Nurturing a Tamagotchi for a week was so much better than Pokémon Go
He didn’t die
Remember Tamagotchis? Those noisy pixelated computerised bits of plastic that you waited in a queue for 10 minutes in Argos to find out they were out of stock? Remember when they were all the rage in year six but were inevitably banned after a kid who was probably called Jack lobbed one at your school’s equivalent of Millhouse and broke his glasses? Remember when you had to give it to your mum to look after while you were at school but it ended up dead because she left it in the bread aisle of Tesco ‘accidentally’?
In a couple of months, it’ll be the twenty year anniversary of the first Tamagotchi release and, amidst the hype of Pokemon Go, I thought I’d try and keep one alive for a week.
I remembered Tamagotchis to be groundbreaking. But, looking at it now, it’s hella dated. The entire screen is made up of around four pixels and it’s not backlit. I can’t quite figure out if I’m finding it difficult to see what’s happening on account of my dependence on HD screens or if it’s because my eyesight has gone to shit in the last 10 years.
After digging out my parent’s bifocals, I can see that the Tamagotchi has hatched as a boy. Like all 17th century monarchs and 21st-century dickheads, I’m overjoyed to have a male heir to my fortune. By fortune, I, of course, am referring to my very limited belongings that possess any monetary value: a monthly bus pass of which I have 9 days left on, some spiderman transfer tattoos and the 37p that’s left in my bank account.
It asks me to enter a name and; because I’ve ditched the bifocals by this point, I incorrectly read the question and think it’s asking me for my name, so I enter ‘Lizzy’. It never asks me for the name of my newly hatched heir, so I deduce that I must have accidentally called him Lizzy which is a shame because I really wanted to call him Bernard.
I decide that, as he’s my sole heir, it’s okay that he’s called Lizzy Jr. After all, no son of mine will adhere to gender norms, his friends can still call him Bernard and who doesn’t love a Jr? Just look at the legacy that he’s following; he could help further the civil rights movement like Martin Luther King Jr, or help relations with the Middle East like George Bush Jr. Either way, I can tell that big things are on the horizon for my little protegé.
It’s been a long day for Lizzy Jr / Bernard so I feed him some bread and milk (the only options available) and he goes to bed at 7pm which I’m overly grateful for because the beeping is already annoying me and it’s only been 3 1/2 hours.
Lizzy Jr/ Bernard wakes up at 10 which, on my day off, is considerably earlier than me. It’s like an alarm clock that refuses to snooze. I try feeding him loads of bread and milk but it doesn’t seem to be filling him up like it did yesterday. I assume that he’s either dairy or gluten intolerant and set about trying to earn money to buy him the kind of shit you’d see on a Deliciously Ella Instagram post.
For anyone that can remember 2006, Tamagotchis have three games available for you to make money. None of the games provide any instructions but muscle memory from my 8-year-old self can still remember the rules to drop catch and so I’m able to earn enough money to buy some pizza and soup- the cornerstones of any healthy diet and Lizzy Jr/ Bernard is back to being his happy self.
I go out shopping and leave Lizzy Jr/ Bernard at home. It takes me a good hour to realise he’s not with me. And, like thousands of parents before me, I realise in the heart of Primark while looking at My Little Pony pyjamas that I haven’t heard the familiar nagging of my new responsibility for a while.
I get surprisingly stressed about it and start to think it would be easier to have lost an actual child because at least an actual child would respond to tannoy calls for them to return. Lizzy Jr/ Bernard can’t answer to tannoy calls for two reasons: 1) he’s about 10 miles away 2) he’s made out of pixels. I drown my sorrows by buying the My Little Pony Pyjamas and spend the next few hours hoping he isn’t dead.
I return home and he’s somehow survived. He has a little thought bubble that has a skull and crossbones on it which I’m guessing isn’t a great indictment of his health but luckily for me, social services aren’t too fussed about Tamagotchi babies and there’s a handy little hospital icon in the corner for this kind of situation.
I play three consecutive games of drop catch, take him to the park for an outing and buy him enough cheeseburgers to give Gillian McKeith a breakdown. He seems happy enough and he goes to bed.
Lizzy Jr/ Bernard grows up into his teenage version which is admittedly a lot less cute but incredibly impressive given my lax approach to parenting.
Unfortunately, today is not the day for my parenting skills to improve because I have to work from 10am till 7pm and didn’t want to have to ask my mum to babysit because, firstly, it would face almost certain death. And, secondly, if I was to tell her that I was nurturing a Tamagotchi as a nearly 20-year-old – albeit barely functional – adult, she would work out that any money spent on my education up until this point was a colossal waste. Which is the truth but ignorance is bliss.
I make do in my job as a librarian which is difficult given that Tamagotchis are quite loud and libraries are hardly known for partying like it’s 1999.
Every time it beeps, I pretend to look confused and blame it on the fax machine, relying on the fact that nobody in 2016 knows how to work a fax machine.
Another day at work, another day looking confused while plugging and unplugging the fax machine.
Lizzy Jr / Bernard does, however, evolve into an adult and I reach a new high score of 96 on drop catch so it’s probably all worth it.
Today I decide to make an actual effort towards Lizzy Jr/Bernard and so start the day off by trying out a different game. I try Mime and it makes no sense whatsoever. A Tamagotchi dances on screen for no reason whatsoever. I give it four attempts of pressing random buttons but every time it’s met with ‘YOU LOSE’ in caps and Lizzy Jr/ Bernard starts crying.
I decide to return to my previous, questionable approach to parenting, feed him some bread and get on with my day.
It’s our last day together so we spend quality time sat on the sofa watching cartoons which, for some reason seems to reduce the amount of noise he’s making. Maybe it’s a coincidence, maybe it’s because he’s given up on me or maybe, just maybe it’s because I’ve finally learnt the key to parenting- sit them in front of the TV and let The Simpsons do the nurturing- Lisa turned out alright, didn’t she?
It would be easy to focus on the negatives of our week together. He woke me up, he drove me mad with that ‘mime’ game and he probably broke the fax machine at work but I think it’s more important to focus on the positives. He rekindled a sense of nostalgia, he reminded me that it’s possible for electronics to survive longer than five minutes without needing a charger and most importantly; he didn’t die.