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What Ninja Was Like Before All The Fame

Unless you've spent an inordinate amount of time under a rock, you've likely heard of Ninja. He's one of the highest paid streamers in the world with over 16 million followers on Twitch and 24.1 million subscribers on YouTube. While a huge achievement on its own, it's made even more impressive by the fact that he's under 30 years old.


Ninja has hosted and organized his own Fortnite tournament in Las Vegas. He's gamed with Ellen. He's appeared on The Masked Singer. As of January 2020, he reportedly made $500,000 a month, but given that his deal with the now defunct Mixer was worth an estimated $20-30 million alone, that figure may have skyrocketed.

But who was Ninja before he hit it big in the streaming world? Where did he grow up? What circumstances and events helped shape him into the highly influential celebrity figure he is today? Take a closer look.

Ninja's parents got him into gaming and motivated him

Ninja, also known as Tyler Blevins, was born in Detroit. When he was a year old, his family moved to Grayslake, Ill., a suburb in the Chicago Metropolitan Area. He attended Grayslake Central High School, where he played soccer and never dreamed he'd become a streaming megastar.


Who put Ninja on this path? Some of the credit probably goes to his dad, Chuck Blevins. Chuck is reportedly a huge gamer and had a big influence on Ninja as he was growing up. "He loved video games when they started to come out and he would purchase them 'for us,' but really we would go to bed around as early as you can imagine when we were little, 6 p.m., 7 p.m., 8 p.m.," Ninja said of his dad. "He would play on the consoles until 2 or 3 a.m. in the morning."

Ninja's mom, Cynthia Blevins, devoted most of her time to raising the kids, though she also earned her Master's degree while bringing up Ninja and his two brothers, Jonathan and Chris. Ninja gives a lot of credit to his mom for his morals and values, according to a letter he wrote to her for Mother's Day, which was filmed by ESPN.


Ninja's brothers helped him discover his talent

Ninja's brother Jonathan is a streamer who goes by "BeardedBlevins" on Twitch. He's also the Director of Evangelization at Saint James Parish in Arlington Heights, Ill. Jonathan is married with two kids, and like his more famous younger brother, he went to Silver Lake College. Unlike Ninja, however, he graduated with a BA in Theology. Chris, on the other hand, is a teacher at Lakes Community High School. Ninja has been known to visit Chris's classrooms from time to time, which has to be cool for the Fortnite playing kids in the room.


Jonathan and Chris were Ninja's earliest video game competitors, but despite being young, he massively outplayed them. This was especially true in Halo. According to Johnathan, Ninja "just destroyed us." Chris agreed, stating, "He would stay up past the wee hours and just keep working ... I think that's when we were like, 'Okay, maybe we're not going to play with Tyler anymore.'"

They may shy away from playing games against Ninja these days, but that doesn't mean the brothers can't all team up. They did so for an episode of Family Feud in 2015 and won a total of $40K, which was, at the time, more than Ninja's Halo earnings that year. They also formed a squad in 2019 for Celebrity Family Feud.


Ninja got his start in Halo

Ninja began by wrecking his brothers, but pretty soon, he was dishing out pain to the entire Halo community. He got his start as a professional Halo player at MLG Orlando 2009. He competed in Halo 3, Halo: Reach, Halo 4, Halo 2: Anniversary, and Halo 5. He won his first professional tournament at the Halo 4 Exhibition at MLG Fall Championship 2012. He was so into Halo that he actually took his stream handle from a Halo move. That's some dedication.


Ninja grew unhappy with the way Halo tournaments were run in 2017, and soon shifted over to PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. That same year, he noticed chatter on his Twitch stream about Fortnite, and made the switch to that game. Ninja believes that there is more skill involved in Fortnite due to the building aspects. On the H3 Podcast, he said, "The shooting is not the difficult part — it's building ... You'll find that there aren't that many talented players in every game, so if you just build simple little structures you can win."

Ninja's wife Jessica helped him build his business

Ninja met his future wife, Jessica Goch, at the 2010 Focus Fire Halo tournament in La Crosse, Wis. Ninja was dating someone else at the time, but the two stayed in contact. They started dating in 2013 and she became his manager in 2015. 


Apparently Ninja was a bit of a mess when it came to business. According to CNBC, Blevins said she "would see him wake up, he would have emails from top-tier companies in the gaming space and he would just quickly respond, or respond with, like, typos or he wouldn't capitalize letters or sign his name ... And I'm like, 'What are you doing, kid?'" 

Because Ninja needs to be on stream constantly, Blevins manages Team Ninja — the business aspect of his work. And she's not thinking small. She told Business Insider, "We want him known in Hollywood. We want him known in the world of sports ... We want him as a household name, so we're trying to move him from just gaming to everywhere." 

It's not a stretch to say that one of the reasons why Ninja has done so well is Blevins' management skills.


Ninja used to work at a fast food joint

Ninja once had a normal job at Noodles & Company, a fast food chain that specializes in noodle-oriented entrees and appetizers. With over 400 locations across the U.S., there are probably a few would-be professional gamers who have something in common with Ninja. At the same time he was punching the clock at Noodles & Company, he was going to Silver Lake College, a Catholic liberal arts college in Wisconsin.


In 2011, he started making a comfortable living as a streamer and decided to quit his job and drop out of college. This unconventional path to fame and fortune was foreseen by his mom, Cynthia Blevins. "He has the ability to see what he wants and not see the distractions," Blevins told ESPN, "There is something inside him that allows him to see success beyond what the normal person might see because he wants it."

Ninja and Noodles & Company are still on good terms, and the chain shouts him out on Twitter every so often. Hopefully Ninja is scoring some free noodles out of the deal.

Ninja didn't just play; he practiced

You don't become a champion and a world famous streamer by taking it easy on yourself. Back in 2018, Ninja revealed he plays fifty games a day and takes every single one of them seriously. In fact, practice has always been important to Ninja.


"When I die, I get so upset," he told ESPN. "You can play every single day, you're not practicing. You die, and oh well, you go onto the next game. 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."

For Ninja, playing presents an opportunity for continual analysis and improvement. He's always challenged himself to get better, and encourages others attempting to up their Fortnite skills to improve as well. "I encourage people to put in the hours, more than one or two, in order to actually engage and improve and grow as a player," he said during a Forbes interview.