Holy Crap! Remember… Tamagotchi?

Ah, nostalgia! Be it that old cartoon, a favorite toy or a comic book from days gone by, isn’t it great, when out of the blue, the memories come flooding back, and you’ve no choice but to exclaim “Holy Crap! Remember…?”

In 2011, we live in an era of instant gratification, bombarded by the most amazing technology man has ever seen. My Android phone is faster, more powerful and has a higher storage capacity than my first four home computers. That’s a fact. We have Netflix and Hulu giving us TV and movies on demand and even on our mobile devices. And then, of course, there’s free streaming internet pr0n. What a glorious age. Given all of that, it’s hard to believe that 15 years ago, one of the hottest toys on the planet was a keychain video game with three buttons.

There's a lot going on here for such a small bauble.

Tamagotchi is a virtual pet made by the fine people at Bandai. I say “is” because believe it or not, these things are still around, and not just in Japan. They’re more prominent there, but just three weeks ago, I saw a new release Tamagotchi on a shelf here in the US of A and my mind was blown. Aside from being bigger, it’s the same as I remember. Each egg-shaped device (about three inches tall) has a series of buttons (usually three) and a small LCD screen. Once the tab between the batteries is pulled, an egg appears on the screen and hatches. You name the little guy or gal and get to work raising it, using the buttons to play, exercise, wash and feed it as it grows and evolves (not entirely unlike a Pokemon, another big craze of the time). That’s pretty much it. There were (back in my day) a pretty wide range of animations for the little guys and given the limitations, the tech was pretty neat.

 

And every kid wanted one. It seemed like it didn’t matter who you were; you wanted one of these little beasts. The problem was that they required a LOT of attention. Some of them would die (yes, DIE) after a few hours away from them, so whereas now you’ve got kids sneaking texts in class, in 1997, kids were sneaking snacks to their virtual pets in between and during class. It was such a problem that one of the things I remember most about the Tamagotchis is my school’s strict zero tolerance policy on them. They were confiscated on sight, like a knife… It was a simpler time. My school wasn’t alone, either. Similar bannings made headlines in the mid-90’s across the nation. Eventually, some genius had the bright idea of adding a pause function, thus eliminating the actual “need” to devote every waking moment to the little devils.

Like with anything even marginally successful, there was a legion of Tamagotchi imitators, most notably the Nano. They took the idea and ran with it. There was the original Nano, Nano Babies and several other variations, but I had a (in addition to a Tamagotchi, naturally) a Nano fighter, and those were actually pretty cool. It was a little fighter dude, like a boxer, a wrestler or a biker-looking guy and you trained them lifting weights and stuff like that. They were square and had connector ports on either side and you could hook up to four of them together and the little guys would walk from one unit into another and they would fight, tracking win/loss stats and such. Of course, its coolest feature required you to know someone else who had one in order for it to work. Luckily my brother had one, so we fought those tiny indentured servants constantly (until the next big thing came along, anyway).

Thery’re still churning out Tamagotchis in Japan and there are accompanying Wii and DS games and an anime, but I’m not even going to pretend to know what they Hell any of that’s about. Along with the apparently still-kicking keychain pets, there are a slew of “Tama” virtual pets for iPhone and Droid now, though most of them lack the low-tech charm of their namesake, “TamaDroid” being the exception. So if you’re for some reason inclined to relive one of the weirdest fads this side of pogs, you can snatch up a free app or drop a couple of bucks on an actually good-looking one… I mean… If you want. I’m not suggesting you should… But the option is there.

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Who ARE these people!?

Lee Rodriguez is a co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Panels On Pages. He is also a freelance graphic and web designer, action figure customizer, swell guy, and an awesome dad.

I'm even on Google+... Kind of.

Comments (6)

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  1. T-Lex says:

    ….I still have my tamagotchi… It doesn’t work anymore.. but I have it.. XD

  2. John-Michael (Batman25JM) says:

    The 90s were a strange and glorious time. I miss them greatly. 🙂

  3. Novack Vương says:

    my too…i post it on my avatar…see!

  4. Anna MacGrath says:

    I still have mine and it works!

  5. Inka says:

    I still play with one. It’s an addiction…

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