23 Nov: The Tamagotchi Effect

With cutesy graphics and a female-focussed origin story, Tamagotchi was positioned as a ‘nurturing toy’ for Japanese girls when Bandai launched the brand on 23rd November, 1996. But the gadget’s massive popularity soon transcended gender and nationality – shifting 40 million units globally in just three years.

Users had to check in regularly with their virtual pets, which buzzed when they were hungry or needed attention. Otherwise, neglectful owners would witness their Tamagotchi transition into virtual TOMBSTONES.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal how a stay-at-home tortoise inspired the concept; explain how the U.S. release of the toy was less brutal than its Japanese precursor; and wonder if now, with our pathetic attachments to Alexa and Siri, we are finally experiencing what 90s psychologists termed ‘The Tamagotchi Effect’…

Further Reading:

• ‘A Brief History of the Tamagotchi’ (Mental Floss, 2021): https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/642373/tamagotchi-history

• ‘The Tamagotchi Effect: How Digital Pets Shaped The Way We Use Technology’ (Digital Trends, 2019): https://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/how-tamagotchi-shaped-tech/

• Tamagotchi TV commercial from the 1990s (United States): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAahOV63_wA