The Tamagotchi (たまごっち Tamagocchi?) is a handheld digital pet, created in Japan by Akihiro Yokoi of WiZ and Aki Maita of Bandai. It was first sold by Bandai in 1996 in Japan. As of 2010, over 76 million Tamagotchis have been sold world-wide. Most Tamagotchis are housed in a small egg-shaped computer with an interface usually consisting of three buttons, although the number of buttons may vary for different variations.
According to Bandai, the name is a portmanteau combining the Japanese word “たまご” (tamago), which means “egg”, and the English word “watch” (ウオッチ – uocchi).Consequently, the name is romanized as “Tamagotch” without the “i” in Japan. But recently in Japan, the romanized name has changed to the English “Tamagotchi” with the i. Most Tamagotchi characters’ names end in ‘tchi’ or ‘っち’ in Japanese, with the exception of a few newer characters, such as Makiko.
Upon activating the toy, an egg appears on the screen. After setting the Tamagotchi unit’s clock, the egg will wiggle for several minutes, and then hatch into a small pet. In later versions, inputting the player’s name and birthday is also required when setting the clock, and at birth, the player can name the pet and learn of its family group and/or gender. The player can care for the pet as much or as little as they choose, and the outcome depends on the player’s actions. The first Tamagotchis could only be paused by going to set the clock, effectively stopping the passage of time in the game, but in later models a pause function was included.
Pets have Hunger meter, Happy meter, and Discipline meter to determine how healthy and well behaved the pet is. Filling up the Hunger meter can be achieved by feeding the pet a meal or a snack. Filling up the Happy meter can be achieved by playing mini games with the pet. Mini games vary between versions. Discipline meter can be filled by pressing the “scold” option when a pet calls for attention but refuses to play or be fed. The pet will leave droppings around the screen from time to time, and can become sick if they are not cleaned up. Before the pet goes to the bathroom, it will make a face and stink lines will appear around it. If the player activates the toilet icon during this animation, but before the pet has gone to the bathroom, the pet will use a toilet instead. When done repeatedly, the pet can be toilet trained.
If the pet gets sick, a skull icon next to the pet as it sits still at the bottom of the screen, with an unhappy expression. The pet can become sick for a number of reasons such as overfeeding of snacks or failing to clean up droppings. The pet can die if sickness is left unchecked. The pet can be cured by pressing the “Medicine” option.
Pets would often fall asleep during the night time. Originally players had the option of manually turning off the light when the pet fell asleep. In order to raise a healthy pet, players were encouraged but not required to turn off the lights when the pet fell asleep. In recent versions, the pet turns off the light on its own when it went to sleep. Recent versions also allow waking the pet for a short time once it has fallen asleep. V5 had the three children look outside on the window when they wake up in the morning and before bed at night.