Update 3 (January 5): An Overwatch esports representative sent PC Gamer the following statement, confirming that the "Ellie" account was indeed a fabrication:
"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.
"As part of the process to officially add a player to a Contenders or Overwatch League roster, we do background checks to ensure that players are who they say they are as well as meet other eligibility requirements, and will take action against players if we discover any behavior that warrants it."
Update 2 (January 4): Second Wind has released a statement regarding Ellie, saying the team was not aware of the player's identity at the time they joined the team, and confirming (via Blizzard) that the Ellie account indeed is not who they said they were.
Update (January 4): In a Twitch stream earlier today, Aspen, a high-level Overwatch streamer for the organization Cloud 9, claimed that Ellie was in fact a misguided "social experiment" by PunisherOW, another high-level Overwatch player, in order to expose sexism in esports. According to Aspen, Punisher was the person actually playing on the Ellie account while a woman posed as "Ellie" in voice chat and online. Tweets from esports insider Rod "Slasher" Breslau suggest this report is true.
Punisher, the player assumed to have played as Ellie, is just another NA ladder player. Not a pro smurf or semipro. It is also possible more than one person played under her name.Correction: The meeting between Blizzard and SW has not yet occurred, will happen in the next hour.January 4, 2019
We've reached out to Punisher, Second Wind, and Blizzard for comment, and will update this post if any respond.
Original Story: Two weeks ago, the Overwatch Contenders team Second Wind (opens in new tab) announced the acquisition of Ellie, a relatively unknown DPS player, for the upcoming season of Overwatch Contenders. Ellie would have been the first woman to play for a North American Overwatch Contenders team, following in the footsteps of Geguri in Overwatch League, but yesterday she stepped down from Second Wind after receiving harassment and threats of doxxing from people in the competitive Overwatch community.
We're happy to announce @ellie_ow will be the newest addition to our roster for this season of Contenders!December 22, 2018
Overwatch Contenders is essentially the minor league for Overwatch esports. Second Wind found Ellie thanks to an impressive performance on the NA Overwatch ladder, but with a feminine-sounding name and little online presence—Ellie rarely streamed and had a new Twitter account—some commenters on the Competitive Overwatch subreddit immediately questioned her skill.
"Don’t know who tf this person is, must be a friend of someone on the team," read one comment (opens in new tab).
"Is this a girl or another Korean guy with a girl name?" read another (opens in new tab).
Although many of these comments were buried or eventually deleted, it was enough to spawn whole threads (opens in new tab) from drama-hungry players over on Overwatch TMZ—a subreddit filled with (often unfounded) rumors, gossip, and shitposts about the Overwatch community. I won't go into the details of the conspiracy (for a sample, here's one person threatening to doxx Ellie), but one thing is certain: none of this would have happened if Ellie weren't a woman.
Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen reactions, Ellie has opted to step down from the team. We hope you continue to support her in her ventures in Overwatch as we willJanuary 2, 2019
The whole situation is an unfortunate reminder of how unwelcome the esports world can be to women. Even now, following her decision to step down, many comments in the Competitive Overwatch subreddit still perpetuate the conspiracy theory.
Following Ellie's decision, Second Wind owner Justin Hughes tweeted the following statement:
(2/2) 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.January 2, 2019
The common refrain says that esports is a meritocracy, and women will succeed if they're good enough. In this case, Ellie clearly had the skill needed to play in Overwatch Contenders—the toxicity of the esports community prevented that from happening.