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.

My Favorite Things in Ocarina of Time

This is a small zine I made to express my appreciation for some of the more interesting things in Ocarina of Time using graphics and screenshots from the game itself. It’s eight pages long and 4.75″ x 4.75″ (roughly the size of a Nintendo 3DS box).

It took me about four hours spread out over two days to make this zine. On the first day, I spent two hours collecting screenshots and other graphic elements like text boxes and fonts. On the next day, I spent another two hours creating the front and back covers, laying out the pages, and writing the text. My previous zines took weeks to put together, so I wanted to challenge myself to make something short in a limited amount of time.

I also made this zine to have something small to sell for $1.00 at the DC Zinefest this summer. I sold almost all of my copies at the event, and I put the remaining copies in my shop on Etsy. I think it’s probably fair to say that there are a lot of people who love the Legend of Zelda games, and it’s been fun to use this zine as an excuse to meet and talk with other Zelda fans in person and online.

What the experience of making this zine taught me is that it wouldn’t be that difficult to make something like a fake game manual that looks fairly official. What this means is that, at my current Photoshop skill level, I could make something that looks almost exactly like the official game manual for Ocarina of Time but provides “instructions” for an entirely different version of the game. For example, I could make a manual for a game in which Princess Zelda is the protagonist or a game in which it’s the player’s goal to capture and tame various monsters. I could also (very easily) reframe Ocarina of Time as a dating sim. The possibilities are endless, really.

In the future, I think it would be fun to do a similar zine about my favorite things in The Wind Waker. It might be also cool to create a fake Wind Waker game manual written from the perspective of Ganondorf, who wants the hero to stop mucking around and bring him the Triforce already. I’m planning to start work on an actual book about The Wind Waker soon, and making these two zines might be a good way to keep the project exciting and interesting.

The Legend of the Princess

This comic was drawn by Naomi Skye (@lightsintheskye on Tumblr) and written by me, Kathryn Hemmann (@kathrynthehuman on Twitter).

This is based on a scene from the sixth chapter of The Legend of the Princess, a Legend of Zelda fanfic I wrote in 2017 and 2018. I was interested in exploring the character of Ganondorf, who I don’t read as “evil” so much as taking radical action in extreme circumstances. This doesn’t mean that he’s a good person, but rather that Hyrule is an awful place. For me, Ganondorf represents a lot of the issues involved in what might be called “the ethics of rage.” He is expressing anger in this scene, but Zelda is wise enough not to make assumptions about what he means when he says that “Hyrule will burn.”

I’d always wanted to write a Gothic romance set in a haunted castle, but I wasn’t taking this story seriously until Naomi sent me this comic, which inspired me to step up my own creative efforts. The quality of Naomi’s work helped me realize that what I was doing had the potential to become an interesting and meaningful story that was worth my time and effort. Although I’d started writing a fairly basic fantasy-themed murder mystery, I ended up with an exploration of the intersections between gender, race, power, and political responsibility. It’s always a pleasure to collaborate with a visual artist, and I consider myself lucky that someone as brilliant and talented as Naomi was willing with work with me on this project.

The Legend of Comics

The Legend of Comics is a collection of drawings and short comics I posted on Tumblr between 2014 and 2018. This zine is 32 pages long, standard half-letter size, and filled with my love for the Zelda series.

I sold several dozen copies at the DC Zinefest this summer, and I also took a few copies to my local comic book store, Fantom Comics. I put the remaining copies on Etsy, and they sold out quickly.

This zine was fairly successful, but I don’t think I’ll do another print run. I had little to no idea what I was doing on Photoshop until relatively recently, and my art has evolved significantly since then. The way I drew Ganondorf in particular makes me cringe.

I also had a strange experience on Etsy in which someone bought this zine as a present for their six-year-old child. My understanding of both zine culture and Tumblr culture is such that I never would have expected someone to associate either of those things with the notion of “kid-friendly,” and the parent was (understandably) offended that the zine contains adult humor. I therefore had to put a disclaimer on the Etsy listing that reads “The zine contains two instances of strong language and one mildly risqué allusion to an old internet meme, and it’s probably not suitable for young children.”

This incident helped me realize that presentation and curation are important, even for an amateur fanzine. I think it might also have been good to include captions for some of the comics whose humor is closely tied to my specific corner of Zelda fandom. I printed this zine in February; and, after six months of reflection, there’s a lot I would do differently now. Instead of trying to revise this zine, I’m looking forward to implementing my ideas into a new Legend of Zelda fanzine that I’m planning to publish next January.

Memories

This comic was drawn by Meghan Joy (@mjoyart on Twitter) and written by me, Kathryn Hemmann (@kathrynthehuman on Twitter).

I don’t necessary ship Link and Zelda romantically, but I like to think that they were very good friends. Perhaps Link even has a few imaginary conversations with her in his head as he travels.

I think Link’s journey is just as much about him finding himself and remembering his past relationships as it is about “saving the world.” The Sheikah Slate is therefore an interesting conceit in that, just as it allowed Zelda to record impressions of what she saw the past, it allows Link to record his own memories in the present. This is emphasized in the Japanese version of the game, in which all of the text in the Hyrule Compendium is written using a first-person POV, as if Link were making notes so that he can share them after his quest is finished. On a metatextual level, I think this is a lovely perspective on digital technology, which allows people to communicate with one another across time and space, even when the world sometimes seems empty and lonely.

Secret of Mana

Secret of Mana is a charming action-adventure game about grinding for unnecessary upgrades. It’s not for everyone, but I adore it.

The game plays a bit like Kingdom Hearts in that you run around a two-dimensional isometric map and hit adorable enemies with a sword (or your choice of seven other weapons). There’s a satisfying cronch when your weapon connects, and the enemy death animations are super cute. For example, mammal-type enemies will explode in a poof of bones that make rattling sounds as they drop to the ground in a neat little pile. The magic animations are also lovely, and they become more elaborate as each spell grows more powerful.

The game’s story is about protecting seeds and saving a tree, and it’s filled with gorgeous Instagram-style ~nature~ that has its over-saturated anime filter slider pulled all the way to the top end. The tree leaves rustle gently, the grass sways in the wind, the sun sparkles on the surface of water, the frost glistens with a rainbow-hued shine, and so on. Your job as the player is to walk around these beautiful fantasy-themed environments killing critters for the points you need to max out the levels of your weapons and magic.

The way this works is that each of the eight weapons has eight magical orbs, which you earn by defeating bosses, and each orb unlocks an additional level for that weapon. Once a new level is unlocked, you can earn points by defeating enemies in order to achieve the special attack for that weapon, all of which are laughably impractical and none of which you will ever use. There’s no real reason to level up your weapon attacks; but, if you want to, it becomes more difficult with each progressive level. To get to Level 2, each enemy kill nets you 8 points (out of a necessary 100). To get to Level 3, each enemy kills nets you 7 points (out of a necessary 100). And so on. Ditto for each of the eight magic element sets.

Each of your characters has to level up all of the weapons and magic elements separately, so you’re in for some grinding. But only if you want! Again, it’s not necessary, but I find it relaxing.

The PlayStation 4 remake changes almost nothing about the original Super Nintendo game, and the updated graphics and music are wonderful. For a good six months after the release, there was some sort of bug that caused the game to crash if you went for too long without saving, but the developers have patched and fixed whatever was causing the problem.

The PS4 remake of Secret of Mana takes about ten to fifteen hours to finish if you don’t grind and a little less than thirty hours if you do, and either way it’s good wholesome content for when you need to turn off your brain and chill out for a bit.