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‘NPC Lives’: TikTok’s Strange New Streams

Livestreaming bridges the gap between a creator and their audience. With NPC Lives, this bridge is stronger than ever.

NPC Lives, manipulation, and parody
@pinkydoll on TikTok, Shutterstock, @thissonghasnotitle on TikTok

Live streaming has existed since the late 90’s, and debuted on the internet in 2008. With the rise of the live stream, celebrities are no longer the only content creators out there.

Utilizing the “chat” function included on most streaming platforms, viewers ask questions, engage with streamers, and converse with each other.

For better or worse, the gap between producer and consumer grows smaller and smaller. Some streamers are completely eliminating that gap, confounding the rest of the internet.

“NPC Lives” is a trend where a live stream chat can control the streamer’s actions. “NPC” is an acronym for “non-playable character,” stemming from the role-playing video game community. Usually, shopkeepers or otherwise non-central entities meant to give quests, NPCs have several pre-programmed lines that they repeat ad nauseam.

Streamers are emulating this behavior, staring blankly into the camera until prompted by “gifts,” which are purchased with tokens on TikTok. Tokens are, believe it or not, purchased with real money, so each gift has a monetary value.

While many of them are ten cents or less, this adds up when viewers spam gifts to elicit a reaction. These streamers have a phrase for each gift and will repeat themselves whenever the gift is given.

The Dollhouse

The idea of an audience “controlling” the creator they’re viewing is not new, nor are strange livestreams in general. In 2021, Twitch live streamer Jeremy Elbertson produced “The Jerma985 Dollhouse,” a Sims-inspired livestream where the chat could control his actions, from what to wear to when to use the restroom.

While the goal listed was to keep Elbertson happy, healthy, and fed, the chat appeared to run mad with power and began jokingly tormenting him within the first hour. They sent clowns to his house to bother him; they let him pass out in his yard; they called the Grim Reaper on his uncle (it makes sense in context), and so on.

Ultimately, this was just an act, and Elbertson was perfectly safe the entire time. However, it shows how eager audiences are for control and just how weird they’re willing to get once they have it.

NPC Lives: Strange, Sinister, or Silly?

A person controlled by puppet strings
When tuning into NPC Lives, you gain something big: control. (Source: Shutterstock)

So, we’ve established that viewership may not always have the entertainer’s best interest at heart, but what does this have to do with NPC Lives? After all, it’s not as though the streamer doesn’t have free will, and it’s not as though they’re forced to do dangerous or harmful acts.

With this line of thinking, it’s easy to forget one crucial aspect of the whole thing: this is the internet, and people can get pretty strange about the stuff they’re into on the internet. Some have argued that this is fetish content and that the elements of control and submission are a strong draw for a particular audience.

Others, of course, disagree, stating that it’s closer to a fun game between producer and consumer.

@jordxn.simone be informed, be safe, and put some respect on an ✨accountants✨ name #ailive #npclivestream #npc #18 ♬ original sound – jordan

Liz’s Lament

TikTok is no stranger to discovering “innocent” behavior as a fetish, but NPC Lives are still so new that it’s difficult to tell. One creator, choosing to go by Liz, states that she didn’t know it could be construed that way and became embarrassed immediately upon finding out.

“When I saw a video saying how it’s a turn-on for some people, I felt ashamed,” Liz stated when I reached out. “I’m trying to get into college, and the idea that my face is out there, and someone might be watching it like that… I’m nervous. I don’t like it at all.”

Liz has taken a break from social media and asked to remain anonymous. While I am unwilling to share any of her handles, I would like to thank her for her statements.

Just because NPC Lives appeal to a specific demographic for… unconventional reasons… doesn’t mean it’s inherently icky. However, be aware of the potential, and if you’re considering participating, many recommend being 18 or older. Safety first!

Money, Money, Money

NPC Lives bring in a lot of money.
NPC Lives, believe it or not, draw in a sizeable income. Image: Shutterstock

Wait, if these streams are so creepy, why would anyone do them at all? The answer is simple and not uncommon in today’s world: cold hard cash. Remember how I said earlier that you buy TikTok gifts with real money? Well, the streamers who run NPC Lives know that too, and they’re raking it in.

The “NPC Queen,” a user called Pinkydoll, has stated that she can make $10,000 a day through streaming. “I used to make around 7k, but now I make 10k.” Pinkydoll is an outlier, and other streamers don’t make nearly as much doing this, but those are still huge numbers. With figures like that, it makes the tradeoff of being seen by unsavory viewers seem a whole lot more manageable.

@adiin2hunchoo NPC reveals how much money she makes per tiktok live ? #fyp #viral #explore #adinrossclips ♬ original sound – Adin2Huncho

At the end of the day, NPC Lives are just another internet trend, and people are participating for many reasons. Whether they’re in it for the money, the honey, or they just think it’s funny, remember to treat your favorite entertainers with respect.

Written By

M. Risley is a flash fiction writer and University of Colorado graduate. When not writing for Trill Mag or submitting creative works to journals, they can be found crocheting, playing tabletop RPGs, or tenderly holding their cat, Beetle.

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