Just a few months ago, people were being encouraged to embrace their 'main character energy' and proudly accept their role as the protagonist in their own life story. Social media feeds were dominated by film-like highlight reels of people shedding their self-consciousness and unapologetically living their best lives.
Romanticising the mundane and putting yourself first was seen as a form of self-care in the post-pandemic world, and it seemed like everybody all over TikTok and Instagram was here for it.
Fast forward to today, though, and the pendulum has swung in the complete opposite direction as audiences turn their attention to the newest kid on the block: NPC streams.
So, what is an NPC stream?
Unlike their predecessors, which were all about people thriving upon taking control of their own destinies, these livestreams champion a different kind of control in what can only be described as a real-life mash-up of Grand Theft Auto and The Sims.
On one side, you’ve got the content creators, adopting the role of a 'Non-Playable Character'. These NPCs would typically only exist in the background of a video game and have a very limited repertoire of phrases and actions programmed into them. Here, though, they’re being brought to the very centre of the stage.
On the flip side, there’s the audience. The master puppeteers. They dictate every move the creators make by sending paid-for emojis, coins and 'gifts' that each correspond to a different pre-programmed reaction.
A live-stream experience featuring several confused bystanders and a lot ”gang gang”, “ice cream so good” and “RAWR”s!
Who are the main players?
One of the earliest NPC content creators on the scene was @loczniki, whose videos of herself moving around real-life spaces and interacting with things as if she were an NPC quickly became popular on TikTok.
Her videos have attracted an impressive 117m likes and 2.9m followers on the platform so far, putting her at the NPC forefront.
Although Nicki’s pre-recorded videos don’t allow for any immediate audience interaction, her comments section is always incredibly active, with many fans making requests of scenes they’d like to see next.
While the line between creator and audience in Nicki’s video has always remained quite clear, it wasn’t long before others started to overlap.
The start of the live-streamed content era has been credited to Japanese content creator, @natuecoco, whose cosplay-inspired videos in October 2021 helped start the trend.
Since then, several other content creators have followed in her footsteps and this niche corner of TikTok has taken on a life of its own, landing on the FYPs of many confused, out-of-the-loop TikTokers.
At present, the most popular streams on the platform belong to @pinkydollreal, @cherrycrush and @shu_.tiktok, who boast a collective following of more than 2 million on TikTok alone.
Each time they go live, viewers clamour to pay for items they can donate in order to watch the creator perform one of their signature moves in response.
For the fans of NPC, the resultant mishmash of sound and motion is a border-line addictive delight. For the more casual TikToker, however, the lack of accompanying explanation or context can make the whole experience seem a bit like a fever dream.
So how much money are we talking here?
Like with anything, building a fanbase takes time. NPC creators who are just starting out might consider themselves lucky to even earn $100 on a good day at first, but with a little experience and dedication, many are able to earn the equivalent to half their monthly wage in just a matter of hours.
In more exceptional cases, however, the figures are even more impressive.
One such example is Pinky Doll, the self-appointed Queen of NPC, who has amassed over 1M followers on TikTok and hosts multiple daily streams from Monday-Friday. After building herself a loyal following of devoted fans, she has recently boasted earnings of a staggering $10,000 for each day she goes live, despite each performance only lasting a couple of hours.
Ans she’s not alone in her success.
Several other players in the NPC world have capitalised and made an impressive living for themselves.
Creators such as Koby Colls and Gloria Briggs are using their earnings to pay for their childrens’ educations, while many others are leaving their office jobs behind.
Many outside of NPC fandom have made parodies and shaken their heads at these creators for their antics. But, the money speaks for itself!