|First appearance||July 7, 2016|
|Created by||/v/ Anonymous|
NPC (//; each letter separately), derived from non-player character, is an Internet meme that represents people who do not think for themselves or do not make their own decisions; it is also known as NPC Wojak. The NPC meme, which graphically is based on the Wojak meme, was created in July 2016 by an anonymous author and first published on the imageboard 4chan, where the idea and inspiration behind the meme were introduced.
The concept of the NPC first appeared on 4chan on July 7, 2016. The post by an anonymous user who initiated the NPC meme, titled "Are you an NPC?", detailed the behavior of individuals acting similarly to non-player characters in video games by repeatedly using phrases such as "JUST BE YOURSELF", and ended the post with the following description of people the NPC meme intends to depict.
If you get in a discussion with them it's always the same buzzwords and hackneyed arguments. They're the kind of people who make a show of discomfort when you break the status quo like by breaking the normie barrier to invoke a real discussion. it's like in a [video game] when you accidentally talk to somebody twice and they give you the exact lines word for word once more.
The design of the NPC meme character is based on Wojak (Polish: Wojak, lit. 'warrior, soldier', [vɔjak]), a meme created in Microsoft Paint in 2010. Unlike the NPC meme, the Wojak meme (also known as Feels Guy) appeared first on the image hosting website vichan and has mainly been used for expression of feelings, most often melancholy or regret.
During the weeks leading up to the 2018 midterm elections in the United States, the NPC meme gained remarkable attention, with relatively high media coverage, publication of new NPC memes online, and several noticeable events. A large number of animated videos based on the NPC meme were uploaded to YouTube in the second half of October 2018, and Google searches for the term "NPC Wojak" peaked around the same time. In October 2018, a large number of Twitter accounts were created which presented themselves as NPCs, and more than 1,500 such accounts were subsequently banned by Twitter. Also during the same month, InfoWars held a competition promoting creation of NPC memes (according to an InfoWars article titled "Meme War 3.0: Infowars Launches $10K NPC Meme Contest"), which resulted in hundreds of NPC memes submitted (according to an InfoWars article titled "Check Out The NPC Meme Finalists - Winner TBA").
The number of searches for the search term "NPC Wojak" remained relatively constant during 2019, though at a level significantly lower than its peak from early October through mid November 2018.
Although the NPC meme was created 6 years after the Wojak meme, the NPC meme rapidly gained attention in comparison with the Wojak meme. On the website of the meme community Know Your Meme, the NPC meme has 858,000 page views, 33 videos, 597 images and 749 comments as of December 31, 2019. This can be compared to the Wojak meme on which NPC is based, which has 787,000 page views, 6 videos, 332 images and 47 comments as of December 31, 2019. A Reddit forum or subreddit exclusively for "right wing, political" NPC memes without "extremist content" called r/NPCMemes was created on October 10, 2018.
In appearance, the NPC character is gray in color and simple in its design, with an expressionless face with a triangular nose and a blank stare. The shape of the NPC face resembles that of Wojak, and is drawn crudely.
The initialism NPC refers to non-player character, a term used in video-games for characters the player cannot control. As such, a non-player character in a game is controlled by the computer, and typically interacts with the player through simple and repetitive actions, such as communicating the same sentence each time the player approaches the NPC. As such, NPCs have "no internality, agency, or capacity for critical thought", they rely on scripted lines and do not think by themselves. Following the analogy of non-player characters, the NPC meme is used to mock individuals the maker perceives as lacking those attributes, generally political opponents. The NPC responds using simple dialogue resembling video game NPCs, with no capability for discussion. Due to NPC memes' greater popularity among the political right, the NPC is generally portrayed as parroting left-wing positions. Despite being co-opted by right-wing movements to "mock leftists," both left- and right-wing NPC variants exist.
The NPC meme has been featured in major and minor news outlets alike, with frequent coverage during the peak of the NPCs popularity in fall 2018. According to The Verge, a few articles (including one by The New York Times published on October 16, 2018) sparked a "domino effect" and led to increased spread of the meme on Twitter, YouTube and through articles. The NPC meme has been covered by news agencies of varying political stances, including Kotaku (a video games news agency claimed to be "far-left" by for example Media Research Center) and Breitbart News Network (a news agency claimed to be "far-right" by for example The Week).
Twitter mass ban
In October 2018, users of r/The_Donald, a large subreddit that supported United States President Donald Trump, coordinated in creating accounts presented as NPCs on the American microblogging and social networking service Twitter. According to The Week, the accounts spread "bland, politically correct messages intended to mimic and provoke liberal pronouncements". Following the mass creation of NPC Twitter accounts, the term "NPC" was used over 30,000 times on Twitter in a time span of 24 hours. Twitter responded to the event by banning more than 1,500 of its users presenting themselves as NPCs. The created accounts typically used profile pictures of NPC with slight modifications, such as colorful hair or partially covering masks. According to one or more anonymous sources quoted by The Week and The New York Times, the users were banned for violating a term of use by Twitter against "intentionally misleading election-related content", ahead of the United States 2018 midterm election. The claim that NPC memes were used to spread misinformation about the 2018 United States midterm election is also reported by other news agencies, including The Verge, BBC and The Independent, although no examples are presented. The decision by Twitter to remove NPC accounts has upset many conservatives according to BBC, and following a review of Twitter's banning of accounts, the conservative nonprofit media watchdog Media Research Center raised the concern that Twitter was upholding a double standard favoring the political left.
