Tamagotchi On

I killed my Tamagotchi last night.

Or rather, I took the batteries out of the device. I’m not sure what effect that will have, but I’d rather not know. After playing with it for two weeks, it was time to stop, but I loved that stupid little thing.

One of the students in my Media Studies course in the fall semester did her class project on Tamagotchi. She did a lot of research, and I was so interested in her work that I tracked down all of the articles, blog posts, and videos she referenced. I also ended up buying the newest Tamagotchi model, Tamagotchi On, which was released last summer and retails for about $50 to $60 (depending on which color you want).

Like a lot of other 1990s children, I had a Tamagotchi back in the day, and the game was as basic as it gets – keep the creature in the plastic egg alive as long as you can by feeding it when it gets hungry and cleaning its poo. It beeped at you when it needed attention, and it needed attention about once every ten minutes or so. It would die if you left it alone for more than an hour or two, but I was a devoted Tamagotchi parent and managed to keep mine alive until the batteries ran out, at which point I put the device back in its box and promptly forgot about it.

According to my student, who gave a fantastic presentation of her work, the current “Tamagotchi On” generation is both more interactive and more forgiving. I spent a lot of December being very conflicted and unhappy, so I decided to take advantage of a holiday sale and get myself a new Tamagotchi. I put the box on my desk and let it sit for two weeks before finally starting the game on January 2. I needed to make sure I had enough free time, because the creature demands attention.

Your job is still to keep your Tamagotchi alive by feeding it and cleaning its poo. You also have to give it baths, help it vacuum its little house, and give it medicine if it gets sick. The most time-consuming aspect of the game, however, is making sure your Tamagotchi is happy, which you do by playing with it and taking it on (virtual) trips. You can earn in-game currency by playing minigames, and you spend this currency on toys and fancy food and snacks. Aside from your hometown, you can also visit other areas, which you unlock by meeting various conditions that you more or less have to learn about from a fan-written walkthrough. You can have simple interactions with other Tamagotchi characters outside your town; and, if you romance them properly (for which you might also need a walkthrough), you can create a baby that you raise using all the resources you acquired from the previous generation. In addition to breeding Tamagotchi children, you can breed pets for them, which serves no purpose aside from being cute. There’s also an app that will connect the Tamagotchi device to your smartphone via Bluetooth, but I didn’t want to mess around with that.

This generation of Tamagotchi seems to be programmed to pick up on the patterns of its user’s activity, meaning that it will leave you alone during the hours you tend not to interact with it and demand attention at times when you’ve given it attention before, which I appreciate. You can also turn the sound off entirely and pause the game by leaving your creature at its parents’ house, which I appreciate even more. I think that, if I wanted to, it would probably be possible for me to keep playing the game indefinitely.

The pixel graphics are wonderful, and the art direction and animation are lovely. The character design is a bit odd, but I think that’s probably part of its appeal. The physical design of the egg-shaped device is aesthetically pleasing, and it’s sturdy and sophisticated enough to warrant… maybe not $50 to $60, but the $40 I paid when it was on sale.

I quit playing for the same reason I quit playing Pokémon Go, which is that I passed my peak balance of time invested vs. emotional engagement. Basically, I realized that I was going to have to put in a lot more effort if I wanted to get more out of the game, and I wasn’t willing to do that. It’s not that I wasn’t having fun, but rather that I had no desire to be anything more than a casual player.

All things considered, I enjoyed my two weeks my with tiny little virtual pet…

…but I have to admit that I was also embarrassed to take it out of the house. Tamagotchi On is a neat little toy, but it’s designed for eight-year-old girls, and it’s so cute that it’s obscene. I accidentally left it in my laptop bag one afternoon, and it beeped when I happened to be riding an elevator with someone. They were like, “That’s such a cute text alert ringtone,” and I was like, “Yes… I receive text messages… like a fellow adult.” The downside of the game having its own device is that you can’t pretend to be checking your messages while you play it. I suspect that it’s intended to train children too young to have their own phones in the sort of behavioral patterns involved in constantly checking messages, which is somewhat disturbing. Still, I got some good serotonin out of the experience, so I’m not complaining.

