With all the furor over Overwatch’s controversy over “Ellie” a while ago, a fictional high-level female Overwatch player who was picked up by a Contenders team, a creation of a high-level member of the community supposedly as a social experiment of sorts, it’s worth remembering this isn’t the first Blizzard title whose esport scene featured an up-and-coming female player with questions about her identity.
Hearthstone’s a small world and it sometimes seems like all of it’s a stage. The odd tale of MagicAmy still resonates around the community, with many of the players involved in the tale reaching ever-higher positions across multiple companies and the development team itself in the intervening years. Doubtless many of them would like to erase that incident or at least remove the ever-lingering concerns about what really happened around the time an exciting young female prospect got signed by Tempo/Storm, only to be hounded out of the community shortly after due to accusations about an impersonation ploy headed by his Canadian ex-boyfriend.
While the MagicAmy story never had the same sort of cathartic conclusion as Ellie, having much more of a Serial-season-one kind of vibe about how it all went down – with no definitive proof emerging in public of what really went down –, the baffling fact that verifying a player’s identity and the furor over female gamers basically hasn’t changed at all despite all the growth and investment in esports in the four years that passes since then make this a tale worth retelling in 2019.
Hyerim “MagicAmy” Lee was a Hearthstone player for Tempo Storm, quickly picked up by the organization at the end of 2014 after grinding through the 512-player online qualifier for ESL One’s Legendary Series and making it all the way to the semi-finals. Peaking on Legend 5 and 2 on the highly populated Chinese server in October and November. In Ellie’s case, the complete lack of an online footprint should have been a dead giveaway to professionals – this is not at all the case with MagicAmy. Previously a successful Brood War and Starcraft player, she would continue to do well in online tournaments and create great content for Tempo Storm’s website, launching the Meta Snapshot, a detailed ranking and explanation of popular decks in a format that remains a cornerstone of analysis in the Hearthstone community to this day.
Before joining Tempo Storm, she and a few others cobbled together a team named after her – which was apparently not her decision - with the purpose of helping one of them, Tarei practice for BlizzCon (Hearthstone’s world championship finals were held at the convention back then). It was to the great disappointment of many that she would not be able to make it to the LAN finals of the Legendary Series, citing visa issues. It was one shortly after this revelation that a members of her ex-team, Specialist – previously banned from competitive Hearthstone for win-trading – would make explosive claims on Reddit about MagicAmy’s identity. Supposedly, it was an elaborate online persona set up as a "trick to decieve (sic!) people into thinking she is a girl" who achieved “her” high ranks co-operating with other players via screensharing. Why would MagicAmy not attend any Korean LAN event? Why does she not stream?
As you could probably guess, Reddit went nuts over the story.
“Current speculation is that MagicAmy was really 2 people the entire time […] One would play Hearthstone (male) while the real MagicAmy's face (female) was used as a face to show up on streams or talk on the phone", went the most popular summary. Two other popular players – Blackout and Chakki, the latter of which is currently on the Hearthstone development team – released a set of screenshots that seemed to serve as proof of her ex-teammate’s accusations. The man behind it all? William Blaney, her Canadian ex-boyfriend, at least according to the online sleuths. The Daily Dot would also run reporting that fueled the controversy:
When I reached to Hyerim Lee's official Twitter account, @TempoMagicamy on Jan. 30 for a separate story, she passed along a Skype ID, "qkrtncu," as a way to get in touch with her. But other sites list that Skype account as belonging to William Blaney.
That includes penpal site Interpals. Both Hyerim Lee and William Blaney had separate profiles and are shown in pictures together. But Hyerim Lee told the Daily Dot this is because the two had once dated, claiming that they had "shared the same ID name on a website where we met"—though Hyerim Lee and Blaney's profile on Interpals share no details other than the Skype account.
The connections between accounts named "qkrtncu," "MagicAmy" and William Blaney do not stop there. A Facebook profile with the URL Facebook.com/MAGICAMY, which has since been deleted, directed to the profile of William Blaney. An account with the name "qkrtncu" also wrote posts on Hearthbuddy, a Hearthstone botting forum, though Hyerim Lee told the Daily Dot that this was not her. A Twitter account named "William Blaney", also since deleted, had the username "@magicamy_65199."
That wasn’t all. Further people from the Hearthstone community would come out stating that MagicAmy scammed them out of money. Oddly enough, even the founder of Prismata would get in on the action, making fairly damning accusations about “her” business practices – of course, these allegations are almost impossible to square with the notion that she wasn’t actually a real person.
Tempo Storm’s internal investigation would not find any proof of any accusations – “we believe that MagicAmy is one person and that Hyerim Lee is indeed who she claims to be”, states the team’s official communique before providing a fairly comprehensive list of counterpoints regarding the many other accusations leveled at her by the community as well. “Upon learning the entire story, Tempo Storm offered to fully support MagicAmy in an attempt to clear her name by addressing the public immediately by having her compete in an offline tournament. Hyerim, however, has decided to take a leave of absence from Hearthstone and answer these issues on her own” – ends the post, and with it, MagicAmy’s presence in the scene only six weeks after signed by one of the most prestigious teams of the game. Again, it’s important to note that unlike in the case of “Ellie”, no definitive proof of foul play has ever emerged in the public domain in the MagicAmy case. Her Twitter account still features the occasional tweets and the Twitch profile in her name (which has almost ten thousand followers despite not getting into streaming) kept hosting top streamers and major broadcasts. At the time of writing, the account’s “broadcast” is in the Artifact category with the title “if you like me, if you love me”. No VODs are available and it is impossible to tell whether the account has changed hands in the intervening period – though the Twitter link below the player still links to the aforementioned profile. If it was a hoax, someone’s putting a lot of effort into keeping it alive.
MagicAmy came and went, a bright star of drama on Hearthstone’s sky. Since then, Tempo Storm grew into a fairly impressive esports company, the man behind their internal investigation became a Twitch employee and a permanent presence on official Hearthstone broadcasts while one of her accusers got picked up by Blizzard to become a designer on the game – and for those of us who were invested in slinging cards in Azeroth’s taverns way back when, Overwatch’s “Ellie” serves as little more than an ironic echo, a sign that the internet, much like war, apparently never changes.