A few weeks ago, my troll boyfriend found a Tamagotchi in a GameStop, and he decided on the spur of the moment to get it for me.
I was a kid when the Tamagotchi craze hit, and I was always envious of my friends and cousins who got to hand-rear their little digital babies. (My parents wouldn’t let me have one.) Part of me always wondered what I missed in my childhood. And now I know. Oh, I know.
I missed nothing.
A Tamagotchi is a beep encased in a plastic shell. It exists to haunt you with ghostly notifications that signify nothing. Press button, my Tamagotchi screams at me from morning to night. Press button or I will die. The Tamagotchi, I have realized, is everything that is wrong with our smartphone era.
Is this what went wrong with millennials? I wonder, as I push a button to clean up my Tamagotchi’s poop for the third time in a day. Did the Tamagotchi prime us to become slaves to meaningless beeping?
My horrible boyfriend did not gift me with the full-sized Tamagotchi, but the Tamagotchi Mini instead. It’s a cute pink bauble not much larger than a gumball, with only three buttons to manage. This means that if you grope around for your beeping child in the dark and start pressing buttons at random, you have a decent shot at addressing its immediate concerns without turning on a light.
Still, the Tamagotchi Mini offers the exciting prospect of watching a garbage LCD screen shift pixels around in the semblance of a near-indistinguishable form with eyes and a mouth. And, if you keep it alive long enough, it’ll turn into an entirely different near-indistinguishable form with eyes and a mouth.
My small adult son beeps at me in the morning when he wakes, beeps at me every couple of hours when he wants to be fed, and, most inexplicably, he beeps at me when he’s going to sleep. There’s nothing worse than trying to settle into bed and hearing the beep beep beep of my horrible boy, only to see him snug in his bed with little Zs dribbling out of his mouth.
“I’m so glad to see you getting the full experience,” said my boyfriend, who clearly does not love me. “The natural life cycle of a Tamagotchi is to be cared for for about a week before ending up under a pile of dirty clothes in the closet, still beeping away.”
“Why would you do this to me?” I asked the architect of my troubles, but he only laughed gleefully.
The Tamagotchi offers the option to turn off the sound. But if I turn it off, I’ll miss the notifications and accidentally kill my hateful son. At this point, I’ve kept him alive for so long, I’d feel too guilty to pull the plug on my virtual spawn.
And anyway, what’s one more beeping annoyance in my life? The Tamagotchi is just another red dot for me to clear off yet another screen. At least this one doesn’t monetize my engagement through targeted advertising.
My smartphone, I’ve realized, is also a Tamagotchi. My laptop is a Tamagotchi. My tablet is a Tamagotchi. These new Tamagotchis have nicer screens and more than three buttons, but more importantly, they’re hooked into much more elaborate guilt trips. Now it‘s not just a virtual pet at stake; it’s my friends, my family, and my work being held hostage in order to keep me pressing these stupid buttons.
My favorite new development in our terrible Tamagotchi future? The “digital well-being” trend to “fix” smartphone “addiction.” More Tamagotchi buttons, so my Tamagotchis can stay alive longer.
I can’t help but roll my eyes at this. No one who peddles Tamagotchis actually wants you to get rid of your Tamagotchi. In fact, they’re going to be out there selling you on adding more Tamagotchis to your life. Here, put this $400 Tamagotchi on your wrist so it can frown at you for not taking enough steps in a day. Beep beep beep.
We should have never opted into our Tamagotchi future. I hate my misbegotten children, and I wish them all to hell.