A Tamagotchi was, by design, supposed to simulate aliveness — complete with the messy realities that come with owning a pet

Tamagotchis (a mash-up of the Japanese words for “egg” and “watch”) were not, kids realized, really alive in the same way as a parent, sibling, or even a family pet.

On a spectrum of aliveness, a Tamagotchi seemed less alive than a flesh-and-blood creature but more alive than, say, a family computer or even a beloved games console.

Should we, then, attribute a level of aliveness to a comparatively rudimentary program that is nonetheless able to provoke real tears and sadness in a human?

While older Tamas could die of natural causes, far more likely was the fact that you had not properly cared for them.

In Japan, there are stories of young men, known as Otaku, who conduct text message-based romantic relationships with virtual girlfriends on handheld devices.

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