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Overwatch Scandal: Female Player Revealed to Be Fake

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A unique scenario has been the talk of many among the community in Blizzard's hit first-person shooter title Overwatch. It involves a top Overwatch player under the tag or Battle.net ID “PUNISHER” who was playing under another account going by the name of “Ellie.” To add more to this farce, he would even have females speak through a microphone connected to the in-game voice chat. After the announcement by Contenders League team Second Wind that they would be adding “Ellie” to their competitive roster, it was soon revealed that “Ellie” was not who she was made out to be and was, in fact, an entirely fictitious character.

The Overwatch Community Was Rocked by the “Ellie” Scandal

What Happened?

Green Question Mark

The online competitive seasons of Overwatch 10 - 13 between May 1, 2018 and Dec. 31 was when Ellie enjoyed her reign of terror. This was roughly five months' worth of gameplay during which the player was fooling the public.

Some appeared to catch on to the deception before it was revealed for certain. The majority of allegations involving this came off as too harsh to most observers, but it turns out that these concerns were legitimate. They included the timing of when the player would communicate with the team when it came to call-outs, evident microphone shuffling as if it were being handed off to someone, and the sudden rise of the player seeming to come out of nowhere.

Screenshot of “Ellie” Playing Overwatch“Ellie” Prepares to Trounce Her Adversaries

Despite the outcry and demand for a smurf-check, “Ellie” continued her climb. Although the vast majority vouched for the validity of this player's aptitude, there were some who doubted this skill or the fact that there was an actual female playing.

“Ellie” eventually caught the attention of a team involved in the Overwatch Contenders League. It was announced on Twitter on Dec. 21, 2018 that Second Wind would be adding “Ellie” to the team.

Second Wind Announces New Player

Second Wind and “Ellie” fans were gladdened, and the team encouraged its fans to follow “Ellie's” Twitch streams. However, her tenure with Second Wind proved to be short-lived:

Ellie Departs Second Wind

Some speculated at the time that it was the amount of harassment and insults hurled her way that caused “Ellie” to depart. However, the true reason for the unfolding events was soon brought to light when the “Ellie” disguise was unveiled by a Twitch streamer on Jan. 4. The person behind the tag turned out to be “PUNISHER.”

Second Wind quickly got in touch with Blizzard, and they performed checks that revealed that these allegations were true. The team then released a statement on the “Ellie” controversy, explaining the story from Second Wind's point of view.

“PUNISHER” claims that the creation of this fake persona was a “social experiment.” It's unclear what the purpose of this experiment was or what useful results were derived from it.

“PUNISHER” is a familiar name within the Overwatch community. Despite said player being in the top 500 in the Overwatch rankings (both under his original account and “Ellie”), he has yet to share the limelight like other prominent pros.

About the Overwatch Competitive Structure

Blizzard

The official Overwatch League was founded in 2017 almost a year after the game's official release on all popular gaming platforms. This gave an outlet for dedicated players to test their mettle against each other.

Blizzard set the standards a little different this time around when it came to rules regarding team creation. Instead of representing a popular eSports brand like C9, Dignitas, or CLG, team names hail from various cities around the world. This led to them looking similar to how U.S. sports leagues name their teams. For example, from Houston, TX, you have the Houston Outlaws. This is the case also with teams outside the United States, like the Shanghai Dragons from China.

There are number of competitive divisions in Overwatch. From the top down, there are OWL (Overwatch League), Contenders, and Open Division. Contenders League and Open Division are considered stepping stones to make one's way up to OWL.

Leagues in Competitive OverwatchIt's Possible to Work Your Way up From Open Division Through to Overwatch League

In Overwatch, it does certainly help to boast impeccable individual skill. To compete on a higher level, you need to learn team skills. This means that cooperation and communication are key.

For those who wish to dip their toes into competitive Overwatch, playing online is the way to go. You can't hop right into it as the game requires you to be a certain level before participating. This allows you to get your bearings in casual play to ensure that you acquire the basic fundamentals of the game.

