Thursday, 26 June 2014

Raising Pixels: the 'Aww-Lemmie-Look-After-It' Type Games I Used to Love

I don't really know how we got onto it, but last night my boyfriend and I spent a long time reminiscing about Tamagotchis. You know, those little egg-shaped keyrings with a little pixelated pet for you to look after all day, every day. I forgot about and killed many. But, unlike a few tanks of Sea Monkeys, these pets I could just re-hatch and start again. Ta-dah! It got me thinking about all the other similar games I used to love as a kid - maybe they're a precursor to my love of The Sims, which after all are just lots of little human pets.

Look at that cute little blob, bobbing up and down, ready to make you clean up it's virtual crap and beep at you until you feed him. If you happened to leave him at home for a day (I remember when my primary school banned them), then you'd come home to a little blob with angel wings, or a big cross. Way to make kids feel guilty. Lucky for me I must've been cute enough to get away with more than I should, because I remember quite clearly sending my Dad off to work with my Tamagotchi so that it wouldn't die. 

Pokemon Pikachu is the next thing I got thinking about. My Dad got me one when I was about six or seven, and I'm hoping I still have it tucked away in my loft somewhere. Pikachu was waaaaay less needy than your regular Tamagotchi. He got on with his own life really. There were little mini-games and gifts you could give him, but when he beeped it was really just so you could see what he was up to. Sleeping, eating or chilling in a bubble bath. The reason behind Pikachu's self-sufficient lifestyle though was because Pokemon Pikachu was really just a glorified pedometer. It'd measure your steps and convert the number to 'watts' which you could buy Pikachu gifts with, which would generally make him like you more, maybe do a little dance. A look on eBay tells me that an unopened one will set you back about $200. Even a broken one will cost you $25. That's half the reason I hope I find mine, but also kind of 'cos I want a go.

Taking it to the PC, some of my other virtual 'pets' as a kid were the Catz and Dogz Petz series from '95. Adopting some bug-eyed cats and dogs (and unexpectedly, a pig) was the only real premise, but I remember spending SO much time on this game. Feeding, grooming, playing, dressing up and breeding. I distinctly recall picking them up by their tails and flinging them across rooms too, but we won't say much about that. The name has since been sold off to Ubisoft, who make more realistic animals for the Wii in an Nintendogs kind of way (as well as a really creepy spin-off called Babyz), but nothing will quite beat the alien looking petz of PF Magic. One of my favourite things was the desktop feature, that let your petz run riot on your folders and files instead of a standard screensaver.

Finally, it gets a bit dragony. As part of the Quest for Camelot PC game you could raise a dragon from an egg 'til the day you logged on and he'd quite literally flown the nest, leaving you broken hearted with nothing but a postcard to say goodbye. This was a game I played over and over and over. You did everything for this baby, potty-training and teaching him to walk, teaching him guitar and spoon-feeding him cereal. You'd feed him hot sauce to teach him to breathe fire and play him records to help him fall asleep. I devoted a lot of hours of my childhood to this pretty repetitive game (and I really, really wish I still had it).

I've always been a sucker for look-after-this-thing type games. Tamagotchis, Quest for Camelot, Petz, Neopets, that god awful babysitting flash game that used to be on the Barbie website. I still kind of am now. Did you used to play games like this? I'd love to have a nerd session playing with any I missed as a kid.

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