It was the mid-90’s. 1997 to be exact. The future was upon us. A new, digital world was giving us glimpses of what Back to the Future II might actually be like, and this thing called the World Wide Web seemed to have some legs. It might stick around for longer than we thought.
Flying cars were sure to be coming soon, but until then we needed something new to fill this technological void that we didn’t know needed filling. Something that could replace all of the attention your living pets were getting and place it squarely on the shoulders of a shoulder-less new digital pet.
Enter, the Tamagotchi.
Nothing threw you headfirst into the responsibilities of pet parenthood quite like the Tamagotchi. It even rivalled some of those dolls that would actually eat food and then soil itself (WTF, Mattel?).
Aki Maita and Akihiro Yokoi invented the Tamagotchi in Japan in 1996, and by 1997 it hit the shelves of the rest of the world. Since then the toy has been sold over 82 million times.
If you owned a Tamagotchi then you know the heavy responsibility it weighed on you from the moment its little alien body hatched.
You could feed it, you could play with it, you could scold it, and above all you just tried not to kill it. You raised your alien baby from birth to childhood, teen life to adulthood, and finally death when a little UFO would fly it back to its home planet.
The Tamagotchi won Aki Maita the Ig Nobel Prize in 1997, an award that celebrates achievements that “first make people laugh, and then make them think.”
The Tamagotchi excitement certainly hit its peak in the late 90’s, but had a resurgence in 2004 with the Tamagotchi Plus, and has since branched out to apps and even video games.
There have been close to 50 different editions of the toy, most of which have only been released in Japan.
The Tamagotchi didn’t quite reach the riotous levels that POGS and Furby’s achieved, but they did cause an issue in elementary schools across the world. Kids were constantly distracted trying to keep their pet alive while juggling their school life and the new stress of being a single parent.
The toy was eventually banned from most schools, causing children to accuse teachers of toy-slaughter the world over.