April 18, 2024

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From games to the word youth – this is what the term means

From games to the word youth – this is what the term means

You may have already read or heard it. It is often used in videos on Tiktok or YouTube, and is also used in texts and bios on Instagram or Twitter. It is mainly used by young people: the term NPC. That's why, along with side-eye and goof, this term has made it into our top 3 youth word choices of 2023.

What's interesting is that NPC isn't actually a new word at all. In fact, it has been used for decades. It is a term from video games. We explain what NPC really means.

NPC in video games

Since the first more complex video games with stories and quests, non-playable characters have also appeared – and even in “pen and paper” games. They populate games, park in towns, or give players their next quests. NPC stands for Non-Playable Character.

In video games, this refers to all characters that, as the name suggests, cannot be controlled by the player. However, NPCs must be distinguished from computer-controlled opponents. They actively oppose the players. But an NPC is one thing above all else: passive.

These are characters who are often just decorations. In a role-playing game like “Baldur's Gate 3,” for example, they aim to make the game world feel more alive. They wander along fixed paths and may have a few sentences they can give players when they talk to them. But their most important mission is simply to exist.

In some games, NPC models are duplicated. Especially in older games, there were sometimes only a few different characters spread across the game world. This explains the role of NPCs: they should disappear into the background.

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What does that mean in youth language?

The most important thing about NPCs is that they are not heroes. They have no leadership role and are not heroes. They do not change history and are often forgotten immediately.

This is exactly how this term is used in youth language. When someone is said to have “NPC energy”, it is somewhat disrespectfully meant to describe someone who doesn't matter.

The same applies to a person who says about himself that he feels like an NPC. This is intended to show a certain helplessness. Feeling like you are not the protagonist in your own life.

So being an NPC is a bit of a negative attribution. In youth language it is often used sarcastically and is not necessarily hurtful, but it expresses the fact that in a complex and complex world you often have the feeling that you do not have control in your own hands. Stand on the sidelines and watch as the heroes live their story.

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