Category Archives: social skills

Introducing the Non-Player Character.

The Non-Player Character, in the world of role playing games, is a character who is controlled by the game master or one or more players for the purposes of furthering the plot, but who is (most often) not portrayed with their own agency.

They are basically a “placeholder” that fits the needs of the other characters, or of the plot.

I’m going to expand the definition a bit, because I think it is a useful metaphor.

Many of us approach the other people in our lives as NPCs.

Here is a rather horrifying and creepy story that I came across, from “Controlling People” by Patricia Evans, that illustrates one such relationship between a “game master” and their “NPC” as it might play out in real life:

The Teddy Illusion

What is fascinating to me about some portrayals in the media of women who are excessively adorable but lack inner life or agency (I’ll elaborate on this later because I have my own interpretation and take on the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” stock character) is how they are basically serving the purpose of being an NPC to the main character and to some degree, the “adorableness” may be perceived via an unreliable narrator who really does not know his love interest’s inner life. He has to idealize her via what little he does know – her various quirks and her music preferences.

You also frequently see this portrayal of the male costar in a “chick flick”; he doesn’t really exist outside of the female character’s mind. In fact, I’d love to see a film that actually played with this concept and subverted it (he in fact DOESN’T exist outside of her mind).

The thing is, we act out these dramas in real life. Many of us never get past seeing other people as NPCs.

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Tribescanning: the Science of Small Talk

Just to get things started off, I thought I’d repost an old blog entry from a previous blog.

Some background with this issue: I’m an introvert and a bit of a geek, so for a long time, I found myself at a loss in many social environments and social situations… I got along perfectly well in geeky/nerdy circles but there was quite discernibly something “out of sync” about the way that I related to non-geeks.

Many of the retroactive observations I made of the geeky world, after I left it, agree with the observations made in the famous (within the geek subculture)  Usenet post about “Fanspeak” which posed the interesting claim that people in fandom communicate differently from the mainstream. One observation I have made is that in geek circles, people tend to jump right to the point of a conversation pretty quickly, without as much of the usual process of “feeling the other person out”. People bring up common interests with the intention of discussing those interests, not merely establishing “oh, we share those interests”.

Here, therefore, is my blog entry “Tribescanning”. Enjoy. Let me know what you think, and I’d especially love it if you’d share your own observations.

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