Tamagotchi, the electronic pets that were first released by Bandai in Japan in 1996, have returned. But this time in the form of an app in which you can feed, discipline and even play “rock, paper, scissors” with your not-really-there pet.
The bonus is that you can feed him anything — even recycled plastic probably — and the Tamagotchi won’t know the difference. Because, you see, he’s not real. But this is not a problem. In fact, it’s an asset. These days, we prefer things that aren’t real. Don’t we? I mean, isn’t that the problem with real pets? You can’t play paper, scissors, rock with them?
I have a suspicion that the first Tamagotchi virtual pets weren’t actually pets but plants. Being that they were never real anyway, it’s hard to prove, but since all you had to do was feed them to keep them alive, an electronic plant seems more likely. But paper, scissors, rock is where I draw the line. We’re definitely talking real electronic pets this time.
The fact that I have not been roped into the electronic pet realm says a lot about me — mainly that I’m a pretty boring person. My basic problem is that I don’t do fake. I don’t appreciate fake flowers. I abhor fake grass. I’m not even a fan of fake plants. I understand the convenience and all that, but to me, even more than insulting Mother Nature, we’re missing the point. Real is awesome. And keeping it real is where the challenge is. And after all, even a child can tell you the difference between a Tamagotchi pet and a real one. Real ones have smelly poo.
But fake is trendy, that’s for sure. One instant noodle company has even redesigned its noodles to have “new textures based on those of fresh noodles.” This doesn’t change the fact that they’re still instant noodles, of course, but that doesn’t seem to matter. We’ve already accepted they’re not fresh, so now we just have to work on making them look fresh. Like fresh fake flowers. As long as they look real, it’s realistic fake, rather than just fake fake.
What’s next after electronic pets? The electronic girlfriend perhaps. We already have blow-up dolls and virtual marriages with manga characters. While I don’t feel we should give these people any more ideas, the electronic girlfriend is probably inevitable.
Remember when the original Tamagotchi toys were banned from schools, and mothers were staying home to care for them while their children were at school? Soon the boys will be bringing their electronic girlfriends home to have dad look after them. “She just needs a massage every four hours, Dad.” And since the apps are on gadgets with “touch screens,” it makes it all that much easier. Electronic girlfriends would fit right in with the new “Tamagotchi L.i.f.e.” slogan, where L.i.f.e. stands for “Love is fun everywhere.”
And what’s next after electronic girlfriends? Electronic children, perhaps, some who may look kinda like dad. We’ll have the Birth app where you can go into electronic labor and a tiny digital baby pops out.
Go ahead, have all the kids you want! It might be a good app to cure overpopulation. Get those women to have electronic babies instead! Teen pregnancies? Bring ’em on! Girls can track their virtual pregnancies with a Womb app where they can track their baby’s growth and progress from a Tamagotchi egg to a fake human. Even girls younger than teenage can replace their dolls with electronic babies that they can carry around in their pockets without having to buy all the extras such as clothing, hair brushes, etc.
Grandmothers could have the Womb to Tomb app, where they could keep track of the family even after they’re long gone and have joined the family plot. And this would be passed down from generation to generation — everyone digitalized into history, later to be stored in the Cloud. Soon we’ll be burying people there too.
As much fun as all this sounds, I’m hoping that Bandai’s Tamagotchi app spurs the development of other apps for real, practical uses too. Some apps for foreigner visitors would be really helpful. For example:
The Gifting app: You type into this app the type of gift you have received (fruit, food, cash envelope, etc.) along with the occasion (wedding, favor, the “no real reason” gift, etc.) and, after analyzing this information along with the approximate value of the gift, the app generates a list of 10 possible gifts that would be appropriate to give in return.
There’d be optional inputs such as their hierarchy in the company, male or female, age and relationship to receiver.
The “What the heck happened?” app: Here you can input cause-and-effect scenarios to find out what you did that apparently caused some coworker, neighbor or friend to lose face. Since the Japanese will never tell you up-front, this app is the perfect way to tell a foreigner how they have just embarrassed someone without even trying.
The “How polite should I be?” app: There is nothing more embarrassing than bowing only slightly to someone you didn’t realize was actually really, really famous. The “How polite should I be?” app would first scan the person in front of you and then instantly match them to the database of thousands of Japanese VIPs including CEOs, bureaucrats, celebrities and millionaires. Upon instant recognition of their name and status, the app then instructs you on how far down to bow in order to show full respect. This app will have to be constantly updated to reflect the rise and fall of individuals throughout their lifetime.
What kind of foreigner-friendly app would you like to see in Japan?
Follow Amy Chavez on Twitter @JapanLite.