Hmm, that’s fascinating… I wonder how much money you make from Instagram though…
Regarding the NPC discussion, on the topic of playing as normal inhabitants in a RPG village , this was also more or less the premise behind the World Neverland series, which still exists today, although the series has departed further and further from its original “play as a nobody from the central RPG town” concept.
Koei’s Taikō Risshiden series has a bit of a similar vibe, although the goal (and its use and parody of the tropes surrounding NPC villagers) is less explicit than in World Neverland. It’s a life simulation within the end of the Sengoku era, but you can play various different roles/careers, from a small merchant to a pirate to a ninja hired by the local lord etc. The typical NPCs one would meet, use and dismiss as a feudal lord when playing Nobunaga no Yabō. The series has a small but fervent fanbase and the fifth (and so far last) episode, originally released on PC and PS2 then ported to PSP, is being remastered and released for Steam and Switch this month.
My own answer to the question would have been Shenmue chapter 1: Yokosuka. Famously, it promoted the feature of “intelligent” NPC having their own life and schedule along the day, which meant you could in theory follow them through their routine and see how they interacted with the rest of the town. The demo “let’s follow Haru-san the old tobacco stand owner!” left a big impression on me at the time.
Rather than continuing through Ryō’s quest in Hong Kong, I would have loved if Shenmue perpetually continued in Yokosuka, in a time loop but with the player switching to a different perspective in the neighborhood, and a different end goal each time. The first game’s entire world was about three streets-wide, and with a hard four months limits (you get a game over if Ryō takes too long to hop on the boat) so it would not have been too difficult to track everyone’s possible interactions, unlike a modern Open World.
One time you’d play a down on his luck sailor who hopes to get a (time-traveling) copy of Sega Ages Space Harrier on the Sega Saturn at the local Tomato Mart’s lottery, but shenanigans prevent you from participating each time. One time you’d play as the old crone trying to get the juicy scoop on which bored wife is cheating in the neighborhood. One time you’d play as vaguely racist stereotype Tom the capoeira master hot dog salesman, and find out he actually teaches his moves to the entire town anytime someone buys a hot dog. One time you’d play as the owner of You Arcade and need to make sure you get enough money to pay the local protection fee from shady yakuza. Will you negotiate with the asshole salesman from Sega who is trying to convince you to buy that super expensive Out Run game coming out soon? Or will you settle down for Gain Ground on an Aero City, at the risk of not getting enough dough at the end of the month?
Also there is a universal “be an asshole to Ryō” button to get rid of him when he inevitably comes and pester you.