Chris Starling was eight years old when he started collecting Tamagotchi in the mid-2000s. All of his friends at school had Tamagotchi, and he would use the hacks he learned from an online community called Tama Talk to show his friends how they could pick their own characters (which is usually determined by how well you care for your baby Tamagotchi) and how to put their pets into hyperspeed, growing them from babies to adults in just minutes. “Then their parents would kind of get mad at me and call my mom: ‘Your kid messed up my kid’s toy,’” he says.
Starling is 23 now, and he still collects and tinkers with his Tamagotchi devices. And while the Tamagotchi fad may have faded since Bandai first released the toy in 1996, Tama Talk is still very much alive and active, with users sharing tips for everything from how to knit cases for the plastic eggs to how to avoid fake pets being sold online. And Tamagotchi hackers still turn to thriving communities on Reddit, Facebook, and Discord for guides and tips on how to mod their little eggs. One of the most common topics of discussion seems to be how to keep the little pixelated pets alive for longer — even if it means cheating a little.
“I like to keep my Tamagotchi alive because they feel like pets or little friends, and it is silly, but it feels really bad knowing you neglected a tiny pile of pixels that relied on you and it died,” says Cat, a 25-year-old in Massachusetts who asked that I only use her first name. “You put a lot of time into growing them, they grow from babies to adults over a week, and you gather them money and toys, so I grow attached to them.”
“Because of my schedule, it’s hard to run a Tamagotchi for an extended time without any cheats. But I’m still pretty attached to these little guys.”