I am watching Ninja stream Fortnite as Ninja and it is like being caught between two mirrors, except I am not looking at a void filled with my incrementally smaller versions of myself, I am looking at the endless reflections of a man, roughly my own age, and in each reflection he is more athletic, his hair is more blue, his hype is more real.
All I can see is a world where every game of Fortnite is a hundred little Ninjas, all killing each other, forever. Because today Fortnite announced they are doing something called the Icon Series, where they “bring the artistic vision, personality and attitude of our top creators to Fortnite.” Starting with Tyler “Ninja” Blevins. Soon everyone will be Blevins.
Cards on the table: I do not understand Ninja’s appeal. The man is really, really fucking good at playing Fornite, and I would never take that away from him, but I think he is a terrible streamer. He barely speaks. You would not learn how to be good at Fortnite from watching Ninja. He does not explain things to chat – barely interacts with them at all, apart from sometimes remembering they exist and tossing out a desultory “thank you guys for the support, I love you guys”. His last name sounds like the noise you make when you eat some yogurt and don’t like it. He wins a lot.
I do not understand Ninja, but also, I am not Ninja’s target demographic. He is not for me. He does not need me to understand him. He doesn’t know I exist, and probably never will. And yet, the existence of the Ninja Fortnite skin has been a profoundly destabilising experience for me!
Because now Ninja is in the game Ninja is famous for playing, playing as Ninja, and it becomes a weird ouroborus of marketing and video game and person, indistinguishable from each other. Ninja is no longer a man! Ninja is content! Where does the lion become the eagle on a griffon???
Ninja’s whole team is also Ninja. He just spent a break between games watching one of his teammates streams on his phone, so he could see a t-shirt said teammate had. The stream was just an echo of the stream that had just happened. If he had left it running it would have been looping forever as well.
And this is just the start! More streamers are going to appear in Fortnite over the coming weeks. The future is a terrifying place, to me. Today I realise I have become old by the standards of the young. And yet I am approximately the same age as Ninja.
“Dude, your hair is like, so blue,” says one of the men Ninja is streaming with. It is. It is so blue.
“Dude. I’m freakin’ out,” says Ninja, in a voice that seems pretty calm, all things considered.
But listen, good for him. He is one of the most famous and successful people on the planet, and now he will live forever (or, as long as Fornite, at least). What cares Tyler for my whining?
Please share which “gaming, music, film and fashion” you would most like to see “colliding” with Fortnite. We already did some of ours.