Rise of Ninja
While Ninja was always a personality from the start of his career, he has had an insane blowup ever since the Epic Games developed Fortnite Battle Royale escalated to the consistently number one viewed game on Twitch. While he is most recently famous for playing Fortnite with Toronto based rapper/singer Aubrey “Drake” Graham on stream for over 600,000 viewers, Ninja was known to the Halo, H1Z1, and PUBG competitive communities as an ultra-aggressive slayer with a big personality. Even though he was a champion in H1Z1 at TwitchCon, Halo during Halo 4, and at the Gamescom invitational in PUBG, Ninja’s legacy extends beyond the reach of just his career in esports or on Twitch. Welcome to the Ninjas and make sure to drop a Twitch prime sub!
Tyler “Ninja” Blevins was one of many kids across America who were caught up by the original Fortnite also known as Halo 3 developed by Bungie during the golden age of the Xbox 360. While Fortnite today has seen mainstream recognition due to the rise of streaming platforms and apps like Twitter, Halo 3 was (arguably) just as big a phenomenon that saw the rise of esports in America with one of the Major League Gaming pro circuit’s biggest stars Tom “Tsquared” Taylor on the face of over 175 million Dr. Pepper bottles in 2009.
In June of that year, Ninja would make his tournament debut at MLG Columbus 2009 placing 49th-64th while the aforementioned Tsquared would win the event alongside Kyle “ElamiteWarrior” Elam, Eric “Snipedown” Wrona, and Bryan “Legit” Rizzo taking home the grand prize of $20,000.
End of the old guard
Halo: Reach was a divisive game especially early on in the competitive community because it was extremely mechanically different from earlier Halos. The addition of new armor abilities such as the infamous armor lock, maps designed for sprint, and a new recoil method known as “bloom” meant that a lot of pros would prefer to play the tried and tested Halo 3 over Reach.
Despite the complaints, MLG added Reach to the pro circuit and Ninja would play his first Reach event (not including Combines) at MLG Dallas 2010 where he would place 13th out of a field of over 64 teams. Even though it was his best placement to date, the Reach event was overshadowed by the Halo 3 event that was running concurrently featuring most of the big name players and teams which saw the legendary Final Boss take home $100,000 over Status Quo in a best of nine series.
The 2011 MLG Pro Circuit season kicked off in Dallas, but this time did not feature Halo 3 and in a field of 178 Ninja took 12th, only two places away from the same Final Boss roster that had won the previous MLG Dallas Championship. Reach was an entirely different game from its predecessors and thus it spawned an entirely new breed of players.
In Reach legends would hang up the sticks or struggle to adapt while new players like Ninja or MLG combine legend Tony “LethuL” Campbell Jr would thrive on the new “advanced movement” mechanics. Dallas would be the start of a short run for Ninja as he would be accepted onto the legendary Final Boss, but without Halo icons Tom “OGRE2” Ryan and Justin “iGoturPistola” Deez. The move would give Ninja his first paid placing with a 5th at MLG Columbus 2011 and it would be the first event that he would partnered with longtime pro Cameron “Victory X” Thorlakson.
Next to competing, Ninja’s desire to stream his gameplay on the internet and create another source of revenue would be realized on Justin.tv where he started to build a following by streaming him playing Halo Reach. While he was not the only person in console esports to do this, he was a revolutionary in the Halo community as most of the icons grew their brand via MLG features, sponsors, and third parties such as Machinima and Red Bull. Ninja would be remembered as a 1v1 specialist because of his ultra-aggressive playstyle which has always been the hallmark of his career.
The Halo Reach success would ebb and flow as Ninja would stay within the Top 10 on team Turning Point, but it was not until 2012 that Ninja would win his first event at EGL 5 Blackpool in 2012 on Str8 Rippin with Austin “Mikwen” McCleary, Matthew “StrongSide” Cavanaugh, and Tsquared. With winning came newfound fame for Ninja and teaming with legends such as Tsquared meant a big potential for the former AM. With a new game from a new developer to the franchise (343 industries) and a large kick off event to boot with MLG everything looked to be going well. Until Halo 4 happened of course.
To the outsider, MLG Dallas 2012 was a tremendous success story for Ninja. On a new team (Warriors; no relation to the Golden State Warriors) he was able to win his first ever MLG event in Dallas, his stream on Twitch was doing well, and he was not in high school anymore. Unfortunately, Halo 4 was even more hated than Halo Reach by the competitive community for a lack of good maps, gamemodes (outside of the vaunted Extraction), and even worse mechanics that seemed to rip off things such as kill streaks from rival franchise Call of Duty.
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