The history of Ninja, from Halo to streaming on Twitch and Mixer
Olivia R. November 1, 2019
Fortnite stremaing superstar Tyler "Ninja" Blevins has continued to fascinate fans and critics alike with his continued success in the gaming industry. He's become an inspiration for gamers and streamers everywhere, and has often paved the way for many others in the industry.
As his name began to grow, Ninja also faced a lot of controversy and backlash. He's been criticized for not wanting to stream with women, mocked for his appearance at a New Year's Eve celebration in New York City, and even bullied into taking a break from his full-time streaming career.
But how did Ninja really become the household name he is today?
Ninja's professional Halo 3 career
In high school, Ninja was passionate about soccer and playing video games. After graduation, Ninja decided to take on gaming full-time. This was a choice he made when his parents prompted him to make a choice between the two.
"Are you going to continue to play video games or are you going to go with soccer? I found out about MLG and I decided to go into video games. That was my junior year and I still played soccer my whole high school career, but I definitely started to put more time and effort into video games," he said in a 2011 interview with Forbes.
Ninja started his professional Halo 3 career in 2009. He had played for various organizations, including Cloud9, Renegades, and Team Liquid. But it was when he started streaming in 2011 that people began to take notice. By that year, Ninja stated he was making $100 a day streaming Halo on Twitch.
"A lot of the professional players who play Halo now are starting to stream, but I was one of the first few that started to stream Halo: Reach and that’s usually my main day," Ninja had said at the time. "I’ll maybe get some breakfast, walk downstairs in my basement and just turn everything on and start streaming my gameplay for about ten hours. I make money off of ads that Justin.TV and Twitch.TV allow me to use through their partnership. I’ll take a couple of breaks for some food, but other than that, that’s pretty much all I do is play video games and practice with my team."
Ninja stated that his success at the time came from loving Halo and hating to lose.
Still, Ninja was cautious about fully committing to the streaming profession in his early years. He attended SIlver Lake College in Wisconsin from 2009 to 2010 and worked at Noodles & Company. But soon, he wouldn't have time for those things.
Ninja's popularity on Twitch continues to grow
When Ninja began streaming for Luminosity Gaming in 2017, he saw an increase in his Twitch followers. He started out as a Halo player for the organization, but soon switched to H1Z1. When that game started to lose popularity, Ninja moved to PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, where he found some success in tournaments.
But it was when he chose to start playing Fortnite that his viewership saw the most drastic increase. At the time of his signing with Luminosity he had around 500,000 followers. But in six months, that number increased to a whopping 2 million.
By this time, Ninja was a well known name in the gaming community. But a year later, when he played Fortnite with Drake, he started to make waves in mainstream media as well. The live stream with the famous rapper earned Ninja the Twitch record for the largest concurrent audience on an individual stream with 635,000 viewers.
But this iconic moment also resulted in one of Ninja's first big controversies. During a live stream, Ninja appeared to become quite cocky about his rise to stardom. He accused Drake of not buying any Ninja merchendise, even though he felt the stream had exposed Drake to a lot of new fans.
Although Drake never responded to the callout, the rapper did unfollow Ninja on social media. Ninja responded by accusing Drake of not paying him the $5,000 he had been promised.
Ninja controversy continues over possibly sexist comment
Just a few months later, Ninja found himself in hot water once again when he told Polygon during an interview that he refused to play with female gamers. Although the intentions behind the comment was to avoid drama and gossip, it has created ongoing issues for the famous streamer anyway.
“If I have one conversation with one female streamer where we’re playing with one another, and even if there’s a hint of flirting, that is going to be taken and going to be put on every single video and be clickbait forever,” Blevins told Polygon last year.
The backlash to this statement was so severe that Ninja felt the need to make a response to the hate he received following the interview on Twitter.
"While I understand some people have implied my views mean I have something against playing with women, I want to make clear the issue I’m addressing is online harassment, and my attempt to minimize it from our life," read part of the statement.
He later spoke about the issue again in an extensive ESPN interview.
"This is my spouse. This is the person I vowed to spend the rest of my life with," Ninja told them. "The fact that anyone feels they can judge how I'm protecting my relationship and try to make it political ... really?"
Ninja takes gaming into the mainstream media
Despite the backlash Ninja received from the controversial interview, the streamer was making enough of a splash within the gaming community to garner more attention from mainstream media. At the end of 2018, Ninja was invited to take part in a live New Year's stream in New York City.
