TikTok has earned a reputation for discovering and spreading trends, phrases, and crazes that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. One recent example is the rise of BORGs. And now there’s another interesting term taking over the platform: “NPCs.” It has become so prevalent that you can’t scroll through your For You Page (FYP) without stumbling upon this slang term. If you’re not familiar with it, don’t worry—I’ve got you covered.
While TikTok may have introduced you to the term, it didn’t originate on the app like “cheugy” did. If you haven’t played a video game since the Nintendo Wii era, “NPC” might be new to you. But if you’re a gamer, you’ve definitely encountered NPCs before. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “NPC” stands for “non-playable character” in video games, referring to characters that are not controlled by the player. These characters usually play smaller roles and don’t contribute much to the game’s plot.
TikToker @masonkuhr explains that NPCs are like background characters in a scripted play. They tend to offer minimal commentary, often revolving around the weather, making it seem like they’re not even conscious. On the other hand, TikToker @kingmaegon identifies several common characteristics of NPCs, including a lack of critical thinking, cognitive dissonance, a lack of empathy, and a lack of passion for higher concepts.
So, why are people on TikTok calling each other NPCs? It turns out that NPCs exhibit odd and unexpected behaviors, like standing in the same spot or taking an abnormal amount of time to respond to a question. Those who are labeled as NPCs are ordinary individuals who display similar unusual behaviors. Some even speculate that these interactions are like glitches in the “simulation,” though whether that’s true or not is up to your interpretation.
According to TikToker @sambucha, there’s even a quiz that determines whether you’re an NPC. If you answer “yes” to most of the following questions, you might fall into the NPC category:
- Do you only give one-word answers?
- Do you hate your job or school?
- Do you always eat the same food?
- Do you usually discuss the weather?
- Do you wear the same clothes every day?
- Do you rely on others to make plans?
- Do you only speak when spoken to?
In summary, being labeled as an NPC implies that you lack main character energy. It’s not meant as a compliment. Consequently, the most entertaining NPC-related content on TikTok is from creators who pretend to be video game characters in real life.
While some might take offense to being called an NPC, others have embraced it. These TikTokers go by the name “NPC streamers,” and they’re currently taking TikTok Live by storm.
The NPC streaming trend began with user @pinkydollreal. In her TikTok Lives, she impeccably embodies the verbal and physical mannerisms of non-playable characters. By responding to viewer gifts in real-time, she recites phrases associated with those gifts in a robotic tone, mirroring the dialogue of video game characters. For instance, if someone sends her an ice cream cone, she’ll say, “mmm, ice cream, so good,” before pantomiming licking an invisible cone. Other catchphrases of hers include “yeehaw, yes, you got me feeling like a cowgirl, let me ride it!” when she receives a cowboy hat and “gang gang, gang gang” in response to a double G symbol.
Following the popularity of PinkyDoll, many TikTokers have embraced the NPC streaming concept, adding their unique twists. User @slayrizz, for example, graciously accepts roses and hot dogs while dressed as Barbie, while @cherrycrush_tv does their best NPC impression with cosplay makeup. Some creators even recruit their friends for collaborative streams. These creators are making money through their TikTok Lives by simply acting as if they’ve witnessed a grand car theft in a video game, thanks to the monetary value of the gifts.
Now that NPC has taken over TikTok, you don’t have to be a seasoned gamer to understand the term. However, it’s crucial to exercise caution when labeling others as NPCs. As creator @sydneyserena points out, we never truly know what others are going through, so referring to them as not “functional enough or human enough” can be incredibly degrading, insensitive, and offensive. Let’s think twice before using such terms in real life and consider the impact of our words.
Remember, the world of TikTok is always evolving, and new trends come and go faster than we can imagine. So, stay tuned and keep exploring the ever-changing universe of TikTok!