Wakka talking to five NPCs.

What Does NPC Mean?

From humble beginnings as mere video game extras, "NPCs" have become embroiled in political discourse and online controversy.

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Key Takeaway

The initialism NPC stands for “Non-Playable Character.”

NPC is a widely-used term in the gaming industry and beyond. Its meaning can vary greatly depending on the context. In some cases, the term is used as originally intended, while in others, it’s employed as an insult.

Table Of Contents

    The Meaning of NPC

    NPC stands for Non-Playable Character in gaming, meaning a character that is controlled by the computer rather than the player. These characters typically serve as background figures or give side quests, while some are there to drive the game’s narrative. NPCs can range from simple, generic extras to complex, fully-realized characters with their own personalities and storylines.

    The NPC concept started in tabletop role-playing games where the game master controlled characters to play a supporting role in the overall narrative. In video games, NPCs are typically computer-controlled with predetermined actions and reactions that can affect gameplay.

    The use of the term NPC implies that the character is not a threat to players, so it’s important to not confuse NPCs with other interactive elements of a game, such as enemies.

    The Future of NPCs

    The role of NPCs has the potential to change significantly with the advancement of AI. As AI becomes more sophisticated, NPCs may become more intelligent and lifelike, providing players with a more immersive gaming experience. For example, AI-driven NPCs may have the ability to make decisions and react to player actions in real-time, rather than following a predetermined script. This can result in NPCs that are more dynamic, unpredictable, and engaging for players.

    Also, the integration of AI technology can allow for the creation of large, open-world games where NPCs exhibit a wider range of behaviors and interactions. AI-powered NPCs may also play a more important role in storytelling, as they have the potential to be designed to have personalities and motivations that could unexpectedly impact the player’s journey.

    Overall, the advancement of AI technology has the potential to transform the role of NPCs in video games, making them more engaging, realistic, and integral to the gaming experience.

    Real Life NPCs: A Political Insult

    In recent years, NPC has also been used in a different context, as a political meme on the internet. It’s used to describe people who are seen as having a narrow range of opinions and behaving in a robotic or formulaic way, without much individuality or critical thinking. This usage has been criticized as being a political insult and has sparked controversy online.

    Many argue that the use of the term in this way reduces complex political discussions to shallow and simplistic insults. Others have claimed that the term is simply a playful way to describe the predictable and stereotypical behavior of certain political groups.