Lots of great technological innovations were born in the 90s. The Pentium processor, the world wide web, and virtual pets.
As everyone knows by now, I’m an avid Tamagotchi collector. I have been since they were first released in the US in 1997. I now own over 50 pets (although I only ever raise one or two at a time). The reason why I’m so passionate about them is because their unique charm and personality brighten my everyday life. Their chirpy beeps and dancing pixelated characters give me a little bit of happiness and a break from reality when I need it the most. The amount of attention I give to my Tamagotchi determines the type of character it turns into when it grows up. It’s like raising a kid, without worrying about screwing it up permanently. If I manage to create a monster, I can just hit the reset button and try again from the beginning. Having this type of influence on an otherwise inanimate object gives me a strange sense of control, responsibility, and attachment.
The emotional attachment to virtual pets (and, more recently, artificially intelligent robots) has been officially named the Tamagotchi effect or Tamagotchi syndrome. The mere fact that a keychain-sized bundle of pixels and beeps can make such an impact on peoples’ well-being is reason for recognition.
So, Erica Downing and I are creating a monument dedicated to the warm, chirpy happiness that is the Tamagotchi and its history and influence on society.
We are planning on somehow juxtaposing a larger-than-life original 1996-model Tamagotchi with a large 2012-model one. Both will be interactive, full-featured pets that rely on the people of Tokyo for their care.
We already scoped out where this will go; on a corner of Harajuku Street in Tokyo, at the big intersection a block or two down the road from the official Tamagotchi Department store. (Go ahead and look around! It’s just begging for a Tamagotchi monument there!)
Needless to say, we’re pretty excited about doing a playful monument. We want to end this semester on a lighthearted note, with a project dedicated to play and fun.