ST. CLAIRSVILLE, OH — Over a decade ago, an exciting trend hit the toy market: virtual pets. The toys allowed kids and teens to have their own digital animal to watch over. Giga Pets were some of the most popular virtual pets on the market, but the trend soon died out and many forgot about the toys — until now.
Jimmy Thompson, a 28-year-old graduate student in the computer science program at Ohio University, recently rummaged through his old toys on a trip to his parents’ house and made a startling discovery: His Giga Pet was not only still working, it had become self-aware.
“It started just speaking to me,” Thompson said. “Told me it was glad to see me — that it ‘had been too long’ and that it ‘about time for dinner.’ I hadn’t turned on — much less fed — the thing in years.”
Thompson brought the device back to the college to confirm his findings. Though he was more than unsettled by the incident, his peers and professors could not be more elated at the prospect of a sentient virtual pet.
“Obviously, the toy was capable of so much more than we ever thought it could be,” said Dr. Dennis Chang, professor at the school. “Since it got here, it hasn’t stopped talking — demanding more food and more attention. If this guy is alive, what does that mean for the thousands and thousands still out there?”
Another professor was not so enthusiastic.
“We need to destroy it,” said faculty member Donald Felton. “If these things can do this much more than thought, what happens when we don’t give it enough. What happens when we don’t give them all enough? We don’t want some kind of war born out of a Giga Pet.”