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The Real Reason Ninja Doesn't Stream With Female Gamers

Even if you're not a big Fortnite fan, you've probably heard of Tyler Blevins, known to video game players around the world as Ninja. As the reigning king of the video game streaming site Twitch, Blevins makes half a million dollars a month broadcasting his Fortnite sessions online for his 10 million (and still counting) followers. It's hard work, but it's paid off. In March 2018, Ninja broke Twitch records playing Fortnite with Kim Dotcom, the Pittsburgh Steelers' JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Drake. Yes, that Drake.

There's one very, very large group of people you won't ever see Ninja streaming with, however: female gamers. While roughly half of all video game players are women, playing with the ladies is something that Blevins isn't into. That's not because Ninja thinks that female players are inferior. It's not a political statement. Instead, Blevins says that he's worried about his reputation. "I try not to play with females," the streamer said in a March 2018 stream, "just because of the image it presents, since I have a wife."

Blevins married fellow streamer Jessica "Jghosty" Blevins, née Goch, in August 2017, and the relationship's been stable ever since. Still, Blevins doesn't want to appear unfaithful, and would rather not have his fans take things the wrong way. "If I have one conversation with one female streamer ... 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 tells Polygon. In another stream, he says that a single joke could make viewers read more into the situation than they should. "A video [that could be misinterpreted] would be up in less than 10 minutes," Ninja argues. "It's not worth it."

He's got a point. As Polygon notes, after popular Fortnite streamers Myth and Pokimane started playing together, their relationship (or lack thereof) became grist for the rumor mill. One video, titled "POKIMANE ASKS MYTH IF HE HAS A GIRLFRIEND! FLIRTS WITH MYTH!?!," has over 4.4 million views. An alleged confession of love from Myth to Pokimane, posted on April Fools Day, has even more. Even Blevins himself got in on the action, asking Myth "what's going on" between the two streamers during one play session ("Nothing," Myth replied).

They're not alone. Female Twitch personalities are constantly bombarded with questions regarding their relationship status. Streamers like Miss Leshkee and Cooking For Noobs tell The Verge that many fans — particularly male ones — are over-interested in their personal lives, and sometimes tune out after they discover that the women aren't single. Tabloid-like gossip channels, which report on the personal lives of various YouTubers and Twitch streamers TMZ-style, have become their own cottage industry.

See, unlike other celebrities, most successful Twitch and YouTube streamers cultivate an air of approachability and authenticity. These aren't rock stars or matinee idols. They're just regular people, and that means that people tend to treat them more like social acquaintances than media personalities. Often, that results in fans getting more invested in streamers' personal lives than they should be — and reacting poorly when Twitch users try to set up some boundaries, as cosplayer Amouranth learned the hard way.

As such, it's hard to blame Blevins for being cautious (his no-female-partners rule is self-imposed; Jghosty has "nothing to do with it," Blevins says). In fact, shortly after the story broke, Blevins issued a follow-up statement via Twitter to clarify things. He explained that his policy is his attempt at addressing "online harassment, and [his] attempt to minimize it from [his] life." At the same time, it's also pretty easy to see why some people are taking his decision the wrong way. We live in a world where the Vice President of the United States refuses to dine one-on-one with women, giving male politicians a huge advantage in terms of access and power. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, many men have started to avoid women in the workplace, hurting the ladies' career prospects in the process.

From that perspective, it's hard not to see Ninja's actions as contributing to the same harmful trend, even if Blevins' intentions come from a good place. Some streamers don't find Ninja's policy offensive, but do worry that it's reinforcing negative stereotypes. Others accuse him of segregation. For his part, Ninja admits that his no-girls-allowed rule is "unfortunate." "There are great female content creators out there," he says. "It's just not something that I'm super into doing."

Blevins is entitled to his privacy, and he's well-known for using his massive platform for good. He's used Twitch to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for various charities, and donated his half of the Fortnite Celebrity Pro-Am $1 million grand prize to the Alzheimer's Association. Even when Blevins messes up, like when he dropped a racial slur while singing along to a hip-hop track, his apologies seem heartfelt. Twitch celebrity is a new phenomenon, and people are still figuring out how to handle it. Is Ninja's decision to prioritize his personal life over his female colleagues the right call? Only time will tell.