Short for "non-playable character"

"Don't talk to the NPCs. They're not going to help you."
History and usage

Short for "Non-Playable Character," this term is a staple in video game culture. NPCs are those characters you encounter in games who aren't controlled by real people—think of them as the computer-generated buddies or foes you interact with on your virtual adventures. They're the shopkeepers, quest-givers, enemies, or just background characters that populate the game world.

"NPC" has also found its way out of the gaming realm and into everyday conversation, especially on the internet. In online discussions and social media, "NPC" can sometimes be used to describe people who seem to just go along with the crowd, not really expressing independent thoughts or opinions—a bit like those characters in games who follow a set script without any real agency. It's kind of become shorthand for someone who's not fully engaged or critical in their thinking.