Way back when, in the late 90s, there lived a popular toy called the Tamagotchi.
The Tamagotchi was something your parents bought you when you wanted a real pet but they didn't want to clean up real shit. When the toy was new, people thought it might be an easy way to teach kids responsibility. Quickly, though, the world realized that the Tamagotchi encouraged anything but.
In a time before iPhones and Snapchat, the Tamagotchi was your only form of pocket-sized digital entertainment. You could take it everywhere. You could bring it to the dinner table and ignore your dad asking you about your day. Hell, you could bring it to school, and sneakily feed it between classes. Then, when taking care of your Tamagotchi was no longer fun, you would just neglect and murder it. NBD.
But in 2013, the makers of the Tamagotchi set out to end this cycle of death by empowering the victims — the Tamagotchis — to flee their captors.
No, I'm not kidding. Tamagotchis have become immortal.
Thus my intended experiment — to take care of a Tamagotchi as a grown, adult-like human being — turned into something else altogether: an attempted murder.
When I first began the search for my new pet Tamagotchi, I was honestly surprised to learn that they were still being made.
Like, isn't there an app for that? I found a small selection on Amazon, and figured the seller had probably amassed a mountain of Tamagotchis in 2001 (before the great Tamagotchi crash) and was simply reselling them.
Unbelievably, when it arrived, I found that my Tamagotchi had been produced in 2013. It was much larger than the Tamagotchi of my youth, yet equally as shitty-looking. The screen was black and white and very difficult to read. Still, when I shoved a pen deep into the plastic to hit the reset button and turn it on, my heart fluttered, and I was taken back to a simpler time.
My Tamagotchi was alive.
Three eggs appeared, and I was forced to pick one. This seemed unfair because maybe I wanted to raise all three? I wasn't sure if this was a case of selective abortion, or if it was more like those designer dogs that are so popular you have to purchase them while they are still in utero. Either way, it was kind of fucked up.
Anyway, I ended up with a beautiful baby girl. The eggshell remained on her head for a while, and I could not figure out a way to take it off. Just like a puppy or human baby, the Tamagotchi immediately began begging for food.
After spending entirely too long trying to figure out how to select the food icon, I was able to get my baby a meal of bread and milk.
She immediately began pooping all over the place, leading me to conclude that my Tamagotchi was both lactose- and gluten-intolerant. This was going to be a difficult process.
While the Tamagotchi was young, it required a lot of attention. It was a special time, but it also beeped a ton, and embarrassed me in front of large crowds.
Initially I was very invested in its life and health. I wanted to be a good Tamagotchi mother. I even found myself ignoring my real-life pet in favor of placating my digital pet.
But life goes on, and my Tamagotchi got a little older. It wanted to play "games." Fortunately these games were just shitty versions of Snake and other old cell phone games. I played for a little bit and amassed 50 points. I thought this meant I could finally use the "buy jewelry" feature!
I was wrong. I never figured out how to purchase jewelry for my Tamagotchi. This was likely the start of our troubles. As I was unable to provide any presents for my Tamagotchi, she responded by growing far more annoying in her neediness and beepiness.
Soon I noticed that the Tamagotchi had a feature that was missing from the original versions — if your friend is also a Tamagotchi parent, you can make them talk and play with each other. Unfortunately, none of my friends has a Tamagotchi, so I was forced to homeschool her. I tried to lecture her on art, history and the Gilded Age, but it was of no use. All the Tamagotchi wanted was to play games, eat, and shit. And it wasn't very cuddly.
The modern Tamagotchi also decided to put itself to bed at around 7:00 pm, which is way too early. On the weekends, the Tamagotchi was waking up 5 hours before me, beeping, and wallowing in its own shit. My dog sleeps in when I sleep in, so I blame the Tamagotchi for not adjusting to my schedule.
If my Tamagotchi pooped too much, and I didn't clean it, the spectre of death would begin following it. The first time this happened, I thought she was dead. Then I asked a medic to come, and the medic was able to save her life. I didn't pay for the doctor, so I'm assuming there's universal healthcare in the Tamagotchi world.
Then the Tamagotchi grew a little more, and started to look more like a cartoon dog than the baby dinosaur from Dinosaurs ("I'm the baby!"). Instead of demanding food all the time, the cartoon dog wanted to play games. All the time. I hated those games, and I was starting to hate my Tamagotchi. I just couldn't handle it anymore. I wanted her dead.
So I decided to kill her.
I put her in a drawer, and refused to feed or clean her. I checked on her every few hours, and slowly watched the poop amass on her floor. The spectre returned, and this time, I decided, I'd wait until it took her away, too.
This cruel process went on for four entire days.
On the fifth day, while I was slowly starving/shitting her to death, I noticed something highly unusual: there was a bag sitting by her feet. Did she go shopping for jewelry, I wondered. Did she get a purse?
A few hours later, I looked at the screen to find it Tamagotchiless. Instead, there was a note that read:
My Tamagotchi had packed a suitcase and dragged her sickly body away from home. I can't say I blame her, but still, I was shocked. Yes, I had attempted to murder her through neglect. But I never could have imagined that she would have enough self-awareness to see that her parent had abandoned her, and her only choices were to leave or die.
It was then that I repeated this entire process again in yet another attempt to satiate my Tamagotchi blood-lust. Again, the Tamagotchi packed up a suitcase and departed. That's when I started my research.
I could have ended my experiment there, copping to the facts: this Tamagotchi could not die. But I don’t give up.
After shaking down everyone at my office, I finally found a coworker who had an old Tamagotchi, circa 2004. I quickly snatched it out of her hands and pressed restart.
As I watched the egg bounce around, I plotted its murder.
I would feed it ONLY milk. Or perhaps I would raise it well, let it meet another Tamagotchi, and kill it just as it had finally fallen in love. There were so many options, so little time.