It started on the boards of 4chan and made its way to Twitter, but what exactly is the NPC meme, and why is it upsetting so many people?
Anybody who is familiar with video games will be familiar with the term NPC. It stands for Non-Player Character, and is a term which is used to describe a character in a game who is not controlled by the player, but is instead pre-programmed by a computer via predetermined or responsive behaviour. NPCs are the villagers in Skyrim and World of Warcraft who give you quests and repeat the same three instructed sentences over and over again whenever you address them.
The term NPC is now being applied to people in the real world to describe those who share the same uncritical worldview, are unable to think for themselves, and those who regurgitate the same obvious talking points of the mainstream narrative.
I was going to give some examples of real-life NPC talking points, however, what better way to demonstrate this to you than by showing you the memes themselves?
The NPC meme is a simple yet effective way to illustrate those who have no agency and no capacity for independent and critical thought, yet often choose to engage with those who do. This process, as demonstrated in the memes above, often involves the NPC displaying faux public outrage at more original and innovative ideas in a bid to demonstrate to their also NPC audience that they’re towing the non-offensive mainstream line.
What is perhaps the most interesting chapter in the NPC meme saga is the response of the progressive left. The NPC meme was never meant to set a divide between the right and the left, yet it has. In the same way that the Jewish community adopted offence at Viktor Orbán‘s comments about our enemy speculating with money and not having its own homeland but feeling as though it owns the whole world, the left have taken it upon themselves to adopt the NPC meme. If the shoe fits, as they say…
A quick internet search of the NPC meme will return an article by Kotaku which complains about the concept of the NPC label and describes it as “dehumanising”.
The article writes:
It’s one thing to claim that a person’s strongly-held views are informed by nothing at all, but entirely another to imply that they’re completely on auto-pilot. That is dehumanization, a way of reconceiving your enemies as objects, pawns, strawmen, tools.
The progressive left have also been channeling their inner “I am fine” Wojak on Twitter, embodying NPC meme mode, and alternating between pretending they don’t care and full-blown meltdown mode.
PSA: there’s a new type of bot in town.
They will have a avatar similar to this one and have NPC in their name.
They are providing misinformation and pretending to be Democrats or progressives.
Report and block. pic.twitter.com/WSJ5C9AT2a
— Storm #MobTheVote (@StormResist) October 14, 2018
Twitter themselves have published an anti-dehumanising policy and, following on from this, a number of suspensions have been made over the last couple of days for accounts who have displayed the NPC meme in their Twitter name or profile picture. The most noticeable of these was Tolerant Fellow, one of our most prominent and effective accounts who had over 40,000 followers.
It is unclear at this stage why these accounts have been suspended as they were masquerading as NPCs themselves rather than labelling anybody else. What is clear though, is that the NPC meme has really touched a nerve with everybody from Twitter, to journalists to the progressive left.
I would advise at this stage if you’ve built up quite a following on social media to resist the temptation to change your profile to display the NPC meme. The images above should also be used at your own risk. Some memes are just too powerful and should be handled with care.
I suspect under these new “dehumanising” rules that Twitter will be following suit and will also follow up on accusations of “Russian Bot” and “Gammon”… Or perhaps not.
Their reaction to npc accounts trolling them is brilliant. They all follow urge each other to follow the same program and “block the bots” pic.twitter.com/SYDfqn6G2U
— Chaim Goyington (@haimgoyberg) October 15, 2018
Sometimes the memes really do write themselves.