Monday, May 11, 2009

Electronic Mall Madness

There are only so many viable ways to ensu
re that young generations sufficiently absorb capitalist values to grow into eventual obedient consumers. The young and idealistic must be programmed to possess superficial values and a strong sense of materialism like the generations of buyers and sellers who preceded them. The real question is, how?

Of all the un

likely sources, the Milton Bradley Corporation seemed to have the answer.

They called it
Mall Madness.

For those of you who managed to survive the 90s unscathed by Milton Bradley's sadistic form of capitalist indoctrination, let me paint a picture for you. If you were at any time under the spell of this board game, you will likely want to purchase this picture by the end o
f reading this post.

The preceding description may be a tad harsh, but it's difficult to deny the deliberate value placement this game projected onto impressionable young minds. As someone who will freely admit her mother denied her the purchase of this game following a particularly potent temper tantrum in the game aisle of Target, I can understand its allure. The 90s toy industry was big on gender stereotyping, and board games were no exception. A 1991 article in Discount Store News offers the following bit of insight into early-90s toy and game marketing:
"Boys play Nintendo," a Parker Brothers spokesman said. "Girls play board games."
As much truth as there may have been to this, it is a bit disturbing nonetheless to observe the sweeping generalizations made by toy companies in an effort to neatly separate children into marketable demographics. Mall Madness was a product of this marketing philosophy, and dictated to girls that it was acceptable to be vapid, superficial, materialistic, and openly money-hounding. The real problem was, I wanted to be all of these things. The commercial seemed to speak to me specifically. How exactly did they get inside my brain to produce a commercial tailor-made to meet my shop-till-I-drop needs? They were selling us a set of admittedly questionable values, and we were more than happy to purchase it with the adorable fake credit cards included in the box.

There have been a few subsequent reincarnations of this beloved late 80s/early 90s board game, so I believe this official description from comes from the most recent one. However, its uncanny similarity serves to show just how far we have not come since the game's original release.

Talking! Electronic!

Find the steals and deals! And see what's in store for you!

Hey girls! Don't miss the big SALE!

Grab your cash and hit the mall! Get your shopping list ready and race from store to store. Quickly find the best deals and make your purchases. But remember, not every shopping trip goes smoothly. Sometimes an item you want is not in stock. Or you must go to the ATM for more cash. First shopper to make 6 purchases and get to the right destination wins!

Taking Mall Center: "Hey, this is on clearance!" "Cha Ching!" "Oh, we're out of stock, try again later"
Even just reading this description makes me want to go out and purchase it. The big SALE? Deals? Purchases? ATM? CLEARANCE? Sign me up!

This game told us exactly how we as girls were supposed to behave and what types of things we were supposed to care
about. While in retrospect this should probably alarm and concern all of us, I'm sure the majority of you--like me--are out there thinking, "Oh, yeah! I loved that game!" It's hard to be outraged over something that you once coveted with near-religious fervor. Even the games instructions illustrate just how stupid they thought young girls were. Observe, an excerpt:
The Voice of the Mall will say, “Hi Red!...Hi Blue!...Hi Green!...Hi Yellow!” When you hear
your color called, immediately press the Move button. This lets the computer know which shoppers
are playing.

EXAMPLE. You are the red shopper, Anne is the green shopper and Donna is the yellow shopper. As
soon as you hear “
Hi Red,” press the Move button. Next you will hear “Hi Blue!” Since no shopper
is blue, no one presses the Move button. Anne presses the Move button immediately after hearing
Hi Green!” Donna presses the Move button as soon as she hears “Hi Yellow!”

The Voice will repeat each unselected color one more time — just in case a shopper forgot to press
the Button when his or her color was called. If you hear your color repeated, press the Move button.
They probably could have left it at that first paragraph, but no, that would have been needlessly simple and comprehensible. They had to assign these imaginary characters names, because no way would these girls ever figure out who Player 1 and Player 2 were without them.

Also, this creepy unexplained disembodied
electronic Voice will actually repeat itself just in case any of you girls are too slow to have partaken in this ridiculously simple task in the first place. Got that, or do I need to explain it again? Milton Bradley would probably vote "yes".

Not only would the Voice tell you what to buy and where to go, it also informed you of your most basic needs. "You're hungry," it would declare. "Meet a friend at the Pizza Place."

Or, alternately, and arguably more straightforward,
"Go to the restroom." You almost have to wonder to what extent game designers assumed girls would actually get up from their spots on the slumber party floor to take an actual bathroom break upon hearing this command. I think they may have built in an extended pause in the recording expressly for this purpose.

Or my personal favorite, "You left your lights on. Go to the parking lot." Not only are girls only
good for spending money and buying useless material goods, they're also air-headed bimbos who can't be trusted to adequately perform even the simplest of everyday tasks. You've got our number, Milton Bradley (call us on those Dream Phones you gave us anytime!).

