‘Mmm, ice cream so good. Ooh, you got me feeling like a cowgirl. Gang gang. Fire, fire, fire,’ says TikToker PinkyDoll cheerfully as she sticks her tongue out and noisily pretends to lick a cone.
For the uninitiated, her nonsensical stream of words might seem like baffling gibberish but for those who love TikTok livestreams, they will probably seem very, very familiar. And for former stripper PinkyDoll, they’re her way of making a living.
Welcome to the new and bizarre trend of ‘NPC streaming’, which has taken the social media world by storm this month and is seeing TikTokers raking in thousands of pounds a day – with some earning in an hour more than average Brits do in a month.
The surreal trend is named after the ‘non-playable characters’ in video games that awkwardly repeat pre-programmed phrases and movements. It sees some content creators dressing up like elves and attempting to mimic the actions of these computer-generated extras while saying cartoonish catchphrases on a livestream.
PinkyDoll – real name Fedha Sinon – became an internet celebrity this month thanks to her eccentric reactions. The social media star’s following has ballooned to almost 800,000 after her ‘ice cream so good’ clip went viral. Now tens of thousands of people tune in to watch her live streams.
PinkyDoll – real name Fedha Sinon – became an internet celebrity this month thanks to her eccentric reactions (PinkyDoll is pictured on one of her livestreams)
The new and bizarre trend of ‘NPC streaming’ has taken the social media world by storm this month and is seeing TikTokers raking in thousands of pounds a day. Pictured: Cherry Crush
Named after the ‘non-playable characters’ in video games that awkwardly repeat pre-programmed phrases and movement, the trend sees some TikTokers dressing up like elves and attempting to mimic the actions of these computer-generated extras (pictured: Midorioxeno)
In typical performance the 27-year-old mother from Montreal, Canada, will stare into a camera while delivering a set of phrases. As she streams, fans will send her digital gifts that she reacts to. Some could be ice cream cones, others a donut or a rose. But all represent a payment for Ms Sinon, who is also a star on OnlyFans.
The items, which range in value from $0.01 for a tennis ball emoji to more than $500 for a single TikTok ‘universe’ symbol, can be traded in for digital ‘diamonds’ that can be converted into real cash, with TikTok taking a 50 per cent slice as a commission.
It’s meant Ms Sinon can now earn between $2,000 (£1,500) and $3,000 (£2,300) per stream – and about $7,000 (£5,400) a day across all her social media platforms. Before she might have made $250 a day.
Ms Sinon, who previously owned her own cleaning company, said she started livestreaming on TikTok at the start of the year as a way to make cash.
‘I needed money to feed my kid and pay the bills. I had no job,’ she told Motherboard. ‘I decided to put all my effort on TikTok to make money. And I wasn’t expecting to go viral.’
‘I needed money to feed my kid and pay the bills. I had no job,’Ms Sinon told Motherboard . ‘I decided to put all my effort on TikTok to make money. And I wasn’t expecting to go viral.’ She is pictured on Instagram
Ms Sinon can now earn between $2,000 (£1,500) and $3,000 (£2,300) per stream – and about $7,000 (£5,400) a day across all her social media platforms
Ms Sinon previously used to earn about $250 (£193) a day from her streams before she became a viral sensation on TikTok
There are others jumping on this cash grab too, with TikTokers like Cherry Crush and Satoyu727 bringing in millions of followers, and raking in a pay cheque for pretending to be an NPC.
The producer and rapper Timbaland is reportedly one of Ms Sinon’s biggest fans, having recently reposted a video on his own TikTok account of her breaking character during a livestream after noticing he was watching.
But others have been left baffled by it, with one person saying: ‘I’ve never been more confused in my entire life,’ while another added: ‘This is more dystopian than any episode of Black Mirror.’
Academics have branded what Ms Sinon and others are doing as fetish content and argued that for some viewers, there was a sexual element to watching the video and controlling the actions of the content creators making them.
Cherry Crush is another trending NPC streamer. She wears wigs and elf ears while barking and making ‘nom nom nom’ sounds. Both Ms Sinon and Cherry Crush run their own OnlyFans account with explicit content, but there’s nothing overtly sexual about their TikTok streams.
There are others jumping on this cash grab too, with TikTokers like Cherry Crush (pictured) and Satoyu727 bringing in millions of followers
Like Ms Sinon, Cherry Crush has her own OnlyFans account, where she posts explicit content. She also has an Instagram account, too (pictured)
Cherry Crush poses with bright wigs and occasionally sports elf-style ears in some of her streams and Instagram photo (she is pictured in a post on Instagram)
However, Christian Tran, a doctoral researcher of internet culture and digital labour at the University of Toronto, suggested the videos were an extension of the sort of online performances erotic workers have been honing for years.
‘I think the NPC streamer can be understood as the media granddaughter of sorts to the “e-girls” influencers that populated Twitch and TikTok in the early 2020s,’ she told The Guardian. ‘These are also self-sexualized creators who built their followings by combining the aesthetics of gamer culture with cam girl influencing.’
Cherry Crush, who is from Ohio, America, insisted her TikTok streams weren’t fetish content. ‘I don’t make my show sexually suggestive at all,’ she told the New York Times. ‘I always thought it was just funny [and] entertaining.’
‘I don’t really care what people say about me,’ added Ms Sinon in an interview with the paper. ‘If they want to think I am this or that, it’s fine with me.’
Matt Woods, chief executive and founder of AFK Creators, who link the UK’s biggest online stars to brands like MasterCard and HelloFresh, said the trend had become popular with gamers.
‘This whole trend can feel like an episode of the TV show Black Mirror but in fact it can become engrossing,’ he told MailOnline.
Matt Woods, CEO and founder of AFK Creators, said the trend had become popular with gamers (pictured is Mirorioxeno)
Cherry Crush (pictured), who is from Ohio, America, insisted her TikTok streams weren’t fetish content
‘From a creator perspective it looks funny but its also a huge way of earning money from donations and gifts, specifically on TikTok.
‘From a user perspective, people gain satisfaction from having control over the actions of others, in the same way they would in real life or video games.’
Matt predicted the trend would help TikTok live to ‘massively grow’ as its donation model ‘hasn’t really taken off’ until now.
‘Now, with this trend of donating digital items for people to pretend to be computer game characters, the donation model has blown up massively, meaning the amount of money generated by donations and gifts as well as growing the number of average non TikTok people that have started both streaming and watching TikTok live,’ he added.
For PinkyDoll, it was all about striking while the iron is hot and making money while she can. ‘At the end of the day, I’m winning,’ she adds.