Mall Madness is a shopping-themed game that has undergone several releases in its nearly 30 years of existence. The game is designed for teenagers and can be played with 2 to 4 people. The object of the game is to navigate a shopping mall, purchase 6 items and be the first to make it back to the parking lot.
Everything I know about shopping at a mall, I learned from Mall Madness. Like a finely-tuned machine of war, the game taught about strategy, prioritizing, budgeting and more in one of the most brutal ways possible. Spend too much money on the first item and you won’t have enough to buy the last item, ensuring your demise. Spend too much time heading to a trendy store rather than a nearby utilitarian store and you will fall behind the pack, getting eaten up with the hype of the mall display.
While some may say Mall Madness teaches bad habits like overconsumption and indebtedness, I say it teaches survival. No 90′s Mall Madness champion can ever walk into a shopping mall as an adult without going into offense-mode. Get in. Find a bargain. Get out. Race to your car and leave as quickly as possible. Those that linger will perish.
Okay, so maybe it’s not that dramatic, but it’s pretty close. As an adult, I look back on Mall Madness with a sense of nostalgia. The fun game I used to play with my friends is now a teaching tool that I play with my kids. There are so many learning opportunities built into the game that it’s easy to see why it was one my parents readily let us have. The game teaches kids to count money, budget, create a prioritized shopping list and stick to it. It doesn’t teach indebtedness, it teaches smart spending.
The lessons taught in Mall Madness can be applied to other areas of life too. Every problem can be solved by creating a plan of attack and persevering through it, even if you keep rolling 1s and all you really need is a 6.
Of course, like any good game, Mall Madness has gone through several updates. One of the best (or worst, depending on your point of view) parts of the most up-to-date version of the game is the electronic voice of the mall. It announces sales, bargains and other useful information. Smart players can listen to the announcements to get the best deals at stores near them so they can leave the mall faster and get to the finish line first.
The key to winning Mall Madness is to have a strong sense of resolve and little to no vanity. Once you have created your plan of attack, the game will entice you to abandon it at every turn. Stay strong, follow your original plan, collect your items and leave to go stand in the winner’s circle.
For anyone that grew up playing Mall Madness, the slow demise of the American Shopping Mall is even more bittersweet. Grab a copy of the game, sit down with your kids and relive a simpler, more adventurous time when shopping malls were the place to be for teenagers.