BANGKOK — Feed, play with, and pet a little tua mom as it grows and evolves – right from the comfort of your phone.
Himmapan Marshmello Saga is a virtual pet app, similar to the Tamagotchi toy from the late 90s, featuring Thai mythical creatures found in rural temples that went viral online for their cute, unusual appearance.
“In my day we played Tamagotchi and Digimon games,” creator Tinnapop Sornpom, 33, said. “Then I saw the hashtags about non, who were so cute.”
In early December, photos of awkward-looking statues of little-known magical creatures in some rural temples were widely shared on social media in the hashtag #HimmapanMarshmallow, after the mythical Himmapan forest.
Some of the most popular creatures for the online crowds appear to be hera (a half-crocodile, half-Naga) and tua mom (a half-lion, half-dragon in Lanna folklore). Netizens nicknamed them nonnnn (น้อนนนนน), an endearing diminutive of the term nong (น้อง).
The app, produced under Fairplay Studio, is still in beta testing and will be fully launched in mid-February,
Tinnapop says he’s been bowled over by the high level of interest – the app has been downloaded more than 50,000 times since the first version of the beta test was released Dec. 24.
The app’s full release will include microtransactions, some proceeds of which will go toward the temples where the original statues reside. The app also indicates where those temples are located, which will hopefully encourage domestic tourism and pilgrimages when the COVID infections go down, Tinnapop said.
— Lujitear III (@Lujitear_Pupae) December 4, 2020
“Of course, we asked for the temples’ permission to feature the nons,” Tinnapop said. “Some abbots were like, ‘do you want me to share it on our page right now?’”
Tinnapop says while an English version is possible in the future, translating the words isn’t the hard part – it’s translating the “very Thai context” in which the little creatures reside. For example, the app will feature elements from Thai temples, such as siam see, fortune telling practice where a person requests answers to a question by shaking sticks from a container.
“The nons are something that most people can easily fall in love with,” he said.
The beta test version of the app can be downloaded on the Google Play Store. Sorry, iOS users – as of Monday, beta testing on the Apple Store is full.