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Ninja on streaming culture: ‘We need to be instilling good morals in these kids’

Fortnite’s biggest streamer addresses responsibility on Twitch, YouTube

Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins talking to the camera during Reddit AMA in September 2017 Ninja/YouTube

Tyler “Ninja” Blevins is the most popular streamer on Twitch, and just beginning to understand the weight of the responsibility that comes with that title.

Blevins spoke to Rolling Stone about his unprecedented rise to the top following the spike in interest over Epic Games’ Fortnite and a record-breaking stream with Drake. The most interesting part of the interview, however, has little to do with the international rap god and more to do with the current state of streaming culture, which Blevins admitted can use a little work.

“We’re literally molding and shaping the minds of these kids,” Blevins said. “There are these massive people on YouTube and Twitch that are not doing anything with the responsibility they have. We need to be instilling good morals in these kids. It’s a calling.”

Hopping on stream and chatting with viewers about getting high is just one of the activities that Blevins specifically called out. He admitted it would have been “a horrible look” if he jumped on stream and began to boast about smoking weed.

“A streamer doesn’t understand the power they have,” Blevins told Rolling Stone.

Considering the speed at which Blevins found stardom on Twitch and YouTube, there were some people waiting to see if Blevins would fall into the milkshake duck trap; a term used to refer to someone or something that is incredibly well liked, only to be discovered a short while after of participating in some kind of nefarious behavior. Blevins has, for the most part, kept his pristine image. He’s the golden boy of Twitch, but he did come into his own controversy just last week.

A video featuring Blevins streaming a Fortnite game and rapping along to Logic’s “44 More” made its way around Twitter. Blevins can be heard letting a racial slur slip out while rapping — a word that doesn’t actually appear in the song. The streamer later apologized for the situation in a four-part message on Twitter.

“While I am confident that most of this is a misunderstanding, I recognize that it’s my responsibility to never let there be THIS kind of a misunderstanding,” Belvins said. “More than anything, I hate that any of my friends, fans, or viewers might feel disrespected ... The best way I can explain it is that I promise that I understand how much pain that word causes, even if it gets used a lot in music and elsewhere.

“It’s a word historically used to divide people, and I’m about bringing people together.”

Twitch’s streaming culture among the top casters is volatile at the best of times. There seems to be a story almost every week about a high profile figure, like an Overwatch League player or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive commentator, getting in trouble for saying something derogatory on Twitch. The company implemented new terms of service and community guidelines earlier this year to try and combat its ongoing harassment and hate speech problem, including looking at off-platform behavior as grounds for Twitch suspensions.

Blevins wasn’t suspended from Twitch over his language (the company’s guidelines state that intent is taken into consideration when examining reports), but it seems to have been an important lesson for the streamer.