Digipet 101

Does the term ‘Tamagotchi’ ring a bell? If you were a kid in the 90s you might have owned one. Tamagotchis are virtual pets that you have to care for by feeding them, bathing them and playing with them just as you would do with a real pet. The big difference with a real pet, however, is that there are no real repercussions when you let them die. I myself was born in the 90s and grew up in the 00s so Tamagotchis were no longer the cool thing to have. Instead, I ended up taking care of my Nintendogs. For those unfamiliar with Nintendogs; it is a series of games made by Nintendo in which you take care of a dog, or several dogs. Another kind of virtual pet that was popular with my peers in elementary school was the Neopet. Neopets.com is a website on which you can adopt fictional animals to keep as pets and play games with them.

I believe one of the main reasons for these pets to become popular is the normalized use of electronics in everyday life. In the 90s and 00s smartphones weren’t a thing yet but Walkmans and Gameboys were already hugely popular and kids would take them with them to school. It is thus no surprise that companies decided to enter the business of small electronical toys to please the new generation of kids.

Virtual pets seemed to have been a huge trend at some point but they’re no longer popular, which brings me to the question: Where did Tamagotchis come from and where did they go? Tamagotchis, specifically, come from Japan and the most well-known ones were made by a company called Bandai. The name ‘Tamagotchi’ is a mix-up of the two words ‘tamago’, which is Japanese for egg, and the word ‘watch’. If you look at the Tamagotchi itself you will notice that it’s egg-shaped. Unfortunately, similar to what happens with most fads, the kids lost interest in Tamagotchis and moved on to something else. Eventually Tamagotchis stopped selling well so companies stopped producing them and they turned their focus to different products.

Not too long ago I decided to revive my Tamagotchi from the dead, AKA, I put new batteries in it, and I was greeted with the face of the creature I abandoned years ago. (Yes, I know I just said I didn’t have a Tamagotchi growing up, but I did buy one several years ago because there was a sale on them and I wanted to try it out.) The reason I revived my Tamagotchi was simply because I read some news about Bandai rereleasing its first and second generation Tamagotchis. So even though the virtual pets are no longer popular, by tapping into people’s nostalgic feelings about the Tamagotchis they used to own, Bandai still manages to sell this product. In this case, however, they sell them based on nostalgia and not on relevance.

My question to you is: Did you have a virtual pet? If so, what kind of pet was it and why did you like it? It would be interesting to see the difference between generations and their trends.