Don’t F**k With Cats

This three-part documentary series on Netflix is really upsetting, and I mean really upsetting. It’s difficult to write a summary, but basically, a group of people on Facebook tries to track down a man who posts videos of himself killing animals, thus giving him the attention he craves and inspiring him to post a video of himself killing another human being. The documentary itself is well-made and doesn’t show the grisly bits of the actual videos, but it’s still not a pleasant experience to watch. Thankfully, there’s nothing particularly sensationalist about the project, and the “internet nerds” are presented as normal and intelligent adults.

The director has said that he created this documentary for the purpose of spreading awareness, which I appreciate. My experience with trying to get my anxiety treated over the course of the past year has been that a lot of people – especially people born before around 1980 or so – just don’t understand how violent and upsetting online engagement can be sometimes. Even people my age and younger haven’t responded well when I try to talk about this, and common responses include:

– Maybe the person attacking you has a mental illness. (That’s not a valid justification.)
– Maybe you shouldn’t spend so much time online. (That’s not the problem.)
– Maybe you deserve this. (No one “deserves” death and rape threats.)

What I think people who haven’t experienced extended episodes of online harassment aren’t getting is that sometimes it’s possible to encounter people on the internet who are genuinely scary. When you become the target of a person like this (as one of the primary “narrators” in Don’t F**k With Cats does), it has nothing to do with you specifically, and there’s really nothing you can do about it.

I also recently read the book Nobody’s Victim, which is written by Carrie Goldberg, a lawyer and advocate for the victims of internet stalking and harassment. This book is just as upsetting as Don’t F**k With Cats, especially since many of the people Goldberg represents (as well as Goldberg herself) have had to suffer through intense and pervasive victim blaming. No one they go to for help understands what happened to them, and everyone thinks the fact that they became the targets of scary people is somehow their fault. Very few people believe what they’re saying in the first place, and a lot of the evidence they produce to document what they’ve experienced is used against them.

I personally haven’t been the target of anything as severe as what appears in Don’t F**k With Cats and Nobody’s Victim (thank goodness), but it was still very easy for me to recognize the patterns of how popular online platforms enable abusive modes of behavior and the hate crimes of disturbed people. I’m finally starting to see people within fandom share resources (like this) discussing best practices regarding how to process and handle these types of encounters, and that’s wonderful, but I’m really looking forward to there being a greater awareness of these issues in mainstream society as well.

2020 Writing Log, Part One

This year I’d like to return to my practice of keeping a writing log. I’m not sure it will be weekly, but I’ll do my best to keep it updated. Here we go!

– I posted Chapter 23 and Chapter 24 of Malice, an urban fantasy fanfic novel based on Breath of the Wild.

– I posted a review of Riku Onda’s wonderful mystery novel The Aosawa Murders on my book review blog, as well as an abbreviated version on Goodreads.

– I sent my editor at Palgrave my book abstract and a set of chapter abstracts. This is the text that will go on the book’s webpage, so I spent a lot of time editing, refining, and polishing the abstracts I included with the initial prospectus. These abstracts are only about 1,200 words in total, but I’ve spent the past month working on this almost every day.

– I also wrote the “Acknowledgments” section of the book. I’ve been in a dark place for the past several months, so I wanted to wait until I was in the right state of mind to do this. I’d like to think the final draft is a good combination of sincere and concise.

– I also sent an essay abstract to an edited volume on JRPGs. I’m still playing with the title, but at the moment it’s “The Green Worlds of Studio Ghibli and The Legend of Zelda.” The essay is about how a postapocalyptic world is presented as something beautiful and full of potential in the Zelda series and how that worldview has been directly influenced by the work of Hayao Miyazaki. I’m scheduled to give a talk about this project at the University of Notre Dame in April, and I’m very excited! If you’re interested, I put a short description up (here).

