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Why are NPC lives so irritating?

The creators who play them are receiving more insults than ever

Why are NPC lives so irritating?  The creators who play them are receiving more insults than ever

For the past few months on TikTok a number of creators have established themselves, who during long live streams pretend to be NPCs, namely the non-player characters typical of video games. These are passive characters who cannot be controlled directly and who respond with limited actions or phrases when stimulated, only to return inert. This is the case, for example, with the inhabitants of GTA cities. Non-player characters generally only serve to give the idea that the universe in which the player is moving is populated. Some creators online recently realised that impersonating NPCs is a relatively quick way to gain visibility - and potentially even good money - speaking or moving in a cumbersome and repetitive manner and reacting when viewers send them a sticker. These are sort of gifts that users can buy, at a variable cost: an ice cream cone sticker, for instance, can be sent by simply buying a 'coin', TikTok's currency that corresponds to very few eurocents, while the 'Sam the Whale' sticker is worth 30,000 coins - about 400 euros. The first creator to pretend to be an NPC was the Japanese Natuecoco, but the most famous is the Canadian Fedha Sinon, who on TikTok is known as Pinkydoll: when she receives stickers, she pronounces phrases such as «ice cream so good!», «yes yes yes!» and «gang gang!», said in a monotone, childlike voice; or she pops fake soap bubbles with her fingers, all while using a hair straightener to cook popcorn.

Why the internet hates NPCs

@pinkydollreal @FashionNova NPC Beginner lessons pt.1

NPC work is an activity that, if you notice, requires a lot of concentration and quick reflexes: creators choose which action or catchphrase to pronounce when they receive a specific sticker, and can spend several hours doing the same moves in a frenetic and repetitive manner - watched by thousands of people. Despite being alienating, the practice allows those who perform it to potentially earn a lot of money: some claim to be able to make a living from these live streaming performances. Pinkydoll, for example, reported to the New York Times that he collects between $2,000 and $3,000 per live broadcast, which in his case can last even longer than five hours. At the same time, creators posing as NPCs continuously receive hate comments, as most viewers actually criticise their videos saying they're nonsensical. The point is that this seems to be a trend that is difficult to understand even for young people who frequent digital platforms, not only for those unfamiliar with social networking languages and teenage fashions. On TikTok and Instagram, it is not uncommon to come across parody videos mocking those who personify NPCs. During the live streams, viewers have fun tormenting the creators by sending a barrage of stickers in unison, to test them and see if they will be able to perform all the required reactions, or if they will suffer the blow and break character.

Explaining the success of NPCs

@giu7ianaflo2io Altre Q&A sul mio secondo profilo: @giuliana florio (riserva) #tiktokitalia #frrrrha #qea suono originale - giuliana florio

Despite not enjoying great fame, why do creators posing as NPCs have such a large following? Dazed tried to give an answer to this question, linking it in part to the Asmr phenomenon: «They are chaotic videos, but also relaxing: it's as if they beat your brain to a pulp, but in a reassuring way. No more thoughts, no more desire, no more suffering, just ice cream, "gang gang", "yes yes". [...] It's the same experience you get from scrolling through TikTok without thinking, distracted by bright colours and pleasant sounds, in its purest and most concentrated form». Users who enjoy these kinds of videos say that they are captivated by their fast and repetitive pace, which is also partly reflected in the rise of so-called 'fast and aggressive Asmr' - a more chaotic form of Asmr, but still able to generate the sense of relaxation typical of this practice.

Many claim that following NPCs on TikTok allows them to 'take their mind off' for a while, watching something superficial but enjoyable. Others find the idea of being able to control a person's reactions in real time fascinating. Giuliana Florio, Italy's most popular creator in this field, during her live streams (sometimes watched by over 10,000 people) responds to various stickers by exclaiming in Neapolitan «o sacr cor e San Gennaro!», or «amma fa TikTok? E facimmelo buon!» - while his best-known tune remains the now iconic «frrr rah». The creator has made no secret of the fact that her choice to impersonate NPCs is part of a broader and more precise strategy. In addition to the income generated by user gifts, Florio aims to make herself known to the general public quickly, using her fame to her advantage: for example, she has announced - in a Youtube preview - that she will soon release a song featuring what have become her most famous catchphrases.