Wednesday – the boys were back to school after the Christmas holidays, and after lunch I ventured outside with the step ladder to wind in the outdoor lights before it got too dark. My return was greeted with faint but frantic bleeping from the lounge, which could only mean one thing: dereliction of my babysitting duties. Tamagotchi tribulations are the latest addition to my plate of responsibilities this January.
Oh yes – it’s back. Those who enjoyed a 90s childhood, or lived with someone who did, will no doubt be familiar with this blast from the past: Tamagotchis were the first pocket-sized electronic pets to take the world by storm, and they needed food, care, training and entertainment to be kept alive by their owners.
A contraction of the Japanese word for egg (“tamago”) and the English word “watch”, a Tamagotchi was the must-have accessory for kids everywhere in the late 90s, and my sister got one for Christmas. They bleep their needs every hour or so, and if you don’t attend to them, they shut down and have to be “hatched” again.
Why have I got one?
Well, I don’t – our 9 year old does. Like a lot of things from the 80s and 90s, Tamagotchi is experiencing a revival – and when Mr RLC spotted a Star Wars themed one in the form of R2D2, the bleeping blue and white droid from the franchise, it was a must-have stocking filler for us as well. We just didn’t think through the implications.
After the first excitement of releasing him from his packaging and “hatching” him, Tamagotchi R2D2’s demands grew in much the same way as a human newborn’s; and the next thing we knew, his harassed parent had marched him into the lounge and handed him over to Mr RLC, saying “Can you do it? I just can’t handle him!”.
Unlike a human newborn, though, he does come with a full set of instructions – so when Mr RLC’s good reading glasses had been found (the writing is very tiny, and so is Tamagotchi’s display, to be fair), we soon found out how to take care of R2’s basic needs, develop several different skill sets for him and unlock new games.
But to make sure he doesn’t get taken by scavenging Jawas (for those unversed in the Star Wars universe, Jawas roam the deserts of the planet Tatooine looking for scrap metal to sell), R2D2’s bleeps need to be attended to throughout his waking hours – not very practical when your caregiver has to be in school all day. So he is left in the charge of his caregiver’s own caregiver: me. And funnily enough, I’ve learned that my sister’s Tamagotchi was regularly left with our Mum for babysitting, after astonished and no doubt highly irritated teachers had banned them all from the classroom.
R2 needs to be charged up, cleaned up and cheered up – again, much like keeping a human baby fed, changed and entertained. I’ve received basic training in all of these services, have learned how to play with him and how to put him to bed. The games are basic, but quite addictive because it’s easy to make a mistake (well, it is when your 44 year old brain doesn’t connect with your fingers quite as quickly as it used to), and I’ve had to set boundaries with him to keep my focus where it should be.
As a responsible Tamagotchi parent, you have to watch out for potential dangers as well as the scavenging Jawas – and every so often, R2D2 will squeak in alarm as a Star Wars villain arrives to threaten him. I’ve chased off Storm Troopers, Tusken Raiders and Jawas so far – I’m hoping for some Sith Lord appearances at some point, and things might get quite tasty…
My duties end with the school run every day, but I’ve got a funny feeling that I’m in this one for the long haul! The batteries on these things last for millennia, and I think the variety of R2D2’s skills, games and evolutions will keep his owner’s interest for some time to come. So you never know – I might still be babysitting on his caregiver’s graduation day!