←Part 1: Introduction | Part 2: The Beginning | Part 3: Playing Tamagotchi for Game Boy for the First Time in About 20 Years→

Part 2: The Beginning

It all started sometime between 1997 and 1998. I was a 4th or 5th grader at White Oaks Elementary School in Fairfax County, Virginia. A relatively happy and well-adjusted kid. Not the kind you'd expect to go off and murder an extraterrestrial.

White Oaks Elementary School.jpg
Source: Century 21 REDWOOD REALTY

One day, my class got on a bus. We were going on a field trip.

School Bus

We were going to Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. Don't know what I'm talking about? If you're in America, open your wallet. Take out a nickel. The guy on the front is Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States of America (and also an owner of many slaves). Flip the coin over. That's Monticello, where we were going.

Okay, not Monticello, actually the Jefferson Memorial, but you get the point, right?

However, before we got to Monticello, there would be a long, long bus ride. And when you're an elementary schooler, bus rides pass slower than when you're older. Especially when you stick a pencil, point up, in the crack in the brown imitation leather seat, then forget about it, then sit down suddenly on it, leaving a small but visible piece of graphite in your back for the rest of your life. But that wasn't this particular field trip; I already had the graphite at this point from a 3rd grade field trip to go see butterflies.

I digress. I was sitting next to Allie, a huge fan of the fad that year, Tamagotchi.

Keychain Tamagotchi
She had a whole keychain full of ones like this.

I think she was so busy taking care of her real-time, keychain Tamagotchis, she didn't have much time for her Tamagotchi for Game Boy (which doesn't demand any attention unless you turn the Game Boy on). She graciously let me play it.

Game Boy

I loved it. You had to feed the little guy, turn out the lights when he went to bed, play games with him to increase his attributes, give him medicine when he was sick, clean up after him (or, when he got older, put him on the toilet), check his stats, scold or praise him, enter him into competitions, etc.

Although I enjoyed playing it on her Game Boy, there were lots of other games that I enjoyed just a little bit more. So although I wanted my own copy of the game, it didn't move its way to the top of my birthday or Christmas lists to the extent necessary for my parents to give me this game.

And the years went by.

I graduated.

I became an English teacher.

I moved to Japan.

I bought a condo outright (how it was possible for an at-that-time 30-year-old American to buy a condo outright in Tokyo without a mortgage is a topic for another photo essay at a later time).

Then, one day...

I was in a thrift shop. It was the late winter. I had just finished taking the Kanji Kentei 3-kyū exam earlier that day. I'd just been tested on 1,608 kanji (Chinese characters used in Japanese). I'd had to memorize hundreds of four-character Chinese compounds. Yes, I ended up passing, but I didn't know that, yet. Now, quite stressed, I was going to relax by looking at video games at the thrift shop.

I found a cartridge in a bin. What's this? Is this Tamagotchi for Game Boy?

I set the cartridge off to the side; not in the bin, but in a pile of cartridges that I would *consider*. I was not really planning on buying it, despite its super-low ¥108 price tag (97¢). I was probably going to sleep on it first.

Then, this little Japanese girl appeared behind me.

Little Japanese Girl
Unlike the girl in this picture, she didn't have several iStock logos floating around her head.

I would estimate she was about two or three years old. Her parents were not far behind.

The little girl picked up each cartridge from that pile, including Dr. Mario and Tamagotchi for Game Boy, and blew into them. I couldn't help by grin ear-to-ear. Where did she learn how to do that? The answer was standing right behind her. I told them "You taught her well!" and they burst out laughing. Clearly Mom and Dad were retro gamers and their little daughter had seen them blowing the dust off of the cartridge pins to get them working a few times. I will now refer to the little girl in this story as the Magical Retro-Gaming Toddler (M.R.G.T.).

Well, that cartridge (and Dr. Mario), I couldn't just put them back in the bin, now! So I went and bought them for ¥216 total ($1.95). They'd be nice for nostalgia, and they'd been blessed with air from the lungs of the M.R.G.T.

Tamagotchi for Game Boy Cartridge
The Cartridge I Bought

←Part 1: Introduction | Part 2: The Beginning | Part 3: Playing Tamagotchi for Game Boy for the First Time in About 20 Years→