Digital Communication


Digital Communication

NPC: what is a non-player character?


Also known as NPC (non-player character in English), NPC stands for “non-player character” and generally refers to game characters that cannot be controlled by a player. The term NPC began to be used in tabletop role-playing games, but was popularized by its use in video games.

What does NPC mean?

The abbreviation “NPC” stands for “Non-Player Character” and refers to a character not controllable by the player. NPCs can be found in the most diverse game worlds: adventure video games like Minecraft and its alternatives, many sports games or first-person shooters. They can act in the background or be available for interaction.

If you are playing a game with a large community for the first time, you will quickly notice that there are many codes, numbers and abbreviations reminiscent of the texting language like NPC and which are not immediately understandable. Remember to learn the most common terms before communicating with others or you will quickly be lost!

What characterizes an NPC?

NPCs are therefore game characters that you cannot not control as a player. Their actions are directed by the software. They often react to the behavior of the character you control in a virtual world.

NPCs are important, especially in role-playing games, for two reasons: on the one hand, they advance the plot, interact with players, give useful advice or offer new missions to the main character. On the other hand, they are essential to the atmosphere of a game world. They make it lively and much more exciting.

NPCs can also act without coming into contact with the main character. In some games it is even possible to discover fun little stories or easter eggs looking at the background characters. This allows for even deeper immersion in the universe outside of the main action itself, especially in larger open-world adventures. In some games, NPCs take up arms themselves and help the main character in his missions. In other cases, they must be saved during a mission and bring little useful elements.

The difference between NPC and bot

NPCs do not have the same characteristics as bots and therefore cannot be compared to them. While non-player characters are part of the plot and often interact with the main character, bots take on the role of a human player. They are often used in multiplayer games and their room for maneuver is then equivalent to that of human players.

NPCs in board games

NPCs were already present before modern video games. In the classic role-playing games, they are still today invented by a game master and sometimes provided with a fictional background story or certain abilities. They can massively influence the course of the game depending on how it evolves. They then perform tasks similar to those of their counterparts in the virtual world.

NPCs outside of games

Although they have their roots in the world of games, NPCs also have great importance outside of video and tabletop games. In computer simulations, virtual agents are used whose characteristics, abilities, and actions largely match those of NPCs. Characters are assigned certain behaviors which they then adopt within the simulation. The more realistic the actions of the virtual agents, the more it is possible to draw accurate conclusions about human behavior. This is particularly important for the study of the behavior of the masses and helps, for example, to prevent possible disasters or to better arm oneself.

Importance of NPCs in everyday life and in pop culture: 3 examples

NPCs are more than just game characters. The following examples show the role that non-player characters can play:

Monkey Island

The game series Monkey Island is famous for its NPCs. The graphic adventure game series, which has had a huge following since the first installment was released in 1990, is best known for its funny, absurd and unique word games. Over the course of six episodes, the player controls Guybrush Threepwood, an aspiring pirate. This one wins all his fights without violence, but with a loose tongue. The many verbal contests would not be possible without the corresponding NPCs, however, who respond on their side to every insult, even the most absurd.

Free Guy

American action comedy Free Guy answered in 2021 the question of what would happen if an NPC suddenly became aware. In this film, Guy, played by Ryan Reynolds, goes about his daily routine, which consists in particular of repeated attacks on his workplace, in a bank. But when he falls in love, he begins to take a fresh look at himself and his environment. The film was a big hit and received numerous nominations and awards.

NPC Wojak

In 2018, American users of the 4chan and Reddit platforms started using the English term NPC for discredit people with different (political) opinions. People who are liberal or considered to be on the left have been particularly accused of not being able to form their own opinion. In addition to the conservative media, ultra-right circles quickly adopted this acronym. Its use was made famous by the same “NPC Wojak”, which has since been used in many other contexts.

Are you interested in anything related to the world of gaming? You will find in the Digital Guide other articles on this subject. Find out, for example, what is behind the term Cloud gaming or how to create a Minecraft server in no time.

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