For a five-year-old, unfertilized egg yolk, whose only verbalized desires are for more sleep and to be left alone, Gudetama sure gets around. Since hatched in 2013, the hesitant protein blob with a butt has become an unexpected food community mascot. In 2017, Southern California’s Curry House ran a Gudetama-themed pop-up menu at all nine of its locations. Osaka, Japan has an entire café dedicated to the character, where fans can eat Gudetama’s likeness sculpted out of egg, ice cream, and sugar. Energy Bistro and Karaoke in Hacienda Heights, Calif. has a full room and menu covered in the eggy icon. And budget airline EVA has an entire Gudetama-adorned flight, running between Taipei and Tokyo.
While Sanrio’s flagship character Hello Kitty is hellbent on making the world a happier, cuter, more magical place (or at least, that’s what I assume), the “Lazy Egg” (an almost direct translation of Gudetama’s name in Japanese) busies itself (himself?) with not doing much of anything at all, save for fashioning bedding out of various meat items. Perhaps that’s the appeal. Millennials are forced to compete on a playing fields where our job prospects, love lives, and futures feel rigged for failure. If we were to pick a spirit animal, Gudetama—who copes by opting out—would certainly be fitting.
The egg’s newest incarnation is Gudetama Tap!, a mobile game (previously only available in Japan) that’s so gentle, the exclamation point feels like an oversell. In it, players are given a series of egg-centric recipes with cooking times that progress from level to level as Gudetama is transformed from a raw egg, to a cake, to rice omelet, to eggs Benedict, and so on. While you’re cooking up a new Gudetama friend (am I the only one that finds cooking anthropomorphic food characters mildly barbaric?) your previous creation is placed on a table, where for additional points you can, tap, jiggle, and smoosh it into oblivion.
Despite his garden-variety moans and pleas to go home, let’s assume Gudetama is complicit in this process—making him not only Sanrio’s most depressed character, but its most masochistic one as well.
For those looking for an experience that extends (somewhat) beyond tapping, there are game embellishments. Harass your Gudetama long enough, and it will deliver extra points. Use your points to buy cooking tools from the store. Collect gold eggs by watching sponsored ads and use them to cut cooking times. (For the dedicated and/or flush, you can also buy gold eggs with actual, adult-with-a-job currency.) But that’s where the narrative ends. There’s no villains. No countdown clocks (other than the one on your stove). And above all, no real point.
Which is why, over the course of a long weekend, Gudetama Tap became my crack. Like Angry Birds (which I was eventually forced to delete from my phone in the name of productivity), I tapped while watching television. I tapped in the bath. I tapped between texts, and tapped while my parents questioned their contributions to my higher education. I sat my phone down and picked it back up, drawn in by the poor man’s ASMR experience of watching digital eggs be squished. While I was fully aware I wasn’t accomplishing anything, it was the video game equivalent of chips eaten in front of the television—an act that, sodium bloat be damned, I always return to.
It was all well and good until I actually started to pay attention to Gudetama’s unintelligible squeaks, translated via tiny thought bubbles. While many revolved around begging to go home (back to his shell?), some of the barbs hit a little too close to home. “You’re spending too much time on your phone,” the game told me mid-poke. Having not looked up in the last half hour, I couldn’t help but agree. “You’re too old to be finding yourself,” he accused me moments later. Et tu, Gude?
Perhaps I was taking this free video game a bit too seriously, but I couldn’t help but feel personally attacked. To borrow another line from Gudetama, adulting is hard. I’ll take my absurdist escapes wherever I can get them.