Recently, in the past year or so, a trend has formed which involves the act of comparing people to NPCs. “NPC,” or “non-player character,” is a common term used in video games to describe characters who are controlled by a piece of code or AI. NPCs are often described as lacking personality and they often perform the same actions over and over. Even though this is a trend to insult or make jokes about people, it connects with a decade old philosophical idea of solipsism. This connection with solipsism and this new formed trend is a reflection of our growing concern about the blurring of the lines between the artificial and the real.
Solipsism is the philosophical idea that the only thing that can be proven to exist is oneself. It has been a topic of philosophical discourse for many centuries. René Descartes, a renowned philosopher, contributed to this at one point and made his famous adage, “Cogito, ergo sum” (“I think, therefore I am”). This is often associated with the concept of solipsism as it highlights the idea that the only thing that can be known for certain is one’s own existence. In essence, solipsism is a philosophical idea that claims that the existence of the external world cannot be confirmed and is therefore created by one's mind. This perspective stands in contrast to the belief that the world is a shared and objective reality.
There are more than a few parallels with solipsism and the NPC trend. In the perspective of solipsism, people are viewed as mere objects that are created by one’s mind; they lack their own thought, feelings, and experience. NPCs are also lacking in those areas. The only difference is that the NPC trend does not specify who or what created these NPCs to be living among us. For instance, it could be a god, higher power, etc. However both the NPC trend and the philosophical idea of solipsism share a common ideology that individuals lack autonomy and originality, viewing them as mere objects in the world. They both also indicate that one’s self could be the only conscious thing to exist.
This ideology can show us the anxieties that people have about the authenticity of the world, and whether anything is even real. In a world where technology is advancing, it is becoming harder and harder to tell what is “real” and what is not, and it is increasingly difficult to separate real experiences and interactions for those that are staged or manufactions. Which also leads us to question the authenticity of relationships, memories, and even self-identity. The NPC trend is just one of the many manifestations of this.
Furthermore, the comparison of individuals to NPCs highlights critical points regarding how technology affects how we view the world and other people. It draws attention to the notion that people are growing more estranged from one another and how our quick-paced, highly connected society can cause us to feel alone and isolated. The NPC trend highlights a significant social problem where people feel that society is getting more and more artificial and that those around them are not being authentic. In essence, the world is becoming homogenized.
Overall, this similarity between people and NPCs emphasizes deeper anxieties about the impact of technology on our lives and the authenticity of the world around us. The NPC trend serves as an indication of people's anxieties of being isolated and all alone or being the world's only true consciousness. The NPC trend revealed that the world we know is not as real as we may think and calls into question the authenticity of everything we know.