'Virtual pet' is latest toy craze

May 02, 1997


Staff Writer

For once, Vickey Daley hopes she is ahead of the game on the latest "gotta-have" toy craze.

On Friday, she plunked down $14.99 each for two "virtual pets," a hand-held electronic creature that needs constant care to keep it running.

"We've gone through every craze that there is," said Daley of Maugansville.

At Christmas, Daley nearly pulled out her hair trying to find a Tickle Me Elmo, she said as she walked past an abundance of the stuffed red toys, piled high in a shopping cart at Toys "R" Us in Halfway.

The year before the hot toy was a certain kind of Power Ranger.

"It's yard sale material now, but, oh well. It made their Christmas," Daley said.

Maybe with their new virtual pets, Mike Daley, 8, and Ashley Daley, who turns 7 today, will be elementary school trendsetters.


Although the toys have barely hit store shelves in the Tri-State area, retailers are hailing the pets, sold under the names Tamagotchi and Giga Pet, as the newest fad toy.

They are essentially small electronic screens attached to a key ring.

Tamagotchi, or "cute little egg," is a cyber creature who has traveled millions of miles from its home planet to learn what life is like on earth.

Its caretaker has to push buttons to give it virtual feedings, hugs, discipline, sleep and even bathroom time.

"That's just like raising a baby," said Sue Carpegna of Hagerstown, who was thinking about buying one for her 14-year-old daughter Beth.

Treat the virtual pet well and it will grow into a "cute, happy cyber creature." If not, it becomes an "unattractive alien."

The pets can stick around for three weeks or more. Then the fun begins all over again.

Kids can compete to see who can make their pet live the longest.

The toys have been selling out in test markets, said Kay-Bee Toy Store spokeswoman Raili Filion.

They will arrive at Kay-Bee stores in the Tri-State area over the next few weeks.

Tamagotchi arrived at Toys "R" Us on Friday. Four people already had called to reserve the toy.

But many parents, their minds and pocketbooks still reeling from Beanie Babies, looked confused when asked about virtual pets.

"I have no clue," said Michelle Sauble of Maugansville, who has a 7-year-old daughter and 22-month-old twins. "When it hits school, then I have to worry about it."

Others said they weren't going to give in to the hype.

"If I can hold out a couple weeks, they'll forget about it and so will I," Tim Burtner of Keedysville said of his 6-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter.

The toy is labeled for ages 8 and up and it's easy to see how it could appeal to a wide age range.

"They're neat," said April Gelsinger, 18, who works part-time at Toys "R" Us and goes to school at Frederick (Md.) Community College. "I don't have time to take care of it."

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