Viral TikTok NPC Streamer Pinkydoll Doesn't Care What You Think

"They love me. I ain’t gon lie it feel amazing to have all the attention and getting pay at the same time.”
Screenshots via @pinkydollreal on TikTok​
Screenshots via @pinkydollreal on TikTok

I can’t stop saying “yes yes yes!” every time I do some menial task around my apartment. I popped a single kernel of popcorn in my hair straightener. I’m eating a lot of ice cream, a dessert I don’t usually crave. I am fully Pinkydoll-pilled. And based on the dozens of people copying, parodying, or hating her after her style of streaming went massively viral in the last week, so is everyone else.

Pinkydoll is a content creator from Montreal who does "NPC" TikTok Live streams where she reacts to gifts from viewers, which appear as cartoon icons on the screen in real time: ice cream cones, roses, donuts, barbells, finger hearts. Each elicits a different, high-speed reaction from her. The gifts also have monetary value. Viewers purchase tokens from TikTok, which content creators can collect during streams and cash out in real currency. People on social media have dubbed this “NPC streaming,” after the non-playable characters seen in video games that react with rote, scripted phrases and robotic movements.


It’s mesmerizing. And like almost everything involving female content creators making money from capturing people’s attention online, it’s made a lot of people mad. Over the weekend, NPC streamers took over TikTok live, with dozens and dozens of people mimicking Pinkydoll's mannerisms and catchphrases (or putting their own spin on it). 

Pinkydoll told me in an email that she started using TikTok to make money as a response to personal tragedy. She formerly ran a cleaning company in Montreal, but when she returned from a trip to Seychelles Island for her stepfather’s funeral, she’d lost the company. “I needed money to feed my kid and pay the bills. I had no job,” she said. “I decided to put all my effort on TikTok to make money and I wasn’t expecting to go viral and make all that money. It was a shock.”

She told me she spends six hours a day on TikTok, seven days a week. “It’s not exhausting,” she said. “I kinda love to go live and reacting to gifts. There are so many and the views going up is boosting me.” She hit one million views on one live streaming session, she said. “It’s keeping me energetic.” When she first started, she made $250 a day. But when she went viral this month, that turned into $7,000 a day and more. 

As Pinkydoll went viral, people online started posting other content creators doing similar livestreams, like Cherry Crush, who does similar TikTok gifting streams and is also a creator on Onlyfans. TikTok is full of these now; a search of “NPC” brings up hundreds of videos of people trying (badly) to do reaction livestreams. 


Of course, reaction streams didn’t come out of nowhere. The form likely originated with sex workers, who were pioneering uses for live-streaming technology as early as the late 90’s, and would take donations from viewers in exchange for performing sexual acts. Rapid-fire reaction livestreams have been a thing in Asian social media culture for years in many forms, such as “bullet screens,” where part of the fun is in the flurry of viewer comments. Twitch streamers—including the unfairly-hated “hot tub streamers”—helped popularize the genre. Spend any amount of time on MyFreeCams today, and you’ll see what gift-reaction streamers are doing isn’t that different.

But Pinkydoll and others like her aren’t doing anything explicit. TikTok would ban them with a quickness if they were. Instead, they’re letting the uncanny valley of their facial expressions, hand movements, and Siri-like phrases provide the intrigue, and our brains fill in the rest. A human is present—as Pinkydoll occasionally shows when she breaks character to count to 10 in French to someone misbehaving off screen—and your gifts are seen. But she’s always just barely out of reach. 

The NPC cosplay genre, too, has been around for a bit, with TikTok creators acting like characters from Grand Theft Auto, Skyrim, or other video games, embodying their stiff movements and uncanny gestures. But the live-streamers in this genre add an interactive element. 


 YouTube explainer videos—a genre that would also make a small Victorian child go insane—decry the NPC trend as “bizarre,” “Going to Destroy Us All,” and that it “will make you Hate Yourself.”

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Why, though? Because it feels a little too good to watch? This style of streaming boils the entire game of gift-react streamers down to its most basic form, without any of the artifice others use: playing a video game, political commentary or comedy, “just chatting,” even masturbating on camera. It’s bright colors, catchy sounds, repetitive movements that are predictable until suddenly something new and delightful (“Got me feeling like a cowgirl!”) jumps out. Now you’re watching just to see what happens next, even without a plot. 

It’s the same mechanism, psychologically, that makes social media or Diablo 4 addictive: sporadic dopamine-triggering rewards that keep people hooked. Cognitive scientists have found that social stimuli can activate dopaminergic reward pathways, and seeing a beautiful woman say “love you so much!” in reaction to a rose emoji, 1,000 times, to 1,000 other viewers would probably have the same effect. 

My theory is this: The genre freaks people out because it taps into already-existing anxieties about AI coming for our humanity. Pinkydoll doesn’t say “I’m cosplaying as an NPC.” She doesn’t claim that (although others do). But the way her streams seem to make people feel—like retirees sitting at the slots—is a little too slick for some viewers’ comfort.  

She told me she doesn’t care what people think of her. “I think they are just jealous of my blessings, my attention, my money because in my DM I got famous rappers, hockey players, NBA players that keep writing me to keep pushing, encouraging me to go to the next level and congrats me,” she told me. “They love me. I ain’t gon lie it feel amazing to have all the attention and getting pay at the same time.” Keke Palmer gave her a shoutout; that was a big moment for her, she said. “I feel like I’m a brand new style... I was surprised to see how many people love me. Everyone on TikTok trying to do like me it’s insane.”