After achieving level 25, you can dive right into online competitive Overwatch. In online play, you're given five other teammates based on your ranking to ensure that everyone is on a level playing field. From there, you work together to achieve victory against the other team of five.

Overwatch GameplayOverwatch is a First-Person Shooter With 30 Playable Heroes

As you venture through the online ladder, you gain Skill Rating (SR) points based on your performance and win-loss record. With enough time and dedication, you can eventually find yourself climbing the ranks and placing on the top 500 leaderboards, a.k.a., Grandmaster.

If you've made it as far as Grandmaster, then you've completed the first step on the path to pro. It may be time to join an Open Division team. There are already established teams, but anyone can band together with five others and start a new one after passing a written application process.

Teams from Contenders and Overwatch League scout out new talent in Open Division. Even for those who are overlooked by the higher leagues, it's still possible to advance. Each year, the top four Open Division teams play against the bottom four of the recently concluded Contenders season for the opportunity to advance to Contenders.

Geguri's Story

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The recent events surrounding the fake “Ellie” account recall the case of “Geguri” who, in early 2018, became the first female player to compete in the top Overwatch League. She was picked up by the Shanghai Dragons at that time.

Photo of Pro Overwatch Player “Geguri”Kim “Geguri” Se-yeon

“Geguri's” background prior to this signing was unique compared to other conventional player additions as she would mop the floor with her opponents with her Zarya play in competitive environments, leading to accusations of cheating.

In June 2016 following a match, two individuals on the opposing team believed that she was breaking the rules and using an aim bot. Complaints from them rose to the level of demanding a controlled environment where “Geguri” would be monitored. This entailed a live feed provided by a Korean eSports studio and also included a camera pointed at her mouse hand.

The two accusers put their Overwatch careers on the line: In the event that “Geguri” showed her abilities to be legitimate, they would quit Overwatch. This is exactly what happened as she passed the test, and her accusers stopped playing the game competitively.

Fallout

Question Mark on Page

Luckily, the “Ellie” incident didn't affect any competitive matches and was resolved before the start of the Overwatch Contenders League season. Desperately seeking to fill out their roster as several players had been recently lost, hence the quick pick and PR move, Second Wind had neglected to properly check the validity of the account holder leading to this mess in the first place. Hopefully, other teams have learned to perform the necessary due diligence before announcing any player signings.

Future of Females in Overwatch

Rightward Pointing Arrow

Perhaps the most lingering effects of the whole “Ellie” fiasco lie in its potential to dissuade female gamers from entering the fray.

Females only make up 16% of the Overwatch population, which is a lot for a first-person shooter, but anecdotal evidence suggests that other games, like Hearthstone, see greater participation by females. Perhaps the fact that there are women-only Hearthstone circuits has something to do with this. It may be possible to entice more female gamers into playing Overwatch through the institution of similar female-only leagues especially given that Blizzard is the creator of both Hearthstone and Overwatch.

It could be the case that Hearthstone being a card game has something to do with its popularity among the fairer sex. We've already seen that 2018 was a banner year for women poker players, so this theory may not be as farfetched as it sounds.

Be that as it may, it has little bearing on Overwatch. For female Overwatch players looking to compete who fear they must go through the same lengths as “Geguri” to prove their legitimacy, Blizzard will be able to help as new technological methods mean they are now able to monitor match data and spectate gameplay without needing a controlled environment.

Still, due to the female population of Overwatch League numbering exactly one and only a handful of female players in the Open and Contenders divisions, there aren't many to look up to. With “Ellie” being known as a kickass female player before her true identity was revealed, many saw hope for more female representation in the game. Sadly, any new woman who demonstrates serious Overwatch ability may have her identity called into question by spectators who think she might be another “Ellie.”

Outlook

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For now, we will see what impact this has on the number of female players in Overwatch. This entire debacle was certainly an inauspicious way for the game to start the new year. However, there's a good chance it may blow over as far as Overwatch spectators are concerned once the scene settles back into its normal routine. In the future, we're sure many franchises will be more careful when making roster additions.