league equivalent to the game's professional Overwatch League. For Second Wind to sign on a female player was an encouraging indication that Overwatch could, eventually, be a welcoming space for players who aren't men. So the fact that she would no longer be on the team - due to the harassment she received, no less - proved greatly disappointing.
Game Informer reports that Ellie was a persona created by at least one player, named Punisher, possibly with the help of other streamers, as a "social experiment." Second Wind had gotten questions about Ellie's identity, prompting the team to reach out to Blizzard for verification assistance. While Game Informer previously reported that the Overwatch Contenders league does not require teams to verify their players' identities, a statement provided by Blizzard said that it runs "background checks to ensure that players are who they say they are as well as meet other eligibility requirements." Ellie had not been officially signed on to Second Wind, and the team did not initially pursue the verification of her identity out of respect for her privacy, allowing the slip-up to occur. Blizzard has not confirmed whether or not Punisher was behind the Ellie fiasco, but has said that the owner of Ellie's account is not associated with any Overwatch Contenders or Overwatch League team.
There is the unfortunate possibility that Second Wind's handling of Ellie's case will feed into the sexism that pervades esports. In a statement on Twitter, the team explained, "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 is right to note the importance of its recruitment of Ellie - non-male players are already exposed to enough vitriol by those who'd rather keep esports entirely male. But now, they could face even more barriers to success, and have to unduly prove themselves even further. In the minds of some fans, this incident could justify more stringent vetting of female players, eroding their rights to privacy.
Regardless of the social experiment that Punisher was performing, there is no excusing his behavior. Second Wind is at fault, too, but it would be unwise to pile all the fault on a team that was acting in what is clearly for the betterment of esports: equal opportunity for female players. Sure, Second Wind should have been more careful, but the team is not the greatest villain here. Rather, this whole scandal simply highlights the degree to which female players are, on an institutional level, unwelcome in Overwatch and other esports. It's time that they be players rather than social experiments.
Source: Game Informer