If eSports want to be taken seriously, they have to take themselves seriously first. Right now, it doesn’t seem as if they do. Unfortunately, that means that when a conspiracy is afoot, everybody jumps to root it out. Mix that in with the internet’s love of vigilante justice and you have a recipe for disaster, especially when you throw in the pernicious “women don’t play competitive games” trope. Thus the groundwork was laid for the MagicAmy conspiracy theory.
MagicAmy Raises Eyebrows And Accusations of Fraud
It all started on Reddit. Eric “SPeCiaLiST” Lee claimed in a post on /r/Hearthstone that Hyerim “MagicAmy” Lee screenshared during the ESL Legendary Series and that she was not who she appeared to be. Eric Lee, no stranger to shady Hearthstone behavior, was permabanned in October 2014 for win trading. According to Lee, MagicAmy was most likely a combination of two people—a man named Willian Blaney using his ex-girlfriend, Hyerim Lee, as the public face. Most of the evidence was MagicAmy’s lack of online streaming and that she never appeared in person at Hearthstone events.
MagicAmy’s team, Tempo Storm, disagreed. After an investigation as a result of the allegations against her, Tempo Storm cleared her of suspicion, citing people who had met her in person without her ex-boyfriend, her travel records, and employment information as evidence enough to prove her identity.
Though Tempo Storm concluded that Lee was exactly who she said she was—a South Korean Hearthstone player—she still opted to quit the game. To many, that meant she was almost certainly guilty, especially in light of the fact that she’s disappeared from her Twitter and from most of the Hearthstone community.
Some Sketchy Testimony Made a Compelling Story
There’s a possibility that the allegations were true—further investigation by Callum Leslie with The Daily Dot turned up evidence, such as a Skype screen name that had also been attributed to William Blaney, MagicAmy’s ex-boyfriend, and a Twitter account for Blaney with the handle ‘magicamy_65199,’ now deleted.
It’s entirely possible that Blaney and Lee were two sides of the same coin, with Lee playing the public face to earn donations and sponsorships. Other Reddit posts claimed that Lee had agreed to promote games but failed to do so, despite receiving compensation.
It’s obvious that something is amiss in the MagicAmy story, but how much is still a mystery. What does remain is the community’s response. Why were so many people so willing to believe what were initially conjecture and rumors from a known cheater?
There’s Lots of Room on the Conspiracy Bandwagon
People still tend to view gaming as a male-dominated field, despite the fact that a Nielsen study showed women who play PC games between the ages of 25 and 54 actually outnumber male PC gamers of the same age, with most of the top games dividing equally across gender lines. So when people saw that a top woman in gaming might not be who she appeared to be, it fit right in with the idea that women don’t play the same types of games as men, and people bought right into it.
While many of the details surrounding the MagicAmy controversy are shady, most of them didn’t come out until after the initial witch hunt had begun. The issue here is that the gaming community hurt itself by playing right into stereotypes. Lee left the community despite an investigation from Tempo Storm turning up nothing to show that she wasn’t who she said she was.
Rather than jumping straight into accusing her, people worried about her identity should have asked and waited for Tempo Storm’s investigation. If her identity were seriously in doubt, her team could have required her to play at a tournament in person. It hurts their image to be harboring a cheater in their ranks; if MagicAmy was outed as being two people, it would have reflected poorly on them.
The MagicAmy Controversy Hurts the Whole Community
Online communities are known for harassment and negativity, especially toward women, and when a major event like the response to MagicAmy makes the media, it’s not because people are suddenly interested in e-sports. It’s because it confirms what they already believe—that gaming communities are unwelcoming to women.
If the gaming community and e-sports as a whole want people to stop treating them like they’re hostile toward women, their behavior needs to change. Yes, there was something off about MagicAmy, but most of that information was released after the initial accusation. Thanks to events like this, male-only tournaments, and similar incidents, people continue to believe that gaming is a boys club.
And even if MagicAmy was really William Blaney all along, the community’s response is still a problem. Rather than asking for an investigation, the community jumped straight to conjecture, citing things like better written than spoken English and her lack of engagement with those accusing her as proof that she was a fake. These kinds of witch hunts can drive people away from pursuing competitive e-sports, as the moment they become too famous they might be subject the same treatment.
MagicAmy might have been the combined effort of Hyerim Lee and William Blaney. She may have swindled fans and Tempo Storm alike by playing a role. That’s not the entire issue—the issue is that the community responded to this issue with outrage that was, at the time, largely unfounded.
Confrontations happen. People lie. Facts are misconstrued. But the gaming community jumped the gun on exposing MagicAmy, and though Hyerim Lee is no longer playing Hearthstone competitively, there’s still no clear answer as to whether she was fake or not. At this point, all that’s been accomplished is running her out of the community, and that looks bad for not only those involved, but for Hearthstone, e-sports, and the gaming community as a whole.