I first experienced the phenomena of Tyler “Ninja” Blevins at the 2018 video game convention, E3. Fortnite, the free-to-play building shooter, reigned supreme and Blevins was the game’s top streamer. That year, he surpassed three million followers on Twitch, appeared on The Ellen Show, and even streamed a game with rap superstar Drake to 635,000 live viewers.
The big event was the Fortnite Pro-Am, a charity event where 100 players and celebrities competed for $1 million for the charity of their choice. I was covering it and managed to sneak my way into the creator lounge to get a Slurp Juice slushy. Inside I saw Blevins, who managed to stand out in a room full of celebrities, even more so than his helmeted game partner Marshmello. Everyone fawned over the blue-haired gamer to an extent I hadn’t since before.
Over the past half-decade, the streaming industry has exploded and Blevins is no longer the household name he once was. As he enters this new chapter in his career, Belvins is expanding into podcasting to bring fresh content to his loyal audience.
Launching on September 12, “AFK With Ninja” will bring Blevins’ unbridled enthusiasm and intensity to interviews with superstars like Matthew McConaughey, Steve Aoki, and Jared Goff.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and I’m honestly surprised it took me this long,” Blevins told Centennial World. “I always want to challenge myself and try new things, while changing the landscape a little bit.”
Appearances on late-night talk shows, awkward dances on live television in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, and podcast interviews with A-class stars were once privileges saved for traditional celebrities with movies to promote. But throughout his career, Blevins has never been one to let expectations hold him back.
“I think people know by now, something with Ninja involved is something special,” Blevins said. “Fans will truly get a glimpse into my decision-making process and what’s next for me in the future.”
Grinding for over a decade through different shooters on platforms that no longer exist, Belvins reached his apex with the help of Fortnite. Right after the game’s release in 2017, he started quickly climbing the charts as the game’s most-watched streamer, becoming the first creator to get their own in-game skin. Over the next year, Belvins capitalized on his newfound fame, selling everything from dancing figures to his own line of underwear.
But Blevins cares a lot about how he plays, and streaming for dozens of hours a week started to negatively impact his mental health. “Being ‘on’ all the time can take its toll,” he explained before noting that when “you’re in the spotlight, there are these little and big things that shift.”
This intense spotlight led Blevins into a few PR snafus that could have ended the careers of less-established creators— a stint on Microsoft’s now-defunct live-streaming platform Mixer, an interview where he said that he doesn’t stream with women, and constant outbursts of profanity-filled gamer outbursts, have dulled a bit of his luster.
“If I get frustrated and say something while streaming or on social, that can become news,” Blevins said. “It’s not just Tyler complaining about a play or a player, it’s Ninja, which is so much more.”
Even with these bumps in the road, Blevins is still going strong. His audience may be smaller than at his peak with Drake, but his devoted fans tune in almost every day to watch him play Fortnite on TikTok, YouTube, and Twitch. The key to his long-term success is tied to his passion and bravado.
This podcast is a chance for him to continue to innovate and offer his fans new content from a fresh perspective.
“I’m always pushing new boundaries and pushing my limits,” Blevins said. “If you’re out there doing something truly unique, it can have the potential to really catch on. I think that was a huge part of what I’ve been able to do.”