The Tamagotchi [tom-uh-gotchee] 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 ‘tamago,’ which means ‘egg,’ and the English word ‘watch.’

Upon removing the tag of a Tamagotchi unit, an egg will appear on the screen. After setting the Tamagotchi unit’s clock, the Tamagotchi will hatch, after which the player will be told of its gender and will be given the opportunity to give it a name. From then on, the player is given the task of raising the Tamagotchi to good health throughout its life and attending to its needs, such as feeding it, playing games to make it happy, and keep it at a healthy weight, cleaning up its excrement, punishing or praising the Tamagotchi based on its actions, returning it to proper health with medicine if it gets sick, and shutting off the lights when it goes to bed.

If the Tamagotchi is left uncared for, it will soon result in death. As time passes, the Tamagotchi will evolve through various stages (Baby, Toddler/Child, Teenager, Adult, and Senior), the results varying based on the gender of the Tamagotchi, its current generation, and on the player’s actions. A Tamagotchi that has been cared for well enough will result in a better and a well-mannered Tamagotchi, while excessive poor care will instead result in a Tamagotchi that requires much more attention and often does not behave well. Upon reaching a specific age and friendship level with another Tamagotchi, the player’s Tamagotchi will be able to mate with another Tamagotchi of the opposite gender, usually arranged by an elderly Tamagotchi known as ‘the Matchmaker’ or ‘Mrs. Busybody.’ Once the two Tamagotchis mate successfully, the female produces two infant Tamagotchis, one which is kept by the father, and the other by the mother. After 24 hours pass, the parent leaves the baby, starting a brand new generation.

Recent Tamagotchis, such as the Connection series, are able to communicate wirelessly with other Tamagotchis to develop friendships, exchange gifts, and compete in several different types of games. One controversy over Tamagotchi digital pets involved children taking them to school because certain versions could starve or die in less than half a day from lack of care. Worry over potential ownership disputes, class disruptions, and general distraction from schoolwork has led many schools to ban the product. Later versions included a ‘pause’ feature. Some parents also express concern because the device constantly calls the user to it with penalties for ignoring its signal, including death, starvation, and sickness, effectively keeping the device in the child’s consciousness at all times and interfering with other activities.

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