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Your teen is calling you ‘NPC’: What it means

Welcome to video game culture.
Graphic that says: NPC- non player characters
NPC is a diss, according to teens. TODAY Illustration
/ Source: TODAY

Are you an “NPC”? Check with your teen!

The acronym stands for “non-player character,” which in video game culture, is a figure not controlled by a player. Like a background character or one that is pre-programmed to behave or speak in a repetitive or specific way.

Teens say it to offend a real person who they feel is boring: a follower, a minion, a yes-man and not the star of the show.

According to Know Your Meme, “NPC turned into an insult to be used against people who stuck with the mainstream, mainly by those who held fringe socio-political views. Therefore being called an NPC is akin to being called a person without individuality, originality or personality, who serves only as a background character in other people’s lives.”

Urban Dictionary states that NPCs are “robotic,” “basic” and “Someone that operates on a default, predictable pattern.”

So, teens say, “You’ve told me that story 10 times before. Don’t be an NPC” or “That trend is so over, NPC.”

All about the ‘NPC’ trend

Some teens are beginning to embrace “NPC” as acknowledgement that everyone is the main character in their own lives.

“The term ‘NPC’ is a savvy recognition or self-awareness of one’s place,” Benjamin Morse, a visiting lecturer in New Media at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada, tells “It’s knowing that while you might play more of a background role, you still matter. It’s a maturity thing.”

Morse points out that generations ago, background gaming characters supported protagonists, unlike in modern games like “Fortnite” or “Roblox.”

With gaming technology more immersive today, says Morse, some kids think “NPCs” are as important as A-players.

“It’s simply saying that everyone has value,” he says.

What is ‘NPC’ live streaming

Young TikTokers are making money through a trend called “NPC streaming.”

On live streams, content creators dress and act like video game characters, repeating robotic sentences or phrases for hours for pay.

According to Vice, TikToker Pinkydoll makes thousands of dollars per day as an NPC streamer.

“It’s not exhausting,” Pinkydoll told the outlet. “I kinda love to go live and reacting to gifts. There are so many and the views going up is boosting me.” 

Some kids are showing parents what it means to be an “NPC.”

“We tend to talk down to Gen Z a lot ... but ... (this trend) is recognition of the fact that they are not a ‘Lost Generation,’” says Morse. “They really appreciate the world around them.”