Update: Overwatch Contenders player Ellie now claimed to be a 'social experiment'

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.

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 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.

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

"Is this a girl or another Korean guy with a girl name?" read another

Although many of these comments were buried or eventually deleted, it was enough to spawn whole threads 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.

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:

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.

Bo Moore

As the former head of PC Gamer's hardware coverage, Bo was in charge of helping readers better understand and use PC hardware. He also headed up the buying guides, picking the best peripherals and components to spend your hard-earned money on. He can usually be found playing Overwatch, Apex Legends, or more likely, with his cats. He is now IGN's resident tech editor and PC hardware expert.