Thursday, 6 February 2014

Playground Crazes - I killed my son's Tamagotchi

Playground crazes and the latest toy fads have always been a big part of children's lives.  From the early days of hula hoops and jacks through to the emergence of Pokemon cards and Power Rangers, there always seems to be a must have toy that kids simply can't do without. These toys and games have defined our childhoods.

As a children in the 70's I remember the fad for having a tennis ball in the leg of an old tight.  We'd stand against the wall and bounce the ball from side to side, swinging it from one side to the other.  Looking back it seems a bit pointless, but at the time it kept up entertained and amused for hours.  In a pre-technological age, I guess we had to get our fun where we could find it!

We played marbles and I recall all the names of the cats' eyes and steelies that we used to covet, as we played for keepsies. Pom-pom and tig were favourite games and we used "ip dip sky blue" as a way of picking who was "it" and we crossed our fingers and called "cray nights" to protect ourselves from being caught.  We kiss-chased and we double-dutched and we played elastics at play time.

All these fads I remember with a fondness, but one playground fad still haunts me to this day.

As I became a mum, back in 1988, I was thrust back into the world of must have toys.  We collected football stickers, Pogs, Tazos, Corinthian big headed football figurines and those souvenir coins that came free with petrol.  We read Goosebumps books and bought Mighty Max and Polly Pockets sets galore.  We saw the re-emergence of the yo-yo with all its tricks and we saw the comeback of the Rubix Cube.

However, it was the invention of the Tamagotchi that I will never be able to get out of my mind.

In about 1997, the keyring sized gadgets from Japan swept across the UK.  Children were adopting the virtual, pixelated pets, hatching them and raising them by pressing buttons to feed, exercise and clean up after them.  If you failed to successfully manage the life of your Tamagotchi, it died.

playground crazes, kids toys

Understandably, my children became obsessed with their Tamagotchis.  They were forever feeding them and shovelling their virtual poop.  From morning to night, the Tamagotchis hung from the waistband of their trousers so they were on hand to fulfil the needs of their electronic pet.  But then the reality of having to go to a school where Tamagotchis were banned reared its ugly head!

Consequently for six hours a day, my children were unable to care for their pixel pets, so who would be landed with the responsibility of Tamagotchi care...yes, it was me.  With two Tamagotchis to watch over as well as all the other things that I had to do in a day, the pressure was immense.  On picking the kids up from school, their first question was whether their Tamagotchis were OK.  The audible sighs of relief upon seeing the happy little critters on the teeny tiny screens only added to my great sense of responsibility.

I did my best, I really did.  But one day I just forgot.  I forgot to check if they were hungry or soiled or needed playtime.  I set the things down and got on with some housework and that was enough to make my son's prized possession keel over and give up the will to live.  The sight of the little Tamogotchi ghost and the headstone displayed on the screen, where once was a smiling digital pet made me panic.  What would I tell the kids?  I'd let them down. I was a virtual pet murderer.

On picking up my kids I was crestfallen, guilt-ridden and with my head hung low I admitted my crime of gross neglect.  I confessed: "I've killed your Tamagotchi," my voice wavering with the enormity of my betrayal and my failure to fulfil a promise to keep the thing alive.

But in true form, my son just shrugged and said, "I'll get a new one."

Thank goodness for the flippancy and resilience of young kids along with their desire to get a newer, shiner model. They are always after the next best thing!

This post was inspired by the Oxford Open Learning and their Amazing Crazes timeline of nostalgic toys.


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