On October 17, 2018, InfoWars announced a competition in which participants were given a chance to win $10,000 for submitting the "best Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson or other Infowars-themed" NPC meme (according to an InfoWars article titled "Meme War 3.0: Infowars Launches $10K NPC Meme Contest"). The competition ended on October 22, 2018 (according to an InfoWars article titled "Meme War 3.0: Infowars Launches $10K NPC Meme Contest"), and hundreds of submissions were reportedly received (according to an InfoWars article titled "Check Out The NPC Meme Finalists - Winner TBA"). Information about the competition was also announced on the subreddit r/The_Donald, and on the 4chan forum /pol/, where over 300 replies to the announcement were posted within the first 24 hours following. The winning submission in the competition, which was reported by Alex Jones on the InfoWars broadcast on November 28, 2018, was a video featuring Antifa, CNN, and the Democratic Party of the United States (according to an InfoWars article titled "NPC Meme Contest Winner Announced!"). The winning video, which is 2 minutes and 20 seconds long, is a They Live parody, featuring a man who while walking in a city, sees things around him differently when he is using sunglasses (with the InfoWars logotype on) compared to when the glasses are not used. The video was published on YouTube with the title "Another NPC in the Wall" on October 21, 2018, and has been viewed more than 74,000 times.
In 2019, the NPC meme was used in the modification of two existing billboards in the United States.
On February 19, 2019, a similar modification was performed on a billboard featuring English comedian John Oliver in Los Angeles, in which the face of Oliver was replaced by that of an NPC, and text "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" was replaced by "The Orange Man Bad Show with John Oliver". The modified billboard also included the text "*MATRIX APPROVED NPC PROGRAMMING" and a speech balloon from the NPC containing words such as "CHEETOH" [sic] and "DRUMPH" with random symbols in green text, resembling the text shown in The Matrix. According to The Daily Dot, the modification of the billboard featuring Oliver, also credited to The Faction, was an attempt to counteract the media's supposed "Trump derangement syndrome".
- List of Internet phenomena
- Philosophical zombie – a philosophical thought experiment that imagines a being which appears to display consciousness but is actually not conscious.
- "The NPC meme went viral when the media gave it oxygen - The Verge". www.theverge.com. Vox Media. October 23, 2018. Archived from the original on December 20, 2018. Retrieved December 23, 2019.
- "What is an NPC? The liberal-bashing meme sweeping social media ahead of the US midterms | The Independent". www.independent.co.uk. Independent Digital News & Media Ltd. October 17, 2018. Archived from the original on November 22, 2019. Retrieved December 23, 2019.
- "MAGA Memes and The Right Still Dominate Social Media-Here's Why | Observer". observer.com. Joseph Meyer. November 5, 2018. Archived from the original on January 3, 2020. Retrieved December 23, 2019.
- "What Is NPC, the Pro-Trump Internet's New Favorite Insult? - The New York Times". www.nytimes.com. A. G. Sulzberger. October 16, 2018. Archived from the original on October 19, 2018. Retrieved December 23, 2019.
- "What are NPCs and why has Twitter banned them? | The Week UK". www.theweek.co.uk. Dennis Publishing Limited. October 23, 2018. Archived from the original on January 3, 2020. Retrieved December 26, 2019.
- "NPC Wojak - Google Trends". Google Trends. July 29, 2019. Archived from the original on June 23, 2020. Retrieved August 19, 2020.
- "Why has Twitter banned 1500 accounts and what are NPCs? - BBC News". www.bbc.com. BBC. October 17, 2018. Archived from the original on October 17, 2018. Retrieved December 26, 2019.
- "How The 'NPC' Meme Tries To Dehumanize 'SJWs'". kotaku.com. G/O Media. October 5, 2018. Archived from the original on January 12, 2021. Retrieved December 24, 2019.
- "Wojak / Feels Guy | Know Your Meme". www.knowyourmeme.com. January 7, 2018. Archived from the original on January 12, 2021. Retrieved December 31, 2019.
- Gilmour, David (February 19, 2019). "Guerrilla artists turn John Oliver billboard ad into right-wing meme". The Daily Dot. Archived from the original on January 12, 2021. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
- "NPC Memes". www.reddit.com. Archived from the original on January 12, 2021. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
- "HTML 4.01 Specification". Archived from the original on 2018-12-26. Retrieved 2020-01-03.
- "Twitter has released more than 10 million tweets linked to election interference - MIT Technology Review". www.technologyreview.com. Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau. October 17, 2018. Archived from the original on January 12, 2021. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
- "The Next Generation 1996 Lexicon A to Z: NPC (Nonplayer Character)". Next Generation. No. 15. Imagine Media. March 1996. p. 38.
- Bond, Paul (January 13, 2019). "Bill Maher Billboard Targeted by Conservative Street Artists". The Hollywood Reporter. Lynne Segall. Archived from the original on January 14, 2019. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
- "What Is The NPC Meme And Why is Twitter Banning it? | MRCTV". www.mrctv.org. October 17, 2018. Archived from the original on January 3, 2020. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
- "Reddit places pro-Donald-Trump forum in quarantine - BBC News". www.bbc.ccom. BBC. June 27, 2019. Archived from the original on June 30, 2019. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
- "Another NPC in the Wall - YouTube". www.youtube.com. Google LLC. October 21, 2018. Archived from the original on January 12, 2021. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
- Bond, Paul (February 18, 2019). "John Oliver, Jussie Smollett Criticized in Hijacked Billboard, L.A. Street Art". The Hollywood Reporter. Lynne Segall. Archived from the original on January 12, 2021. Retrieved December 27, 2019.