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News > OverwatchJan 7, 2019 10:00 am CT

Blizzard confirms Overwatch Contenders player Ellie was actually someone’s “fun” idea of a “social experiment”

Ellie, the Overwatch player that was briefly signed to Contenders team Second Wind has been proven to be a fake, Blizzard has confirmed. The North American Contenders series never got its first woman player because a man thought it would be a fun “social experiment” to disguise himself as a woman — using a 17-year-old to talk for him on voice chat — to beat other high-skill players. That man was a player named Punisher, according to various sources like Cloud 9 Twitch streamer, Aspen, and esports reporter, Rod Breslau.

Punisher (as “Ellie”) was signed onto the Second Wind team as a substitute just days after it lost another player, Colin “Coluge” Arai, from its roster, according to the team’s TwitLonger post. “Due to our desperation to fill a roster,” Second Wind wrote, “we unfortunately overlooked crucial information that should have been paid more attention to.”  Second Wind said it didn’t expect the personal threats and doxxing that Ellie received, so it didn’t press her for information out of a respect for her privacy. Breslau reports that some of the private messages that were circling around were also faked — however, we’re unable to confirm that ourselves.

Confusingly, Blizzard told Kotaku that she was never “formally submitted to the active roster” of the team. The company said background checks are part of the process to become a Contenders or Overwatch League player. It’s unclear why this didn’t happen with Ellie before she was formally announced as a team member.

Meanwhile, Punisher hasn’t made any public statements, nor has it been made clear if he will receive any punishments for his actions by Blizzard. There are other reports of Punisher attempting to do this with other women, but — as with a lot of information in the esports scene — they’re from unconfirmed tweets, Reddit posts, or screenshots. In this case, however, Punisher is confirmed to have used a 17-year-old girl to help conduct his “social experiment.” Given she’s likely to deal with the repercussions of this longer than even Punisher will, one would hope Blizzard does something to make it clear this is unacceptable.

Women are not your own personal social experiment

It’s easy for a man like Punisher to write this off as a “social experiment” gone wrong or as a funny joke that went too far. But what he actually demonstrated was the extreme skepticism and harassment women face in professional gaming. The criticism of woman having men play for them because they can’t actually be skilled at a game isn’t new, and this only makes it worse. Punisher might be able to shrug this off, but every woman who plays or intends to play professionally will likely have to deal with this incident looming over them for a long time — if not forever.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable for members of this community to bully, harass or doxx players for their gender,” Washington Justice Assistant General Manager Kate Mitchell wrote on Twitter. “It shows why there’s so few women in this sport. We have to do better, not just for the women and girls playing this game now, but for those growing up watching us.”

Although Ellie would have been the first woman to play in North American Contenders, she isn’t the first to play Overwatch professionally. The community has been tweeting and circulating a list of the women involved and playing the game for various teams, which is worth checking out. Unfortunately, this entire ordeal — and those still adamantly supporting or dismissing Punisher’s endeavor — only proves we need to do better and have a long way to go before that happens.

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