I suppose one could argue this game occasionally has the effect of teaching children how to budget, but the noticeably irresponsible level of spending is not exactly to its credit (yes,
credit. Like the cards. I'm all for subtle humor). However, the game's written instructions actually drop heavy hints on how to circumv
ent overdrawn bank balances by highlighting some of the underlying glitches in the game's programming. If you make a purchase and then find that you actually had no money in your account, you can simply return that purchase to keep the money that is in no way rightfully yours. There's nothing likely clearly outlining the means of deception and greed to a couple of enthusiastic shopping-crazy 9 year-old girls.

The crowning glory of the game, however, is the inordinate amount of physical assembly it requires.
In light of all of their good-natured gender stereotyping, it seems the kindpeople at Milton Bradley were banking on the notion that these Mall Madness-purchasing households contained a father or some brothers, or else this game would never be up and running.


Practically Perfect... said...

Oh my gosh, those girls' hair just cracks me up!

Nic said...

Never heard of it, but I wish I'd had one. Looks like fun!

Sadako said...

I think I saw commercials for this but never got it. But you're so right about the gender stereotypes in the 90s. I did have a talking Barbie and a million other barbies and Littlest Pet Shops and Quints and just so many damned girly toys, it's almost embarrassing.

CTB said...

mall madness, girl talk, and pretty pretty princess were my all time favorites as a child!

Erica said...

I was never, ever able to get past the construction phase to actually play. A few years ago, while helping my sister clean out her room, I found it. Deciding I was finally old enough to figure it all out - I did. It was horrifying. And almost unplayable.

LiLu said...

OMG... all this time, they've been trying to figure out what triggered the financial crisis... and all the time, the answer was right here! Of course- MALL MADNESS!!!

Alex said...

I never had Mall Madness, but I definitely had Dream Phone.

teasinglydiverse said...

And thus began my shopping addiction...

outpostroad said...

LOVED Mall Madness! The setup took forever, but we thought it was so worth the wait. And we felt so cool with our credit cards.

Andhari said...

I didn't get to play this, however I do play the mk&ashley Olsen's Magical Mystery Mall LMAO

The Novelista Barista said...

YES :) hahahah awesome!!!

Reid said...

My sister and I asked for this for Christmas when it first came out and Santa brought it! They now are trying to bring it back and have a Hannah Montana edition or something like that I think. Nothing could ever beat the original though. Gotta get back to the parking lot!!!

marathoner81 said...

Ohmigod...I like, totally want to play this game again!!!

Cee said...

This was another thing I really wanted and never got!

gingermagnolia said...

Hi there, I stumbled in from Badass Geek's blog. This is hilarious! I remember that game, and actually had the Dream Phone one. I didn't play it much because it was boring, but OH! how I'd wanted it.

astralweeks said...

I swear, I was thinking YESTERDAY about this game and wishing you'd cover it. Wow. So many memories!

Little Ms Blogger said...

I didn't have this game, but think I would have lost my mind putting it together.

I wonder if you can get lost in the game's parking lot like real life?

My Wooden Heart said...

This was really fun. I also really enjoyed Dream Phone!

ChinkyGirLMeL said...

I never got the chance to play the Electronic Mall Madness, but I did play Monopoly. That was my all time favorite game. I also loved playing Nintendo and Super Nintendo. =) i miss the 90's.

Badass Geek said...

My sisters wanted this. Never got it.

Ella Everywhere said...

i used to LOVE this game!

Fraulein N said...

Gods, this game was all sorts of fun. I still remember the tagline from the commercial: "It's the mall with it all!!!!!" That robot voice was creepy, though.

Mademoiselle Frou-Frou said...

i remember that game!! how nostalgic!

Anonymous said...

best game ever next to dream phone! i was 10 n i could care less what milton bradley thought of us girls lol i had fun

thisisashleyquinn said...

OMG I had this game, and was obsessed with it. Seriously - Everyone that came over had to play either Mall Madness or Hotels with me. It's funny looking back and not even realizing at the time the overt gender stereotyping and contrived marketing that was going on - Then again, I was 7 or 8 when I got this game and of course if there's one thing a girl raised in the 90s loves, it's a good mall. I almost want to say that this game may just be still sitting in a faraway basement corner of my mother's house...

Oh, and I also had Dream Phone but I remember all of the boys on the cards being hideously unattractive - Even in my not-even-adolescent brain. No wonder I ended up being gay :).

JMontgomery81 said...

I had this as a kid. LOVED it! Seeing this brings back a ton of great memories :)

Jennifer Hensley said...

I have it but my ekectronic bank isnt wirking can i just buy that piece. My kids are wanting to play it lol

Keyahna Wood said...

I own the 2005 version it is really entertaining and at my public libraries teen program we plan on playing it life sized even the guys want to play this game

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