New York Times
Tamagotchi Diary Day 6
May 8, 1997


Tamagotchi Diary: Day 6
Secrets & Myth-Making

SAN FRANCISCO -- He did it again. It happened just moments ago, at 4:10 p.m., while I was on the phone with my friend Walter. Tommy changed. Grew. Metamorphosed to the next stage of his development. And, I am pleased to announce, it is for the good.

In fact, he's the best he can be, according to Bandai's Official Tamagotchi Growth Chart. My Tommy has reached Mame-chi status, the very top of the Tamagotchi scale, with a "Good health, a long life & no complaints" his predicted destiny. This, after a mostly mild yesterday.

Day 6
Weigh In:
9:00 a.m.
6 years
2 lbs. 1 oz.

My new and improved, more mature Mame-chi (depicted there on the right, in the weigh-in scale -- though not nearly as cute as that little blue guy) features plumper arms and legs, and a dark set of auditory apparatus that look remarkably similar to Mickey Mouse's patented set of ears. Instead of just floating, Tommy now spends most of his time doing this sort of Sammy Davis Jr. shuffle.

When playing his little game he now jogs his head back and forth, instead of merely making goofy gestures with his eyes. When he wins, his joy is definitely cuter; when he loses, his disappointment a little less cry-babyish. Maybe this better temperament has something to do with Tommy's high discipline scale, which has reached its full limit. From the manual: "The higher the discipline scale, the less trouble and better behaved Tamagotchi will be."

Virtual Group Therapy

Yesterday afternoon, my friend Mark and his visiting aunt, Phyllis, dropped by. She'd purchased her Tamagotchi (T. Doe for now, as she hadn't decided on a name yet) at her local Bon Marche department store in Oregon. She'd hatched the baby yesterday morning and was wondering what I thought of its development so far. Just one year old and the little sucker was tipping the virtual scale at 3 pounds, 1ounce. (Mind you, my Tommy, age 6 and as I mentioned evolving nicely, weighs a lithe 3 pounds.)

Not exactly what I'd call a good start for T. Doe. However I'd read on the Tamagotchi Fever site that an intense succession of game rounds can help reduce a Tamagotchi's weight. So I suggested to Phyllis that she get her thumb going and slim that poor bloated baby down.

Meanwhile, Tomas called to check in (all three of our Tamagotchi's beeping away). First, I am happy to report that he was not mad at me after all. It turns out his "angry" e-mail message from the other day was only a joke. He had much news to share. His Joey (a healthy 3 pounds, 2 ounces) had made its first sizeable transformation. He described how it looked: "Sort of like a little duck, with a bill. It's really cute."

My heart sank. Having already ushered Tommy through this stage (and you already know he advanced beautifully), Joey's development was not exactly the best a new Tamagotchi could hope for. I almost didn't have the heart to tell Tomas. But of course I did.

Referring to the Chart, I read him the description of what I recognized as his kutchitama-chi-level offspring: "If your maru-chi becomes kutchitama-chi, chances are that it has been unhappy. It most likely will grow into a misbehaved little critter. The kutchitama-chi stage lasts about 2 or 3 days."

Tomas took it like a man, vowing to work even harder at tending to Joey's needs, to try to develop things in an upward, more positive light. I realized how lucky I'd been.

Then my editor sent me a message about his own Tamagotchi misgivings, based on his daughter's experience with the virtual pet. "Emma immediately fell in love with it, cared for it diligently all weekend, then panicked when she realized that she couldn't take it to school (schools hereabouts confiscate anything that beeps)," he wrote. This obviously presents a real problem for younger, would-be Tamagotchi parents, he asserted -- by the sound of it, relegating the Tamagotchis to adults-only status during the school year.

But I had a not-so-secret secret: mute the little sucker. That's right. It's right there in the manual. By pressing buttons one and three together, you can mute your Tamagotchi. No more peeping. Of course you would have to check on it more often to make sure all was well in its little world. But at least it wouldn't mean Emma would have to disown her little friend.

This discovery led me on a brief search for other Tamagotchi "secrets" -- documented or otherwise. In the process, I unveiled a few myths along the way. The one I've spent the most time trying to confirm or refute has to do with the Tamagotchi guessing game. As previously mentioned, it's very simple: Guess which way your Tamagotchi is going to turn its head, left or right, by pressing the appropriate button.

Well, the Tamagotchi newsgroups and Web sites are abuzz with a rumor. That if you time it just right -- when, some say, your baby's eyes drift out; others say as they are crossing in -- and press the left button, your Tamagotchi will turn left the next four times he turns his head, completing the round with five correct guesses. Which makes your pet very happy. I tried this theory, and sure enough it worked. And worked again. But then it didn't. And didn't again. Then did. Then didn't. So I can't say for sure.

Others curious findings:

A Restful Night

After Drew and Phyllis and Mark and I returned from our Cinco de Mayo dinner, we watched the movie "Flirting With Disaster." In the film, the youthful Ben Stiller and Patricia Arquette are the proud parents of a four-month baby boy.

Day 6
Weigh Out:
6:35 p.m.
6 years
3 lbs. 0 oz.

The film brought me back to thinking about the way we're raised. Earlier in the day, Tomas suggested that we perhaps swap our Tamagotchis for a night, see how they develop in the care of another. My first reaction was: neat! Then I thought, no, I've worked too hard raising mine to risk a screw up (nothing personal, Tomas). At the same time, I would be lying if I didn't admit that having Tomas's Joey over for a night would be sickly fun; I fantasized bit-by-bit torture, to see for myself how a virtual pet would behave in the most extreme circumstances.

Yet, even with all this sibling rivalry, all these developmental ups and downs, I found myself less upset than yesterday about memories of the real Tommy, my late brother. Maybe talking out yesterday's strange dreams had actually helped, had in fact acted as some sort of vehicle toward some new place, understanding. I can't say for sure. And although it took me longer than usual to fall asleep last night, I nevertheless slept soundly, longer and more deeply than usual, to awaken feeling somehow less anxious about Tommy.

I hope this new development continues.

Tomorrow: Day 7: The Week in Review

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