“Hi Joselynn! Hi Joselynn! Hi Joselynn! Hi Joselynn! Hi Joselynn! Hi Joselynn! Hi Joselynn!,” Trisha Paytas says in a high-pitched, sing-song chant. She then pantomimes a basketball: “Dribble dribble dribble dribble dribble dribble dribble. Rose smells so good. Look at my muscle! Ice cream. Peaches, peaches, peaches, peaches.”

What Trisha is speaking is not the English language in the recognizable sense; there are none of the typical building blocks of grammar, no subjects or verbs or gerunds in sight. She is on TikTok Live, responding to gifts from fans — a basketball here, a rose there — in real time. And she is doing it while adopting the guise of an NPC (non-playable character), a term used to refer to people in video games who serve as background figures with pre-scripted lines, and without any motives or internal monologues of their own. In short, she’s pretending to not have discernible thoughts, and people are eating it up: despite an onslaught of negative comments (“God this is so weird,” one person writes, while another chimes in, “I hate this lmfao”), there are nearly 5,000 people on the stream.

Paytas did not originate this style of content. It’s been in the ether for a while, existing in the vague space between sexual fetish (some NPC streamers also do some form of online sex work) and gaming niche. There are also male NPC streamers, though as is the case in most spaces of the internet, they tend to attract far less attention than their female counterparts. But NPC streamers really became a talking point this week when a TikTok live featuring content creator Pinkydoll uttering seemingly nonsensical phrases in a robotic tone went viral on Twitter, prompting the phrase “ice cream so good” and “gang gang” to trend. The phrases were acknowledgments of viewers giving her TikTok gifts, which cost real money in the form of TikTok coins (one TikTok coin represents one cent, and a “doughnut” gift costs about 30 coins) and are shown onscreen as emojis.

The clip simultaneously baffled and infuriated people, many of whom were clearly unfamiliar with the subgenre of content, with one viral tweet reading, “50 years of relentless innovation to end up here — heartbreaking.” This seems like both a massive overreaction — in a post-Belle Delphine world (yes, that is the woman who sold her bathwater), is it really that hard to believe that female creators can make bank off appealing to extremely online guys’ basest impulses? — and a misunderstanding of what Pinkydoll and other content creators like her actually do. TikTok is famously not a platform where creators can easily make money, and those who do often have to put in hours and hours of grueling labor in order to make a dent in their income.

Pinkydoll, who did not reply to multiple requests for comment, appears to be no exception: in an interview with Motherboard, she said she pivoted to social media after losing her cleaning company, spending six hours a day on TikTok Live seven days a week. (For context, imagine if you had to spend the duration of a cross-country flight from New York to Los Angeles mugging for the camera and interacting with an audience of strangers.) Even after all that, she made about $250 a day until she went viral this week. “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.” It’s easy to express bafflement at what Pinkydoll and other NPC streamers do, but such mockery diminishes the fact that their labor is legitimate and requires a great deal of effort, even if the appeal of their content is not necessarily apparent at first blush.

Which begs another, perhaps more valid question: What is the appeal of the NPC streamer? Some have speculated that it’s primarily sexual, with male viewers eager to control the actions of a submissive female, which, considering some popular streamers also do some form of sex work on the side, probably has some truth to it. In her Motherboard piece, writer Samantha Cole suggests that the genre “taps into already-existing anxieties about AI coming for our humanity,” though that would only serve to explain viewers’ aversion to it and not the fact that people like Pinkydoll have 462,000 followers (including her top viewer, Timbaland).

Personally, I believe that the appeal of the NPC streamer has some intersection with the popularity of yet another internet trope: the bimbo. In the midst of the endlessly mounting stressors of daily life, from increasing student debt to the overhauling of reproductive rights to the fact that nearly half the country has developed a severe case of brainworms, watching someone turn off any semblance of a thought and embody a perfectly smooth-brained, blinking specter is almost relaxing.  

“It’s not about being ignorant. You’re letting go of your consciousness in order to achieve this higher level of enlightenment,” one bimbo creator previously told me. “You’re aware of all the shit that’s going on around you, but you’re letting go of it because you want to live the life of being pretty and walking around.”

Isn’t that what we all want, at the end of the day? To concern ourselves with nothing more than being pretty and walking around, while people send us money for merely acknowledging their existence? Sounds pretty good to me. Like ice cream. Ice cream so good. Gang gang. Gang gang. Yes yes yes.