- Red Bull
- Tyler “Ninja” Blevins is the most popular professional gamer in the world, with tens of millions of followers.
- Ninja has reportedly made as much as $500,000 per month streaming games for a live audience, and gaming companies pay him to help promote new releases too.
- In his new book called “Get Good: My Ultimate Guide to Gaming,” Ninja offers tips on how to compete and turn gaming into a career.
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The internet and streaming video have created a world where gamers can reach a larger audience than the most popular authors, but the world’s most recognizable professional gamer, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, has taken the time to write a book and share his tips for improving as a player.
“Get Good: My Ultimate Guide to Gaming” is designed as a reference for all things gaming. Ninja offers advice on how to build your own gaming station, how to improve in your favorite games, and how to turn gaming from a hobby into a career.
Though he became a global phenomenon with the release of “Fortnite” in 2017, Ninja has been competing in video games for more than a decade. His early beginnings as a “Halo 3” player with the now-defunct Major League Gaming grew into a multi-million-dollar career and earned him a place on Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people of 2018. He’s appeared on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” shared play sessions with Drake, and even appeared in a Super Bowl halftime commercial.
While his rise to stardom seemed sudden, it’s also the product of hard work, dedication, and a well-managed brand. Blevins streams for a live audience almost every day of the week for eight hours or more, and at his peak his schedule would include 12-hour sessions. That doesn’t include time spent managing equipment or editing videos for his YouTube channel.
The work does come with a pay-off though – Ninja has reportedly earned more than $500,000 per month from streaming and in-person appearances, and gaming companies pay him to help promote their new releases. In March, Electronic Arts reportedly paid Ninja $1 million to stream “Apex Legends” on the day it was released.
As someone with a few years of experience in esports, I read “Get Good” to see what sort of insights Ninja could offer to people who want to start their own career in professional gaming, or just improve at their favorite games.
These were my six biggest takeaways from Ninja’s book:
1. Getting good at a game involves learning strong tactics, developing a long-term strategy, and staying consistent.
Gaming is a fun pasttime, but there are a few things that separate casual and competitive players. Competitive players are constantly expanding their knowledge of the game and finding new ways to improve how they play. Ninja borrows knowledge from Sin Tzu’s “The Art of War” to define this competitive approach with two main pillars: strategy and tactics.
Tactics are the techniques you use in specific in-game situations. Sometimes that’s knowing how to use a certain weapon, or the best place to stand on the map. Understanding tactics will give you an advantage in the crucial moments that make the difference between winning and losing.
Strategy is a long-term game plan that defines the way you play. Your strategy will impact your decision making, like choosing when to play aggressively or stay on the defensive. An effective strategy takes multiple tactics into account and should be consistent enough to win over and over.
2. Real practice requires more than just playing your favorite game for hours.
- Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Anyone can spend hours playing a game and see some improvement, but setting yourself apart from the average player requires a more thoughtful approach. You should always dedicate some time to practicing specific skills in your game of choice to to ensure that you’re improving every time you sit down to play.
In “Get Good,” Ninja makes a basic analogy comparing gaming to a regular sports practice. Sports teams don’t just play against each other during practice, they use specific drills to focus on improving individual skills.
“A good practice session involves playing a match, reviewing it, taking notes, doing a drill, and playing another match to see if you can improve on whatever you think your biggest weakness was,” Ninja writes.
Practice means taking time to learn new tactics and develop a strategy that suits your strengths.
3. Just like other careers, teamwork and networking are essential for success as a gamer.
- Epic Games
Even the best gamers need help from other people to share their talents with the world. Many of the most popular games in esports are team-oriented, so the top players need to learn how to play well with others.
There are certainly benefits to being a team player. Good teammates can offer advice to help you improve, and developing tactics as a team can let you focus on your strengths while your friends help cover your weaknesses.
“Think of the people you genuinely enjoy playing with. Chances are, they’re good teammates,” Ninja writes. “They don’t take their frustration out on others, they know how to take constructive criticism, and they have the same goals as you, whether it’s ‘have fun’ or ‘get better.'”
If you’re hoping to build an audience with your gameplay, you can team up with other streamers on YouTube or Twitch to build a larger fan community too.
4. Don’t expect to make money from YouTube and Twitch when you start your channel. Building an audience and being consistent are more important.
- Twitter / @Ninja
Twitch and YouTube can be an amazing source of income for popular gamers, but only a tiny percentage of people using those platforms are making any money at all, let alone enough to make a living.
“It took me years to get my audience where it is today, and even now, there are no guarantees,” Ninja writes. “Games come and go, audiences change their minds, advertising rates go up and down, and life beyond your stream can throw you curve balls, too. So making money shouldn’t be your goal when you start.”
Streaming your gameplay can be important in other ways besides making money. YouTube and Twitch can help you find a community of other like-minded players who care about your favorite games as much as you do, and re-watching your play session to analyze your strategy is essential to improving.
5. Having the right gaming equipment is important, but it’s not everything.
- Red Bull
Ninja has one of the most impressive home gaming setups in the world, but you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to be a competitive player. In fact, the most expensive technology on the market often comes with unnecessary features that can get in the way of regular play.
Ninja recommends investing in a quality wired mouse and headset, a mechanical keyboard, and a monitor with a high refresh rate. He suggests a monitor in the range of 21 and 27 inches, depending on your available space.
“Most modern gaming monitors have one of three refresh rates: 60 Hz, 144 Hz, and 240 Hz. The higher the refresh rate, the smoother your game will be,” Ninja writes.
Streaming will require some extra hardware, but you should invest in equipment over time to gradually improve your recording setup. While it may be tough to match the quality of a professional stream, it’s more important to learn how to use your equipment properly and stay consistent with your streams.
6. Big dreams still require realistic goals.
- Epic Games
Ninja’s success as a professional gamer will certainly inspire more people to try and follow a similar path, but it will be a tough act to follow. It took more than a decade of hard work for Ninja to reach the top of the industry, and even now most of his time is spent playing for a live audience.
In “Get Good,” Ninja recommends making realistic goals for yourself with a specific time frame. While losing to better players or struggling to build an audience on Twitch or YouTube can be frustrating, it’s important to stay committed to personal growth.
“If you want to play your best in-game, you need to take care of yourself outside of it,” Ninja writes. “If you’re not focused, if you’re not motivated, if you don’t have goals (short- or long-term,) or you’re lacking self-confidence, that’s going to hurt your ability to play your best.”
Tyler” Ninja” Blevin’s “Get Good: My Ultimate Guide to Gaming” is available digitally and in bookstores now.