So I only got around to watching all of the latest Mostly Walking episode and I found the narcissism angle very interesting. However, it reminded me of something else that I wound up wanting to talk about.
In the discussion, Sean, Sean and Bill discuss the roles of NPCs in the game and others, noting how most of them are rooted to just one screen and exist solely for the player's benefit. Of course, technical limitations and the functionality of the game sort of dictated this decision but it remains sufficiently ingrained in gaming that games like Elder Scrolls actually advertise their NPCs moving according to a daily rhythm.
This is the part where I wanted to talk about, the behavior of NPCs. I spent a good part of my teenage years deeply involved in live roleplaying (LARP). For those who don't know, it's basically a real-life MMO. A bunch of people, 100+ not being uncommon, would get together on a given day of the month or for 3-5 days during summer and roleplay their characters, follow pre-made plots, make their own and so on. In video games, the NPCs would normally vastly outnumber the player characters (PCs), but in live the reverse is true. Almost everybody is a player character and the NPCs are limited to the people the organizers could get a hold of and get to play certain key roles.
This ultimately reverses the roles of the PCs versus the NPCs. You see, key roles would normally include things like group leaders (the leader of all the elves, for example, would typically be an NPC or at least in close contact with the organizers), plot-centric characters and the like. They would usually be stronger or have different abilities than the PCs could hope to acquire, to help it make sense why they were in charge.Do you see where I'm going with this? In live, being an NPC could be incredibly prestigious. It sometimes came with a lot of responsibility, but also with sweet bonuses; you could whomp most people who tried to kill you, you'd typically be involved with the pre-made plots (which, being made by the organizers, were usually the most important ones) and you'd hold the implied status of being close to the organizers. In the case of live, the organizers were typically the ones who knew all the secrets of the world you played in, who could approve special requests and stuff like that. Being on their good side and being able to talk to them were good things.
Ultimately, because of the different distribution of characters, and different needs of the hobby, NPCs wound up filling a very different role than they would in their parenting hobbies of traditional roleplaying games (and with live emerging, at least in Denmark, in 1996, there is little doubt where the term NPC came from), to an extend actually reversed compared to the normal PC/NPC relationship.There has been some attempts to play with this distribution, namely 800% roleplaying, which is a type of live where, you guessed it, there's a lot more NPCs than there are PCs. I never attended any of those, and I really prefer the more dynamic case of a million PCs.