Leading up to the countdown, Ninja received a lot of criticism from fellow streamers who were sick of seeing Ninja's ads on their own streams and Twitch channels. Many felt it was wrong for Twitch to promote a competitor to their own channel without their permission, since the ads would potentially have the streamers' audience leave to watch the New Year's special instead.
Popular Twitch personality Dr Disprespect was one of the many streamers to speak out about it.
"Get these ugly looking New Years Eve ad rolls off my page. Don't ever do it again," Dr Disrespect tweeted.
When Ninja finally apeared on the New Year's Eve event in NYC it became one of the cringiest moments in gaming history. Sporting pink hair and a big grin, Ninja stood above a giant crowd in NYC after playing Fortnite live leading up to the new year.
He then asked the crowd to floss, one of Fortnite's most iconic dances. But as the cameras pan the audience, it's clear that nobody is flossing. Ninja asks them a few more times. At this point, viewers could tell he was beginning to feel the awkward vibe of the crowd. It was a little painful to watch.
This blunder was not enough for members of the media to stop obsessing over their new face of gaming. The ESPN cover boy was asked to take part in a Super Bowl ad just a few months later. The ad was aired at halftime and featured big-name football players being starstruck at Ninja.
Former quarterback Peyton Manning even calls him a "video game master," which had a lot of people within the gaming community cracking up. But it was one of the first times that a professional gamer was showcased in such a large mainstream media event.
Ninja continues to dominate Twitch
Throughout 2018 and 2019, Ninja continued to find himself at the top of the Twitch charts. While fellow big-name streamers Turner "Tfue" Tenney and Michael "shroud" Grzesiek have come close at times, Ninja remained the most viewed channel on Twitch for the entirety of his streaming career on that platform.
In July of 2019, Ninja announced his first vacation in over eight years. His only other break from streaming had been for his honeymoon. Ninja explained that it was the "toxic environment" in his chat that had finally led him to take a break from Fortnite and to focus on his friends and family in California instead.
"I know, don't let the haters get you down. But it's one of those things where, when the same stuff happens over and over for months on end, it just wears and tears you down. Just some of the dumbest things. But after eight months of it, I just felt I needed a break," Ninja explained at the time.
At the end of July, Ninja was back to streaming. On July 31, Ninja had 464,274 unique viewers and 56,993 peak viewers during a stream approaching seven consecutive hours. Everything seemed to be back on track. But little did anyone know, Ninja had a bombshell of an announcement for the following morning.
Ninja announces he's moving to Mixer
Failed contract negotiations with Twitch led Ninja to make a super shocking move on August 1. That's the day he told his fans that he'd be moving to a competing streaming platform, Mixer. The move surprised everyone, since Mixer is a much smaller website with a much smaller following.
But for Ninja, this was a chance to return to his "streaming roots" after months of negative feelings towards Twitch's guidelines and the Twitch community.
Even though his move was met with a lot of criticism, fellow streamer shroud had nothing but positive words for him.
"Ninja's great, man. He's literally made gaming and content creating fucking 15 times better, you know? And he just keeps making moves that only make it better. And that's what he did," shroud said in response to the move to Mixer.
A month after the switch, Ninja had gained two million Mixer followers. He'd already become the biggest Mixer streamer when he reached one million earlier in the month. Of course, Ninja had 14.7 million followers on Twitch before he made the switch, so there's plenty of catching up still to do.
Ninja and Tfue's ongoing drama
While on Mixer, Ninja moved away from Fortnite for a bit. Season X was a miss for many professional gamers and streamers, who found the B.R.U.T.E. to be an obnoxious and unfair addition to the batle royale.
Despite many streamers being in agreement over Fortnite's missteps prior to Chapter 2, Ninja and fellow Fortnite personality Tfue seemed never to see eye to eye. The two of them had competed against each other back in Ninja's H1Z1 days, and it seems their disdain for each other still remains.
Earlier this month, Tfue told his followers that Ninja has hated him forever no matter how nice he was to him.
The two generally remain civil in public. One of their only public arguments took place over Twitter, when Ninja decided to stand up for Fortnite after Tfue dragged it after disliking some changes made in a recent update.
It doesn't seem like this petty drama is slowing either streamer down at all. Ninja certainly has bigger fish to fry as he stays focused on building his new channel on Mixer. He's also got his budding career as an author to work on, and he will most likely continue to gain sponsors and merchendise deals as he continues to carve a path forward for professional gamers and streamers alike.