Olivia R. August 19, 2019
Fortnite celebrity Tyler "Ninja" Blevins is on the Time 100: The Most Influential People of 2019.
With over 1 million subscribers on Mixer and 14.7 million followers still remaining on Twitch even after his channel was abandoned, Ninja is only popular even beyond the esports and gaming communities. Often credited with helping efforts to make competitive video games more popular in mainstream media and society, Ninja was listed as a "pioneer" in the Time 100 list for 2019.
"I’ve been a huge video-game fanatic my whole life. But people have seen it as childish and a waste of time. Ninja was huge in building up the credibility of esports. At the end of the day, Ninja is an absolute legend, and someone to whom we owe a lot for making gaming what it is today," Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said about Ninja.
The NFL superstar went on to talk about the time he met Ninja in March of 2018, along with rappers Drake and Travis Scott. He said he's not usually star-struck very often, but when he met Ninja for the first time he was "at a complete loss for words." That's because Smith-Schuster was one of the millions who watched Ninja play Fortnite every day.
"He was the unquestioned best in the world at his craft, something I had so much respect for both as an athlete and as a fan. Now, he was single-handedly blending gaming and pop culture," he said.
Other people on the list of pioneers include comedian Sandra Oh, cookbook author and model Chrissy Teigen, and teachers' activists Jay O'Neal and Emily Comer.
Ninja's impact on esports around the world
It may seem silly at first to have a Fortnite streamer on a list that also includes Donald Trump, Mark Zuckerberg, and Taylor Swift, but Ninja has continuously changed the way society views gamers and the young esports industry.
Ninja was the featured guest at New York City's New Years Eve celebration, and was the star of a Super Bowl ad earlier this year.
Once seen as just a casual hobby interest, media outlets and parents alike have begun to realize that video games may not be the waste of time they once labeled them as. Video games can be a career, a passion, and the basis for a community.
At a time when politicians continue to paint video games in a negative light, it's important for positive video game personalities, professionals, and experts to remain in the spotlight.
Within the gaming community itself, Ninja continues to shape how people watch and play games. When he made a surprise switch from Twitch to streaming platform Mixer, over 1 million fans followed.
Ninja may be the only gaming name on the Time 100 list this year, but he could pave the way for future streamers, esports players, and other gaming professionals to rank on the list in the years to come.