The late ’90s were an important era for a lot of reasons: boy bands were at the height of their fame (don’t you even try to argue One Direction is better than N*SYNC), the Spice Girls were still around, and Britney was inspiring all sixth graders to want a belly button rings as soon as they turned 16. Christina Aguilera hadn’t become obese yet, and Leo DiCaprio was the absolute hottest guy in the entire world (still true). Lindsay Lohan still hadn’t had her first drink, because she was still busy crushing up and snorting her prescribed Adderall on the set of Disney movies. Not only was pop culture at a high point, but technology was on the brink of becoming amazing. Sure, people were still using AOL, but technology infiltrated the toy market in one huge way: Tamagotchis.
The basic concept of the Tamagotchi was the same as that of any doll given to a young girl in an attempt to teach her basic maternal instincts. It was just pocket-sized and more interactive than an American Girl doll. You couldn’t dress it up, but you could feed it and play with it, and if it died, you could just restart it.
Anyone who was anyone had a Tamagotchi back in the day. They were a hot commodity on the elementary school playground, but we often played with them in secret, because educators found them “distracting” in the classroom. Sorry I couldn’t be interested in learning long division; I had to feed my Tamagotchi or it would die for the twelfth time that week.
Looking back on it, they were probably the most bizarre toy craze of the decade. I’ll even go so far as to say they were more bizarre than the Furby, which is downright disturbing to me, today. They were a weird little beeper with a miniscule screen that would beep at you when some creepy, pixelated digital pet got hungry. They came in semi-fugly colors, but for some reason, people were obsessed with them.
I never got too into mine, mainly because I’ve always had a maternal instinct a notch above Casey Anthony’s, even back in elementary school. Mine died approximately four times a week, on average. There were some girls who were INSANE about their digital pets, though. I remember one girl who had an entire collection of them. She used to feed them in the lunch room while the rest of us were busy swapping granola bars for Oreos. I’m sure this girl has grown up to become a cat lady, because clearly she gets off on being needed.
Apparently, the Tamagotchi attempted to make a comeback a few years ago, but I don’t think anything will ever top the strange original. The toy also marked the beginning of the Japanese infiltration to American pop culture. Since then, Hello Kitty has become a staple in weird hipster circles, and I think Gwen Stefani became so obsessed with her own Tamagotchi collection she decided to start her whole Harajuku thing.
- Image via xda-developers.com