The Tamagotchi Fever
An Entertaining Chore
Anyone who says that a relationship with a digital pet is not challenging probably hasn’t tried caring for a Tamagotchi yet. If you experienced Tamagotchi fever in the 90’s you will surely know that these tiny robot pets where both entertaining and a chore to keep. Of course we loved that they were cute, but perhaps, most of us were also annoyed with their incessant need for care. Either way, Tamagotchis helped introduce kids to the concept of responsibility and grief (if you remember, these Tamagotchis die at some point), which are are pretty difficult to learn except through experience.
The goal of the Tamagotchi was to appeal not only to kids, but also to teens. Tamagotchi got its name from a combination of two Japanese words: Tamago, which means egg and Tomodachi, which means friend. So Tamagotchis are exactly what they are called — friends that come from eggs. The toy was extremely successful, selling about 80 million units all over the world, but Tamagotchi actually has humble roots.
The toy was a brainchild of Aki Maita, who first got the inspiration when she was 30 years old. Maita worked at the Bandai toy company and while watching TV, she had the idea of creating a pet that kids could take care of without the burden of actually having to spending money for the pet’s needs or cleaning up their mess.
Maita worked together with toy designer Akihiro Yokoi and they even provided a backstory for the digital pets. According to the origin story, the casings of the Tamagotchis were meant to protect them from external elements. After some field research, the iconic toy was finally released in November 1996 and the Tamagotchi empire started. It was such a successful toy that several more items related to it were being sold at that time, including books, a Nintendo video game and clothes.
The Tamagotchi life cycle starts with an egg appearing on the screen. Wait a couple of minutes and the egg hatches, revealing a baby pet. Three buttons are used in taking care of your new pet and that have the function of feeding, disciplining, cleaning up, and switching the light on or off. If you forget to feet your pet, it would starve and fail to grow. If you don’t clean up after your Tamagotchi, its poo will make it sick and then you will have to give it medicine.
In order to keep your Tamagotchi happy, you must feed it with just the right amount of feed and discipline it when it’s being naughty. There are also mini games that you can play. If you give your pet the proper care, it levels up and grows. This growth will determine whether your pet is female or male and from here on, the Tamagotchi constantly evolves and changes its forms along the way.
These digital pets really need quite a bit of attention because if you fail to care for them, they will become ill and eventually die. In the Japanese version of the game, the passing of a Tamagotchi is symbolized by a gravestone, but in the US version, the pet gets wings and flies off.
Owning and caring for a Tamagotchi was an emotional experience from start to finish. Waiting for the egg to hatch only took a couple minutes but I remember that when I played this toy as a kid, the whole waiting ordeal seemed to last forever. The anticipation was just too much and I couldn’t wait to see how my pet would look like and what its trait would be.
It’s also scary to leave the Tamagotchi unattended even just for a little while because who knows if it would still be alive by the time you check on it again? These pets are voracious and they would starve if 30 minutes pass without them eating. And if they do starve or get sick and die, oh boy, that’s just tragic. Of course you can always hatch a new egg (and eventually you get over the grief), but that doesn’t mean losing a pet you’ve already been attached to wouldn’t be sad.
The term Tamagotchi effect was later on used to refer to this sort of attachment that people develop for software programs. The success of the Tamagotchi was pivotal, as it started the trend of making a product that consumers can care for on an emotional level.
There are a lot of things about this toy that gave rise to the Tamagotchi fever. First, it was literally attached to the owner as the unit came with a keychain, which is a smart move since a Tamagotchi needs constant attention.
Another thing is that it was child’s dream come true — it was a toy that came to life. But I’m thinking that what made people so hooked to it is the fact that these Tamagotchis were fragile and depended on us. And as kids who had no big responsibilities yet, it felt amazing to have something to care for.
Tamagotchi Gift Ideas
There is a lot of memorabilia out there, especially on Amazon, Etsy and Ebay. Amazon is usually cheaper with more selection and so I’ve chosen them. And if you’re not super satisfied with what you’ve bought, their returns policy is really good.
With so much to choose from, where do you start? My focus has been on cool, fun and quirky items, all garnering decent ratings from well-priced sellers.
Please note that I am an Amazon Affiliate and receive a small compensation if you use my links, but it will not increase your purchase price. If you use my links, I truly appreciate it 😉