Tyler Blevins, the Fortnite (opens in new tab) streamer and pro better known around these parts as Ninja (opens in new tab), has become the first professional gamer to appear on the cover of ESPN Magazine. Fittingly, the site features an in-depth profile on Ninja (opens in new tab), in which he addresses (or at least acknowledges) the controversy around his reasons for refusing to stream with women, and at one point "suggests" that he makes a lot more than the $500,000 per month that's been reported.
The profile looks at some of the competing pressures Ninja faces: Maintaining and elevating his profile by taking part in public events, while simultaneously keeping his core fan base—that is, Twitch subscribers—happy and occupied. "When we decide whether I'm going to an event, the pay has to be there," he said. "If it's not paid, how much clout are you going to get? Are you going to be networking? Is that networking worth $70,000?"
He has streamed with @Drake. He won the @FortniteGame Pro-Am with @marshmellomusic. He broadcast the @CallofDuty Blackout beta to 271,000 viewers.People can't stop watching @Ninja.https://t.co/PWGTjlXQCV pic.twitter.com/tofaW0MnfPSeptember 18, 2018
He also emphasizes the importance of practicing, rather than just playing, which means attention to detail and analyzing what went right and wrong in every match. "You can play every single day, you're not practicing. You die, and oh well, you go onto the next game," he said. "When you're practicing, you're taking every single match seriously, so you don't have an excuse when you die. You're like, 'I should have rotated here, I should have pushed there, I should have backed off.' A lot of people don't do that."
As for his reluctance to work with female streamers (opens in new tab) and the backlash that followed, he said he "misspoke" in the original interview but maintains basically the same position regardless. "This is my spouse. This is the person I vowed to spend the rest of my life with. The fact that anyone feels they can judge how I'm protecting my relationship and try to make it political... Really?" he said. He does plan to collaborate in some way with popular women on Instagram and said that he's happy to play with women in groups or at events, where he can "control the narrative more, without stupid drama and rumors," but gave no indication that he might change his mind about one-on-one streaming.
It's an interesting and revealing profile, and of course the fact that Ninja is a cover "athlete" is noteworthy entirely on its own. The print edition of the next issue of ESPN Magazine, which will also include a feature on the murders at a Madden NFL tournament in Jacksonville, Florida, in August and other esports-related content, goes on sale on September 21.