NPC / Non-Playable Character
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An NPC or Non-Playable Character is a character in a video game that is not controlled by a player. The gaming slang term originates from tabletop RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons to describe characters controlled or animated by the game master. The term subsequently came to be used in video games to describe characters with predetermined dialogue and actions that are controlled by the computer instead of a player. After its popularization in gaming, it then spread to the internet and evolved beyond strictly video game contexts. In meme culture, the NPC Wojack is a disparaging way to describe people who cannot think for themselves and people that are considered to be socially and politically passive. The phrase Real Life NPC refers to a conspiracy theory that video game NPCs with no internal monologue exist in the real world. In 2023, the term came under renewed scrutiny after an 11-year-old was stabbed by a person he heckled using the term "NPC."
According to a 1996 issue of the gaming magazine NEXT Generation, the "NPC" or "Nonplayer Character" is a word "taken from the world of pen-and-ink role-playing games" at least as early as the 1990s to refer to a character that can be encountered in an RPG but isn't controlled by another player (seen below).
As video games advanced, the term NPC then came to be applied to in-game characters controlled by a computer instead of a dungeon master. On January 21st, 2003, an anonymous user posted a definition for the word to Urban Dictionary (seen below).
Video game NPCs are different from the tabletop RPG definition of the term in how they are generally understood to be passive and not hostile toward players. Terms for hostile non-player-controlled characters typically include "enemies," "mobs" or "creeps." Players can often interact with video game NPCs to trade, exchange dialogue or advance the plot of the game.
Some advanced RPGs have NPCs with interactive or "branching" dialogue where players can choose from a list of possible dialogues and receive different responses from an NPC, which may or may not affect their overarching game. Early examples of video game franchises with notable branching dialogue include Megami Tensei and Mass Effect. 
NPC As Pejorative Slang
In the late 2010s, people began to use "NPC" to refer to people IRL instead of strictly video game characters. The term "NPC" when used to describe a person is a pejorative word that could be equated to sheeple. A "Real Life NPC" is a person that is easily impressionable, lacks an internal monologue and does what he is told. This definition is also reflected in the NPC Wojack meme.
For example, on October 25th, 2018, Twitter user @JackChunko posted a tweet that read, "son just called me an NPC so I gave him the quest to get the fuck out of my home," gathering over 44,000 likes in five years (seen below, left). On August 10th, 2019, Twitter user @seupodead posted a tweet about "NPC energy," gathering over 90,000 likes in four years (seen below, right).
2023 NPC Stabbing In Washington
On March 22nd, 2023, an 11-year-old boy from Mill Creek, Washington was allegedly chased and stabbed by a 29-year-old man named Joshua David Pence after he was called an NPC by the child and his friend. The event and the usage of the slang term NPC in the real world sparked many memes and reactions about the alleged non-fatal assault, particularly when media coverage and online discourse spiked around it in mid-April 2023.
NPC Wojak is a depiction of the MS Paint character Wojak with a blank stare and facial expression, named after non-player characters within video games. The character is meant to represent people who do not think for themselves or are incapable of having an internal monologue, bearing many similarities to the terms "basic" and "normie."
Real Life NPC
Real Life NPC refers to a concept, conspiracy theory and video trend related to non-playable characters within video games existing in real life as if reality is a simulation. The idea is inspired by video games that have prominent NPC features such as Elder Scrolls games, like Oblivion and Skyrim, or Elden Ring and Grand Theft Auto (GTA), among others. It relates to variant memes and concepts like I'm The Main Character, NPC Wojak and the catchphrases "We Are Living In A Simulation" or "We Live In A Simulation."
Oblivion NPC Dialogue
Oblivion NPC Dialogue Parodies refer to videos mocking the awkward dialogues with non-player characters (NPCs) found in the 2006 Bethesda Softworks role-playing game The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and later in 2011 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
 Internet Archive – NEXT Gen
 Prime Time Gamer – Shin Megami Tensei
 Internet Archive – Complete WoW Abbreviations
 Twitter – JackChunko
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