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What slang like ‘NPC’ and ‘sidequest’ mean

What slang like ‘NPC’ and ‘sidequest’ mean
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Gen Z might just be talking smack about you behind your back — or right to your face.

But you’d be none the wiser, as the slang-savvy generation has adapted lingo only found in video games into their ever-expanding lexicon.

In a TikTok video with 1.5 million views, Harvard-educated linguistics expert Adam Aleksic likened the rise of gaming terms to that of commonly used sports metaphors, like “swing and a miss” or “coming out of left field,” or words that originated from chess centuries ago, like “check” or “pawn.”

Lingo from videogames is seeping from the screen into everyday language. Drobot Dean – stock.adobe.com
“NPC,” “sidequests” and “nerf” are all terms foreign to the uninitiated, but beloved by Gen Z gamers who are plugged into the hottest games and slang. Cultura Creative – stock.adobe.com

“Now we’re in a whole new ball game of people having a shared cultural knowledge of video games, so we’ve started drawing on that as a way to express our reality,” said Aleksic, otherwise known online as the Etymology Nerd.

“And studies show that societies consistently create metaphors out of shared traditions because that’s how people best understand each other.”

While videogame-derived words like “NPC” or “sidequest” might be used in a “mostly ironic way” nowadays, the seemingly silly slang could take on a more “serious connotation” in the future, he added — so you better brush up on these new additions to the unofficial Gen Z dictionary.

Pre-programmed characters that have scripted responses are called “NPC”s — a term that has become an insult IRL. CD Projekt

NPC

An abbreviation for “non-player character,” NPC refers to any virtual character that is not controlled or manipulated by a player and is instead a static, pre-programmed fixture of the game.

Outside of the screen, when the term “NPC” is used as a descriptor, it’s an insult to mean someone who is boring or lacks independent thinking, blindly following an ideology without question.

Sidequest

In a videogame, a “sidequest” is an additional undertaking that is an offshoot of the main storyline.

In real life, it might refer to additional hobbies or other tasks that are not related to a person’s primary occupation or already established interests. This could mean a person has taken a liking to new extracurriculars that are unexpected or uncharacteristic.

Nerf blasters with their infamous foam pellets soared to popularity in the ’90s and early aughts. lenscap50 – stock.adobe.com

Nerf

’90s and early aughts kids will remember Nerf blasters and the raucous chaos that ensued during a living room standoff, as foam pellets volleyed through the air.

To be “nerfed,” then, means to be reduced in effectiveness, its meaning adapted for online gaming and subsequently into real life.

Where we dropping?

In games like Fortnite, players “drop” onto a specific place on the virtual map. The query “where we dropping?” refers to team strategizing about where to land for a better chance at success. IRL, this refers to asking what the plans are or where you’re going.

“Now we’re in a whole new ball game of people having a shared cultural knowledge of video games, so we’ve started drawing on that as a way to express our reality,” said Aleksic. Bethesda Softworks

Viewers of Aleksic’s viral video offered up their own game-inspired slang, like “low on HP,” or health points, to describe being tired or “lore” to refer to the backstory of someone.

And if this Gen Z lingo is perplexing, just wait until you hear about “gyatt,” “IJBOL” and “menty b,” which are just a fraction of the ever-growing list of colloquialisms that are beloved by the internet-savvy generation, but annoy their elder colleagues.




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