When Bandai stopped by the Tom's Guide office the other week to drop off the new Tamagotchi, I was ecstatic. It's been two decades since I had my original digital pet, and I thought that playing with it again would be as mesmerizing as the first time, when I was 7 years old.
I was wrong. In fact, I was blinded by nostalgia. Now I'm wondering if Tamagotchi was ever fun. I certainly won't be waiting on line to get one when it launches on Nov. 5 for $14.99.
The new devices are tiny compared to the originals, but otherwise haven't changed very much. It's still egg-shaped, and has three buttons for navigation. Even the screen is the same, with a pixelized LCD display and no backlighting.
I was blinded by nostalgia. Now I'm wondering if Tamagotchi was ever fun.
Bandai's representatives said that while the box says it's for kids 8 and up, they're really targeting this at people like me, who had the original toy as a kid and are jonesing for a dose of their childhood. It even comes in some of the original launch colors and patterns, albeit those from Japan, not the United States.
But I grew up, and Tamagotchis haven't changed. It wasn't a toy; it was a responsibility, and I'm so glad that I've written this hands-on so I can be done with the thing.
I grew up, and Tamagotchis haven't changed.
It was funny on Day 1, when I set the time, hatched an egg and could show my colleagues the new toy. It beeped and chirped throughout Google's big hardware event, which we found amusing. It was less funny when it continued to chirp at my desk, demanding energy candies when it's in a bad mood (I gave it these candies because it's required, but giving in to the hissy fits sure felt like bad parenting), and food for its dozen or so meals a day or asking me to clean up its poop.
It officially went from not funny to annoying when it would chirp on the subway and everyone would look at me, or while my girlfriend and I would watch Netflix in another room and be interrupted by its cries. (She, by the way, had no interest in co-parenting my new pet, which I first took as a sign our relationship might need re-evaluation, but I now realize she figured out what a pain this thing was long before I did).
It was downright disgusting when it would go to the bathroom, and then fall asleep. The button to flush waste is the same one you press to shut the lights, so it slept next to a little poop symbol all night long. Nothing made me feel like a worse pet parent than letting it toss and turn next to its own excrement. The thing is, I couldn't figure this out, along with a few other functions, without checking the instruction manual. The three-button control scheme wasn't clear 20 years ago and it's not any better now.
On Day 3, right before it evolved into a creepy, snake-looking thing, I tried giving my Tamagotchi a name. I started calling it William, not because you can do that on the device, but to try to grow any connection to it -- to want to keep it alive. This did not help. In fact, I called it "that asshole" more than I did by its new name.
Soon after, I left it home when I went on some errands and spent a day at Comic Con. I just couldn't deal with this thing everywhere as an adult. I started spending just enough time with it to keep it alive.
I fondly remember the Tamagotchi I had growing up, in its purple shell with pink buttons, as having games. The new one does not. It eats, sleeps and poops. That's it. It's responsibility in a pocketable package, without the joys of having an actual pet or a kid.
When I had that original Tamagotchi, my school didn't allow us to bring them in, so I, like many others, left it with my mother in the hopes she would feed it and clean up after it (how much she actually did this, I'll never know, though I'll point out mine died a lot). But now I'm responsible, and it ends up that taking care of a digital pet sucks. It's a vacuum of time and energy that I could have spent on literally anything else. I sincerely wish Tamagotchi had stayed a memory. Nostalgia lives in the past for a reason.
Credit: Tom's Guide