Playing in the Past: Giga Pets
1997 seemed to be the year of the virtual, digital, portable pets. The craze from Japan, starting with the Tamagotchi in 1996, started a frenzy among school-aged children that caused write-ups, detentions, and confiscations in the classrooms across America. And, as lame as it may sound, I was one of those kids who was hooked. And I bit on it hard, hook, line, and sinker.
I never was much into Tamagotchi’s, actually. When I could choose between an alien… egg… thing… and a puppy, I chose the puppy. Seemed like an easy choice to me.
You know, as much as I remember complaining about my parents, they sure did give me a lot more than I ever deserved. They gave me TONS of little electronic gadgets. Giga Pets weren’t the only handheld games that Tiger Electronics had released. They had been releasing little handheld games from the late 1970′s to the mid 1990′s, and before Giga Pets my parents had treated me to a ton of those things. Imagine having stacks of Game Boy Advance-sized video games that only play a single Game & Watch-styled game, and those were the Tiger Electronics handhelds my parents gave me so many of. The one’s I remember best off the top of my head include one based on The Little Mermaid, a Pinball game, and a game where you played as a mouse running through a maze trying to get cheese while avoiding cats who would increase in number and speed with each level.
I remember begging my parents at that age for Giga Pets, and I remember them complaining that I was draining their wallet. But you know what? They bought them for me anyway. Man, my parents really were too good to me. I wish I had thanked them more when I was younger. I’ve been thanking them a lot recently for things in the past. Anyway, they bought me TWO of the dogs – one when it just beeped and one when they started making them actually bark, one cat, one frog, one monkey, one Yoda, one koala, and a big Looney Tunes one with a few Looney Tunes characters to take care of. Might have had more, but I’m not certain anymore.
I recall that they would like to wake up somewhere between 7:00 AM and 8:00 AM every day. It worked well enough with my sleep schedule when I was in school, but on weekends and holidays the little buggers would beep and bark and poop like no one’s business (the Roadrunner in the Looney Tunes one liked to honk, too). Why did I like them so much? I had a cat and a dog. A REAL cat and a REAL dog. What was with my addiction to the virtual pets? I honestly don’t know. But I know I got a kick out of them for some reason. I lost them all during a flood that took out the basement level of the home I grew up in, and was sad about it at the time.
But I found myself remembering them kinda fondly recently, and started looking into puchasing one for old times sake. I was surprised at the price of them now. Especially that Looney Tunes one, going for over $40! A lot of the CompuKitty’s were going for about that much, too. And don’t even get me started on that Salem one from Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Well, anyway, I was TRYING to get ahold of an R2-D2 Giga Pet, but I ended up with Microchimp, the monkey.
It wasn’t in it’s packaging, but it was in working condition, no noticable wear otherwise, and the seller gave me some fresh batteries. There were already some working batteries in the pet, but after about five minutes of use the thing would reset itself. Luckily, after putting in some new batteries, it’s been working just fine. The only other problem with him is that he doesn’t make noise, even when I turn his sound on and off. But otherwise,
And I’m addicted like a stupid child all over again. I’ve had the thing for three days, and I’ve been obsessed with keeping it alive, hoping I’ll be able to keep its total points over 95 so when it’s in its “old age” it will never actually die. Once it reaches “old age”, if the total points drop below 95, that’s it, the pet dies of old age. Sad.
I named my monkey Screwy, after the monkey that makes occasional appearances on ScrewAttack.com. I’ve been doing fairly well keeping his points up. There are four main sets of points you have to worry about – Hunger, Discipline, Health, and Happiness. It’s easy to keep his hunger, discipline, and happiness up at 100%. But it’s surprisingly difficult to keep him healthy! I don’t know, I always keep him fed, play with him, train him, and I even take him to the doctor and try to make him sleep at good times. But it always seemed like there was nothing I could do, and his health would just keep dropping! And his total score would suffer because his health was the only thing that didn’t seem to be regenerating.
I looked into this and found that even back in the day, this seemed to be a problem. This particular page probably hasn’t been updated since 1998, but lists lots of people with lots of complaints regarding the health of their digital pets. So it would seem that I am not the only one who’s been confused. The author of the page even attempted to contact Tiger Electronics back in the day without much of an answer to his questions on how to keep the pet healthy.
Just as recently as last night, though, I tried feeding my pet less treats as rewards for tricks and gave him healthy bananas instead, and gave him more naps. His health went up acutely. But it’ll take more time to find out whether or not this solved the health problem. I mean, those just seem like normal things for any living thing, anyway. Better food, more sleep, better overall health. Here’s hoping.
I’ve also recently come across the R2-D2 Giga Pet, also released by Tiger Electronics. When I was younger I had the Yoda, but I never had the R2-D2. As it turns out, R2 is incredibly boring. You can teach him to do certain tasks in any particular order of your choosing. The problem is, if you set him to do these tasks in just the right order, the game will play ITSELF, and you will never have to take care of R2, and he will never die (until he loses battery power). You can get R2 to walk back and for and scan to make sure that he’s doing the proper application for what he finds. You can also program him so that he always finds a computer and recharges his battery at it, keeping him from dying. Sometimes he’ll run into a Stormtrooper. But you know what? You don’t even need to fight back (even though you have the ability to do so). The Stormtrooper doesn’t do anything to you. In fact, you don’t even get punished. There’s nothing detrimental about it. The Stormtrooper will just turn around and walk away, as though this R2 unit was gifted with the power of the Force or something. You seriously may as well not even set R2 up with the ability to shock the Stormtrooper. His appearance is random anyway. Not worth it.
As of the time of this posting, my monkey is probably about to wake up. He’s been sleeping all night. And once he does wake up, he’ll be a most welcomed distraction from my tech support job.
“So, yeah, my TV still has a black screen, I can’t seem to get a picture…”
“Sorry, what was that…? Oh, you’ll have to give me a minute, I’m training my monkey.”
No. I wouldn’t really do that.