New York Times
Tamagotchi Diary Week 2
May 16, 1997


Tamagotchi Diary: Week 2
Life Goes On - and On

SAN FRANCISCO -- Like the Energizer Bunny, Tommy, my 14-year-old (which translates to two weeks, in human years) Tamagotchi, just keeps going and going.

This is distressing to me. While his first week of life was interesting, his life, as it drags on, has progressively dragged down my mood with it. It's not that I don't want him to live a full and healthy life. It's just that it seems to need lots of care and feeding throughout the day. And lately I have other things to think about.

Day 14
Weigh In:
6:00 a.m.
14 years
3 lbs. 0 oz.

Yes, just last week I stated that barely a half-hour went by that I didn't check to see if Tommy needed food or entertainment, or cleaning up after. And now hours pass without a single thought for Tommy's welfare. He beeps, and I drop whatever I'm doing to tend to his needs. If I am making dinner, for instance, I'll stir with one hand, while pressing his feeding or play-with-me buttons at the same time. If I am walking down the street when he beckons me, I stealthily cup him in my palm and take care of him that way, without drawing any attention to us.

I frankly want him to just complete his life span so that I can give him to the little girl I met on Monday. Tommy and I were down in San Jose, invited onto BayTV's New Media News. The anchor, Suzanne Shaw asked us about the Tamagotchi phenomenon, and about Tommy's personal habits. During our visit we met young Tammie, who was also in the studio. I promised to send her my Tamagotchi as soon as it expires.

A Tale of Two Friends
My friend Tomas's Tamagotchi, Joey, died this weekend. Tomas had taken ill - food poisoning - and in his feverish state he had not noticed that Joey had slipped between his mattress and wall, essentially snuffing out his beeping cries for attention. By morning, with his fever gone, Tomas found Joey. The little bit-mapped baby had turned into an angel, so that it could fly off to Tamagotchi-heaven, or wherever it is deceased Tamagotchi's go when the leave the real world. Tomas seems to have adjusted just fine when I visited with him yesterday. Life goes on.

Aunt Phyllis's Tamagotchi, Dough, has wound up surprising us all. This was the newborn that I was sure would die from overindulgence. But it turns out that Phyllis's mix of overfeeding and low-impact playing spawned a happy mutant: the coveted "Secret Character," whose slovenly lifestyle consists of "Getting up late, going to bed late & is selfish," according to Bandai's Official Tamagotchi Growth Chart. The character has a big nose and a cap, possibly a beret. He is plainly more interesting to look at than my Tommy, whose simple, appended shape strikes me as boring anymore.

All Creatures, Virtual and Otherwise
The Tamagotchi craze has hatched a whole new category of artificial life forms. The creatures competing for a slice of the virtual pet craze come in two implementations. There are the pocket-able, standalone designs like Bandai's Tamagotchi or Tiger Electronics's Giga Pets (and the newly announced Nano, by Playmates Toys - the first portable pet to feature a human "baby" that grows from infant to child, before it "runs away"). And there are the computer-based, like PF Magic's Petz, Mindscapes Creatures, or Fujitsu Interactive's Fin-Fin, a hybrid dolphin-birdie, in whose underlying artificial intelligence the company has reportedly sunk around $30 million. I keep meaning to delve deeper into all of the above, however Tommy has gobbled enough of my mind-share as it is.

On the truer side of life, my Aqua Babies - Alpha, Beta and Gold - are an absolute joy to own. The spend hours playing a delightful game of tag around the swaying plant (perhaps the bigger guppy is trying to eat the smaller guy?), and they seem to respond to my fingertip when I tap the side of their cube-shaped aquarium. I feed them a toothpick-tip-helping of fish food every other day, and their self-contained undersea environment takes care of the rest. No fuss, no muss. I admire their independence.

Day 15
Weigh Out:
9:12 a.m.
15 years
3 lbs. 0 oz.

Looking Ahead
Tommy just woke up at his usual time, 9 a.m. His age has rolled over to 15 years. He is hungry and bored. I must stop for a moment to tend to his small needs. Three minutes later, he is happy. He ate four helpings of food, and we played six rounds of his silly guessing game, four of which I "won." Once more he is completely happy. For now.

After I file this entry I will resume work on the rewrite of my upcoming novel, The Deal. The work is coming along slowly, but steadily. I already know what is going to happen: Sometime in the next few hours, when I am deep into this scene or that, Tommy will cry out for food or attention. I will resent him. But I will take care of him nevertheless. I have no choice. And after each tending-to, I ask myself for the hundredth time: How much longer will this go on?

Next Week: Is This the End?

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