New York Times
Tamagotchi Diary Day 3
May 5, 1997


Tamagotchi Diary: Day 3
Tapping Online Support Groups

Weigh In:
9:00 a.m.
3 years
2 lbs. 1 oz.

Twenty-four hours later, and Tommy awakened at 9:00 AM on the dot. I fed him, played with him, and an hour later, cleaned up his dot-matrix droppings. I am becoming more comfortable with him, checking on him without really thinking about it anymore. Having browsed a number of Web sites dedicated to Tamagotchi's, I found out that my guess about Tommy's sleeping pattern was correct: That the little critters are programmed to sleep between the hours of 8 PM and 9 AM. Surely real parents of real children are grateful for this small consolation. So that's one less worry.

To my surprise, and frank disappointment, Tommy still looks the same as he did yesterday: A round, (dare I say?) chubby-faced blob with eyes and a two-bit horizontal line for a mouth that doubles in size to form what I can only believe is a smile. So he smiles and bounces around the screen, demanding little of me lately. Perhaps that is because I am constantly checking his status to see if he's hungry or bored.

When his heart meters drop even one full heart, I feed him or play with him. Will he change today into something more interesting, more beautiful by Tamagotchi standards? The more complicated artificial life-form depictions I've seen of other Tamagotchis, both on various Web sites and in Bandai literature, incite envy in me. I want my Tommy to grow up into more than a little blob. Patience, I suppose. At least he seems happy.

A Pretty Good Day

Today was little or no trouble. One or two small reprimands for whining when, really, he was happy and full. He just wanted extra attention. Unfortunately I was at the gym in the middle of a bench press when he started complaining. I nearly dropped the barbell. Sitting up I reached into my pocket (I normally wear workout shorts without pockets, but this time I needed a cover, so to speak), careful to cup the attention-grabbing egg in my palm.

I thumbed the buttons rapidly, one hand on my chest, so that anyone watching me would think I was checking my heart rate with one of those fit-conscious devices the users generally wears on their wrists. Nothing was wrong, so I returned Tommy to my pocket and went back to my workout. I couldn't help but wonder: Was I spoiling him? The Bandai leaflet says that the further to the right the discipline meter goes, the better adjusted and developed is your Tamagotchi. So by all accounts, my Tommy was growing up just fine, albeit a little too well-rounded for my taste. Then I thought: Maybe that's it; I'm feeding him too much, which is why he looks so blobby.

A visit to another Tamagotchi Web site explained that overfeeding could be dangerous to a Tamagotchi's health. That a lower weight is good -- although no one seems able to agree on the details. Very well. From now on, I'll keep him at three hearts-full on the hunger meter, instead of all four. Perhaps that will liven him up a little, get his evolutionary circuits cooking.

Newsgroups in the Making?

Unfortunately, I was unable to find any practical Tamagotchi parenting discussions in any newsgroups. Most Tamagotchi talk is about where to buy the virtual pets -- at market price or higher. Some users were advertising prices of $250 or more for the "hard to find" white or transparent blue models. Others shyly asked: "What is a Tamagotchi?" only to be asked if they'd been on Mars, for how could they not know about these new oddball invaders from Japan?

More than one Tamagotchi enthusiast suggested opening a newsgroup dedicated to the care and feeding of Tamagotchis. That's more like it. Just what I need. But I have to wonder: Will such a newsgroup appear in my Tommy's life span? He's only 3 days/years old, and already I'm beginning to wonder if he'll make it through the month of May. Do I even want him to live that long? I think I do, so long as he doesn't turn into some mutant that I'll have to nurture until he consumes himself or simply croaks from bad breeding. But then, even if he were to turn into a long-suffering mutant, I can't honestly say I would finish him off by pressing the Reset button in back.

Unfriendly Advice

Yet, that's exactly what I advised my friend Tomas, the recipient of the second Tamagotchi I purchased (remember: limit two per customer) to do when, last night at a party we attended together, he showed me his sad little baby. It was appalling: a gnarly blip with one eye and some sort of appendage, perhaps a single finger.

The screen was littered with digital doo-doos, which Tomas had no idea how to clean up. Worse, the deadly skull icon stared back at us from the upper right corner, indicating that Tomas's Tamagotchi was in dire straits. Two inoculations, but still it was sick. How had this happened? I asked.

Tomas had only just received the present in the mail hours before. Against his own better judgment he'd pulled free the little tab that sparks the milliwatt-level life flowing, then stuck it in his pocket while he got ready for the party. Tomas knew he should have waited until morning, when he would have been able to pay full attention to the delicate birthing stage. He was sad that he had already failed as a Tamagotchi parent, but at the same time was glad to know he would have another chance to try again, tomorrow.

Weigh Out:
3:00 p.m.
3 years
2 lbs. 2 oz.

My stomach flipped at the unlikely turn of events: Just 12 hours before I was eager for any advice on how to properly care for my own newest addition, yet here I was already handing out advice to another Tamagotchi parent. And the most deadly advice at that: Pull the plug!

A few of the partygoers had by now caught sight of the colorful orbs in our hands. What with all the news reports these past few days, they knew at once what we possessed. They reached out, asked to see them up close, hold them, play with them. Please, oh please!

"Sorry," I said. "Mine's asleep, and I can't wake him till morning." I slipped Tommy into my pocket and shrugged. "Look at Tomas's," I said. "It's almost dead."

Tomorrow: Day 4 -- Other People's Progeny

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