A Morbid Fascination

The My Favorite Murder Problem
https://newrepublic.com/amp/article/155801/favorite-murder-problem

There is a definite whiff of the Colosseum about the whole thing. But it’s easy to see how you could get swept along to these reactions—they provide the clarity and catharsis that the stories demand. But My Favorite Murder didn’t develop these vindictive tendencies in a vacuum. In fact, the show partakes in a long-standing relationship between the crime-story genre and modern law enforcement, in which the stories we tell about crime and how to stop it prop up a system that is often as much about maintaining fantasies of social order as it is about implementing real justice.

Popular crime stories, both fictional and not, bolstered an ideal that is still in place today, of a law-enforcement establishment made up of efficient, dispassionate, infallible investigators, quietly protecting us all from chaos by using science and cunning to see hidden but indisputable truths.

In a way, crime stories, true or otherwise, have always been about self-soothing. They provide reassurance that we live in a stable, knowable world. (Recall how frustrated people were with the ending of the first season of Serial, when the producers refused either to exonerate or condemn Adnan Syed, who had been convicted of killing his girlfriend but insisted that he was innocent.) It’s a genre whose satisfactions derive largely from the finality of the big reveal, and it’s not, consequently, particularly well equipped to deal with nuance, contradiction, and ambiguity.

I’m just as guilty of binging on these podcasts as anyone else, but where is the lie in any of this, honestly.

Disney Doesn’t Need Public Defense

The Marvel Juggernaut: With Great Power Comes Zero Responsibility
http://cinemalogue.com/2019/11/18/the-marvel-juggernaut-with-great-power-comes-zero-responsibility/

Due to the clout of its ubiquity, AVENGERS: ENDGAME merits a deeper look. Its fundamental ideology is libertarian-conservative. Superheroes fight, but only up until the point they want to quit. They’re rewarded with the domestic tranquility of the heterosexual nuclear family (at the expense of the less conventional concept of “found family”). Every female character receives sub-par treatment, especially Natasha Romanoff—a childhood abuse victim incapable of bearing children, sacrificed in favor of a “family man” who commits (racially selective) extra-judicial murder without consequence. Untold trillions of lives lost as collateral damage in the aftermath of Thanos’ cosmos-wide “snap” are forfeit for the sake of one five-year old child of one billionaire on one planet.

The story quashes the political nature of its chief protagonist, Steve Rogers—created by two Jewish men to combat the rise of pro-fascist sentiment in a pre-war, isolationist America. Favoring a bigoted past over a present more aligned with Steve’s values, Marvel takes a vocal political force—a tireless fighter against oppression—and reduces him to milquetoast, Pleasantville made manifest. Adding insult to injury, Peggy Carter spectates this regressive resolution to Steve’s arc. She’s wordless, existing only for Steve’s gaze, her independent life overwritten to be his prize and a means to an end: the complete neutralization of an anti-fascist.

People are free to enjoy whatever they like, of course, but the Disney Corporation is no one’s friend.

How to Make Classes Work, Step Three

Figure out everyone’s name immediately.

This can be much more difficult and awkward than you’d think it would be.

For whatever reason, a lot of students are cagey about sharing their names, and a surprising number of them tell me something to the effect of, “You can call me whatever you want.” I couldn’t care less what name someone uses or what their pronouns are, but it’s embarrassing when a student won’t tell you what they prefer to be called and then doesn’t respond when you call them by the name that’s listed on the course roster.

It’s also embarrassing when a student won’t give you a straight answer about how to pronounce their name. This applies to every gender, race, and ethnicity, so don’t @ me.

It usually takes me about a month to learn everyone’s name – in other words, I learn people’s names once I’ve had the opportunity to read, comment on, and return a few weeks’ worth of assignments. Once I learn someone’s name, I make a point of using it as often as I can so that the other students pick up on it as well. This process is usually natural and painless, and the students usually get to know each other at some point, but sometimes this just doesn’t work.

What I’m therefore going to do during the spring semester is to devote at least five minutes of every class period during the first three weeks to self-introductions and name memorization games so that everyone learns everyone else’s name from the start whether they want to or not.

The students don’t have to be friends, but I need them to all be emotionally invested in the class and each other, and this has to start with me not being such a coward about misidentifying people and mispronouncing their names.