Admittedly, I may not be the best source on this topic as I never had one. But, I was alive and fully in my youth in 1997 when they came out stateside and I decidedly remember the craze they produced.
Such a craze nowadays, I’d imagine, might be hard to fathom given how transitory everything seems to be. Outside of twitter movements and Game of Thrones, there doesn’t seem to be much we actually experience together any longer, let alone things we tangentially experience together (You know, like not on the internet where you’re reading this right now.)
Anyway, my lasting memory of the Tamagotchi craze was the reaction a neighborhood friend had when his dad came home with one for him.
We’d been playing basketball—he, and his sisters, were all really good players so they had that stenciled in three-point/free throw line set up on their driveway—and his dad pulled in. Immediately, the game stopped as my friend could sense what was afoot. His father hopped out of the family minivan and produced the Tamagotchi like a golden egg, high atop his head (some of this may be exaggerated) for all to see. His son let out an ear-piercing yelp (this part, actually true) and sprinted to his dad to thank him as if he’d just negotiated an armistice in a world war.
I continued to shoot around because both then and now, I never quite got these things. Best as I could tell, you essentially watched an egg turn into a pet of some kind that you tried to keep alive as long as you could. In my memory, it was essentially a revolving door of feeding them and cleaning up their shit which I suppose was a good preview for what lie ahead.
I’m not sure anyone’s pet lasted more than 3-5 days before you just tried it again. And again.
And you know what, no one cared. Like most things that sweep up a nation, it defied explanation.
Much like Pogs and Beanie Babies (more on these later), older generations looked on with confused bewilderment at what the youth were losing their collective fucking minds over.
This was a thing.