Return of the Tamagotchi Re-Ignites a Passion for Retro TechTia Winter | 23 February 2018
What millennial doesn’t remember the Tamagotchi pixelated pets of the late 1990s? Caring for the little egg-dwelling digital creatures became such a worldwide obsession that there were urban legends of teachers being sued when the “animals” died after children were not allowed to tend to them during class.
Now, on the 20th anniversary of the craze that has been imitated but never matched, Tamagotchi producer Bandai is re-releasing the iconic toy. It is smaller than the originals, but otherwise very similar, and rides the wave of nostalgia that seems to be a dominant force in the world of technology right now.
As Virtual Reality, the Internet of Things and other major developments push us towards advanced and integrated technology, so too are the Nokia 3310, the Nintendo Entertainment System and other digital products of yesteryear released. There appear to be dual desires to keep up with where technology is taking us, but to also stick with what we know.
A Nostalgic Trend with a Purpose
Tetris, created by a Russian computer programmer named Alexey Pajitnov in 1984, holds the world record for most sales of a computer game. Pacman is also making a comeback, having never actually left for some people, and a lot of the appeal of the Nokia 3310 relaunch is the fact that it will be possible to play Snake again. People often enjoy games with fewer pixels and less rules, and there are several interesting theories as to why.
What the simpler games seem to have in common is that they have several possible outcomes, but not an overwhelming amount. There is something very calming in that; Tetris has even been used successfully to treat PTSD and to help dieters who are battling with cravings. Many players also appreciate the fact that older games look like computer games; they are not trying so hard to be hyper-realistic. They’re cheaper too, and the pull of nostalgia in these very uncertain times is huge for the millennial target market.
The level of complexity in these throwback computer games could be compared to what is seen in the casino games that have stood the test of time, and for the same reasons. The oldest amusements in the world are dice games, which evolved from throwing bones, and card games. Both of these developed out of a desire to know the future; what is life, after all, if not the ultimate game of chance? Pokies are the newest of the 5 most popular casino games and they’ve been around since Charles Fey’s invention of 1887!
The Best of Past, Present and Future
It must be noted, however, that simpler games are not the solution for everyone. If you’ve watched a television series that you loved when you were a child and been disappointed as an adult, you might feel the same when you play with a Tamagotchi again. Nostalgia is indeed a very powerful pull, but it isn’t always enough. In the world of Pokies, for example, it’s great to be able to play the immersive video pokies along with the retro-style classic reels so you can enjoy the best of both worlds.
Immersive, multi-player online video games might be able to co-exist with Pac Man and Snake in much the same way. It seems entirely possible that a Tamagotchi could too. Tetris, and possibly even Tamagotchi, helped us to learn that new devices need not be intimidating, and could be used by everyone.
We’re far more technologically sophisticated now than we were in 1997, but just as sometimes nothing but a favourite home-cooked meal from childhood will do, sometimes nothing is better than some undemanding pixels. Of course, nobody wants to eat fish fingers and chips every night of their adult life either. As technology creeps into every area of daily life, we are increasingly discovering it is all about balance, and that there is a place for the past and a space for the future.