Ninja, or Tyler Blevins in real life, is the closest thing gaming and esports has to a “mainstream” star. The 29 year old gamer has a long history in esports, first as a professional Halo player before transferring his skills to Fortnite. His explosion of fame may have solidified his brand as one of the most successful in the industry, but the spotlight has brought its own collection of issues.
In an interview with the New York Times, Ninja answered a mixture of questions detailing his earlier statements on not playing games with women as well as the political affiliations of his fans. One statement in particular about discussing the issues of racism attracted a wave of backlash.
“If they’re gaming and their first interaction with racism is one of their friends saying the N-word and they have no idea what it is–what if it was on my stream?” Ninja asked. “Is it my job to have this conversation with this kid? No, because the first thing that’s going on in my head is, ‘This kid is doing this on purpose to troll me.’ If someone says a racial slur on someone else’s stream, it can potentially get that streamer banned. It’s awful, but that’s the first thing I think of.”
“You want to know who your kid is,” he added. “Listen to him when he’s playing video games when he thinks you’re not. Here’s another thing: How does a white kid know he has white privilege if his parents never teach him or don’t talk about racism?”
Twitter blasted the content creator, some stating that it is his job to discuss these issues and topics with his underage audience. It transformed into a broader discussion on being a role model in the industry, a topic that is usually always divided.
Ritual Motion writer Josh Beard already covered the subject of accountability in gaming, and it’s a piece I wholeheartedly agree with. I’ll admit that I’ve been a fan of Ninja’s path in streaming since he first waded into Fortnite, and I’ll also argue that he has used his enormous platform to spread racial awareness.
There has to be a balance. Yes, I do think that those under a spotlight like Ninja have to be held accountable. While being a role model doesn’t necessarily need to be the focus, your platform and your voice should definitely be a force of good. However, conscious parenting is an absolute must.
If ANY of these people tweeting actually watched Ninja stream, they’d know how many times he’s spoken out about issues of racism, white privilege, and having zero tolerance for racism in his games or channel. He DOES his part. He just isn’t holding a seminar on the topic. https://t.co/5ah5beXNDu
— Jessica Blevins (@JessicaBlevins) January 26, 2021
“I don’t think it’s gaming. I think it’s internet culture. People are behind the screen. They say what they want and can get away with it. You have complete anonymity,” Ninja stated. “Your information and data are precious and should remain private, but it sucks that there are kids who can say racist things and be incredibly aggressive and threatening to women online and have zero repercussions. It would be awesome if when someone said something threatening, you could be like, ‘Let me look up this dude’s gamer tag on this website’–if the law could do this, not a normal person–and then boom: ‘It’s Jimmy. He said this. Let’s call his parents.'”
What are your thoughts?