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Ninja’s take on the “Billy Graham rule”

Picture credit: Shutterstock

Tyler Blevins is known around the globe as “Ninja,” an online gamer making $500,000 a month by streaming his game play to his millions of fans – people are paying to watch him play video games. 

Blevins is most associated with Fortnite, an online multiplayer build-and-battle game, that was released in 2017 and has already pulled in more than 100 million players. For those who don’t play, it might be best known as the very first video game banned by a professional hockey team. Vancouver Canuck players have been told to keep their competitive focus on the ice.

Blevins’ video game skills are his major claim to fame, but he made news this past August for a very different reason. In an August interview he let it be known that as a rule he didn’t play with female gamers.

This “Ninja rule” echoed one adopted by US Vice President Mike Pence (and first crafted by evangelist Billy Graham) that he would never meet alone with a woman other than his wife.

Like Pence before him, Ninja was criticized for how his rule limited opportunities for women. A lot of important work is done in the lunches and dinners before and after meetings, so if women couldn’t dine alone with the Vice President, but men could, then it might well limit those women’s opportunities to interact with the boss. When it comes to Ninja, teaming up with him brings a lesser-known gamer increased attention, and his rule means that only men can gain from Ninja’s fame.

But Ninja was unapologetic. In a September interview with ESPN he explained that he will play in groups with women, but not one-on-one because that can involve two people talking for hours on end, which is “very intimate in a way.” And he doesn’t want to do that with anyone other than his wife.

“This is my spouse. This is the person I vowed to spend the rest of my life with….The fact that anyone feels they can judge how I’m protecting my relationship and try to make it political … really?”

The “Ninja rule” and “Mike Pence rule” do have their downsides for the women around them, but there is also an upside. No one can accuse any of them of the wrong-doings bringing down so many in so many other fields. Their marriages are protected not only from sin, but even from the appearance of sin.

In an ideal world, this sort of trade-off – an unblemished reputation, at the expense of limiting some opportunities for women – wouldn’t be necessary. But in our sin-stained world, that does seem the choice that’s out there.

And while it isn’t clear if Blevins is a Christian or not, for Mike Pence and Billy Graham, the choice they made has allowed them to offer a Christian witness to the world that has been free of any hint of marital scandal. God is glorified in their work in a way that He wouldn’t have been if sexual scandal had brought them low. Now Blevins is following in their footsteps, not for God, but for his wife. That choice also seems a hard one to criticize.


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