As you've no doubt seen (or perhaps directly paid for) in recent months, NPC streaming has taken over the platform, thus facilitating the purported need for articles like the one you're reading now.
Below, we take an in-depth look at the origins of NPC streaming, which has inarguably gripped everyone from everyday scrollers to well-known music figures.
What is an NPC?
An NPC, in video game terms, is a non-playable character—i.e. a character that can’t be controlled by the player. These types of characters are known to repeat catchphrases, loop their oft-exaggerated movements, and generally make their non-playableness readily apparent.
Unfortunately, NPC has also been used in recent years as an insult often favored by the right. The NPC streaming trend, however, has nothing to do with this. Instead, streamers engaging in "NPC streaming" are seen emulating the robotic nature of the aforementioned video game meaning of the term.
How did this trend get started on TikTok?
Preeminent “internet phenomena” database Know Your Meme traces the trend to TikTok personality @natuecoco circa early 2022. The streamer carried out a series of increasingly popular NPC-mimicking performances, all leading up to this year’s full-blown virality. More recent NPC-associated stars include @pinkydollreal, @cherrycrush_tv, @shu_.tiktok, and @iamjaymonique.
How is tipping involved?
On TikTok, fans can use purchased Coins to send Gifts to their favorite creators. Users are also able to directly tip a creator. For some, a key part of the NPC streaming experience is the ability to to send a Gift, the receipt of which can be celebrated with the streamer delivering one of several catchphrases. PinkyDoll, for example, is known for NPC-ishly saying "ice cream so good" and "gang gang."
How popular is it, really?
In an interview with Madison Malone Kircher for the New York Times in July, PinkyDoll was revealed to have been making, at the time at least, between $2,000 and $3,000 per TikTok livestream.
Stats wise, the figures are just as impressive. PinkyDoll, for example, is now at more than 530,000 followers and 1.8 million likes on TikTok; meanwhile, @natuecoco is at 1.5 million followers and 7 million likes, respectively.
What have Timbaland and Cardi B got to do with this?
Both appear to be fans of NPC streaming, or at least of PinkyDoll, specifically. As previously reported, a recently circulated screenshot appeared to show that Timbaland was PinkyDoll’s top viewer. Timbaland later confirmed his fandom, as seen below.
As for Cardi, she shared a PinkyDoll clip to Twitter after the TikTok star told fans she was trying to reach her.
What does this say about us, you know, as a society or whatever?
It says no more or less than anything else does. Sure, plenty of people will point to the latest pop culture moment, whether it's a TikTok trend or not, and attempt to cast it as merely the updated example of What's Wrong With Everything. But this is a misguided, not to mention shortsighted, way of looking at it. Furthermore, taking this approach—whether applying it to social media, music, film, TV, or anything else—ensures the person doing so will sound like a "fucking grandfather." Perhaps ironically, it also means the person hurling the criticism will remain tragically (and publicly) oblivious to the fact that they are now doing to younger pop culture enthusiasts what someone even older once did to them. A vicious cycle, indeed.
As for the ensuing NPC fetish talk, so what if that is what's drawing some people to the trend? Let the fetishists feast, so long as any and all activities are consensually acted out of course.