Background actors and npcs

· background actors,NPCs,kindness,empathy,solipsism

Sure, we’re all the main characters of our own lifelong immersive experience, but what about everyone else?

In a film or TV show you would watch, they would be the background actors aka extras as you focus on the protagonist, in a video game, they would be the NPCs helping your avatar/character. In life, they are strangers or friends you haven’t met yet, to paraphrase Yeats.

It’s very telling that it’s been normalized to treat background actors on sets as unimportant. Even more so that the term NPC has become derogatory, as they are often jokingly mistreated in video games as inconsequential nonbeings. As their name states they aren’t the player, so why do they even matter as much?

This speaks to a bigger discussion of a (hopefully) changing paradigm, and (eventual) elimination of a subconscious solipsistic societal structure (thanks, that’s #alliteration). Simply put, this is where kindness could come into play..

We live our day to day (depending on our location) amidst a sea of people we will never fully get to know. Though some people playing out their immersive experience may have an attitude of indifference or apathy (or straight up antipathy) towards these strangers, interaction is an opportunity to remember that all you meet are just as much individuals and masters of their own universe as the protagonist that is you.

Spending over 10 years playing roles that could basically be called NPCs for live immersive interactive experiences, I found each time playing these “supporting” roles the chance to conversely awake these “players” into realizing that there are actual living people beyond their own solitary experiences. Like when performing in VR in The Under Presents, where players would often think we weren’t human and actually AI (And why would that even make it ok? Be kind to your AIs always I say!). By being present acknowledging the player and the situation, they would in turn become present and awake, often embarrassed that they were rude to someone who was “actually there”.

It is easy to fall into a solipsistic concept of living in our immersive game of life that we all play, and forget that it is indeed the background actors and NPCs that add so much humanity to our otherwise individual/lonely existences. Becoming aware of being immersed is a chance to connect to what is there rather than impose our existence upon it.

Most who work in live events may or may not be aware that a noticeable disparity exists in the respect afforded to background actors and onsite brand ambassadors (or any event staff) for live events. Alongside bringing to life amazing immersive experiences (via #metaforyou), it is a mission of mine to remedy this, and make everyone understand that any human being you have representing the role of a host in any setting deserves the utmost respect, as they are the frontline of your guests’ immersive experience. The ones whom the participants/players will ultimately seek advice and help from once they have understood as much as they can of the environment they are in.

So here’s to recognizing our own humanity in each other, seeing background players and NPCs, strangers and event staff, as true contributors and dedicated facilitators of the player experience, rather than as mere “extras,” when they are all very much part of the whole. Their role is vital, and their contribution is as significant as the participants they serve.

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