Tamagotchi: How a Virtual Pet Captivated the Hearts of 90s Kids

Discover the history of the trendy toy of the 90s

Tamagotchi: How a Virtual Pet Captivated the Hearts of 90s Kids
Juan Carlos Saloz

Juan Carlos Saloz

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The nineties marked an unprecedented technological revolution that gave way to the Internet. A leap from analog to digital marked by toys and gadgets that brought us closer to what would later arrive in the form of smartphones.

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From this era we got dozens of hardware revolutions that led us to what we love today. From the Furby to the Game Boy, everything imploded in this decade. But there is another device that marked even what would come later in the form of pets and creatures: the Tamagotchi.

Chaton Laser | Virtual pet, Tamagotchi p's, Vintage toys

Our first pet… that could die

For many of us, the Tamagotchi was our first pet. Some of us had a dog or cat at home, but we didn’t realize what it meant to have a pet until those tiny digital monsters appeared in our homes.

Owners of a Game Boy when the console was in almost every home, and in full hangover of consoles like Super Nintendo and Mega Drive, we were still able to imagine a living being in a few pixels. For us, those monsters were not just toys, they were our first contact with responsibility.

Tamagotchi Classic DOWNLOAD

The Tamagotchi was designed by Japanese engineer Aki Maita, a rara avis in her field who proved that times were changing. The design of the device was simple; it had three buttons to move through the menu and several actions that you had to condense wisely to keep the Tamagotchi careful.

La japonesa que ideó el Tamagotchi, que sigue arrasando en Navidad, y  siguió trabajando para Bandai | Celebrities

Feeding him, taking him to the bathroom, playing, watching TV, studying… there were many activities you had to balance to keep him happy, but the one that ended up being most necessary was to cure him, since he fell ill with astonishing ease.

Of course, if he died, there was always the miracle option: to bring him back to life. To do this, you just needed to ask your parents for a toothpick -who looked at you funny, as it didn’t seem a very good idea to give a sharp object to a child of about five years old- and stick it into a tiny button hidden on the back of the object. If you were lucky, the Tamagotchi would be resurrected and you could start a new game. Otherwise, the stick might break and you would cause it to disappear for posterity. A first approach to death that was traumatic for any kid.

Los años 90: Historia, datos y curiosidades del Tamagotchi - Vandal Random

The precursor to Digimon and Pokémon?

The Tamagotchi first appeared in 1996, inspired by the portable consoles that were beginning to appear on the market. Its peak came between 1999 and 2001, when it began to be marketed illegally in America.

Bandai had banned their extradition until a satisfactory commercial agreement was reached, but the fever for tamagotchis had reached such a point that millions of copies were sent to the new continent through smuggling. This caused the company to lose a lot of money, but it launched the virtual pet to its maximum popularity and allowed the creation of new versions -among which the one that gave birth to Digimon stood out- that turned the Tamagotchi into an object of popular culture at the level of the yo-yo or the Rubik’s cube.

Bandai Tamagotchi Digimon Original Digital Monster Brown Negro - Etsy España

The Tamagotchi was born at a very significant time. The same year the toy was released, Pokémon was also born. The video game released in Japan created a huge spectrum of adorable monsters that could be collected and traded. Although your goal as a trainer was to turn them into war machines through combat, the game made it very clear that you had to have a good relationship with your pokémon, take care of them and treat them well.

My Tamagotchi Forever DOWNLOAD

The premise of Tamagotchi was not far from that. Basically, your duty was to care for a creature until its maturity or possible death. Both cultural products instilled respect for animals in a direct way, although some of their messages were somewhat contradictory.

In addition, both the Tamagotchi and Pokémon brought “pocket” monsters into our cultural imagination. With martial arts fighters throwing kamehamehas behind us, our new goal was to become trainers – or caretakers – of monsters.

Los años 90: Historia, datos y curiosidades del Tamagotchi - Vandal Random

A mascot to conquer them all

Throughout the 2000s, with the Tamagotchi effect having subsided or practically disappeared, Bandai has periodically tried to relaunch the phenomenon. In Japan, each year they receive a new version that continues to appeal to both Japanese children and nostalgic fans. But in the rest of the world they have only tried to market a few updates, such as Tamagotchi Connection, which have not had much relevance.

In 2019, a new Tamagotchi arrived in Japan, where the effect still lingers, with a unique particularity: our pet would be a pokémon. After the release of Pokémon Let’s Go, Eeve! and Let’s Go, Pikachu!, the mythical franchise has realized that 90s nostalgia works perfectly. Therefore, it has teamed up with another of the most important symbols of the generation to create a unique product in the service of melancholy.

this is my first new Tama since Connection! the color in the newer Tamas is  amazing. : r/tamagotchi

Since then, new variants of the original Tamagotchi have emerged that almost serve more as collector’s items than as mass-market devices. Moreover, its power was such that it created the so-called Tamagotchi Effect, whereby we create a real bond with digital pets or robots – did someone say M3GAN?

Even so, the Tamagotchi has not returned to relevance since more sophisticated machines have taken away its success. The abandonment of the Tamagotchi recaptures the Toy Story storyline. As much as toys have a place in children’s rooms for years, they all end up being abandoned in a box.

Some of the links added in the article are part of affiliate campaigns and may represent benefits for Softonic.

Juan Carlos Saloz

Juan Carlos Saloz

Cultural journalist specialized in film, series, comics, video games, and everything your parents tried to keep you away from during your childhood. Also an aspiring film director, screenwriter, and professional troublemaker.

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