Thrift Store Board Game Review: Mall Madness

by | January 8, 2011
filed under Feminism, Pop Culture

This past weekend my boyfriend and I went on a quest to four thrift stores around Burnaby and Surrey in order to find the weirdest/funniest board games and then play them. One of the two we came back with was Mall Madness, which I convinced myself to spend $3 on by rationalizing I could write a blog post on it. So here goes.

In Mall Madness you take on the role of one of eight shoppers, each with their own “unique personality” and an individualized shopping list. You’re directed around the board to various stores by an irritating, perky female voice (“Seriously! There’s a clearance at the card shop!”) until you get 6 items on your list and reach your final destination. You start with $150 and when you run out of money, you can go to the ATM and withdraw a random amount of money using your cash card.

Looking at the game analytically, the options for girls are more diverse than I expected. Along with the types I expected: Megan, who’s “really into being pretty”, and Sarah, who’s “friendly” and “girly”, there’s “intelligent” Vanessa, “athletic, confident” Kara, “assertive” and “funky” Rachael and “rebellious” skateboarder Tameka.

But while at least there are options for girls who want to take on a less stereotypically girly character, the two available male characters are pretty cookie-cutter. Your two options are the more punky Scott and the jock Darryl.

The items on the characters’ shopping lists are supposed to reflect their personalities, but are more reflective of gender stereotypes. I took two girl characters and the two guys to contrast them:

Jewelry Store: girls buy hoop earrings and a necklace, guys buy a thumb ring and a class ring.

Science Store: guys buy a GPS system and a chemistry set, girls buy a back massager and a novelty lamp.

Book Store: girls buy fashion and teen magazines, guys buy anime books and sports magazines.

Shoe Store: guys buy comfortable shoes and work boots, girls buy platforms and designer shoes.

Arts & Crafts: girls buy iron-on patches and fake flowers, guys buy spray paint and a game kit.

So the overall pattern is pretty gendered, with the girls preferring spending more money on making themselves look pretty and the guys spending more money on practical items and sports equipment.

But there are exceptions, like Scott buying a guinea pig at the pet store, so it could be worse.

What’s probably most annoying about Mall Madness – not counting the disembodied fountain voice – is the overall concept. Targeting girls as young as 9 (according to the box’s recommended age) to turn them into mindless shopping machines is a little creepy.

Tips in the rule book include: “It’s usually a ood idea to head for a store that’s having a sale or a clearance. You’ll save cash and that means fewer time-consuming trips to the ATM!” So the only reason to save money is to save time? There’s nothing in this game that reminds players that you can only get a finite amount of money from real ATMs.

The verdict: not worth the $3 in terms of entertainment. We played it twice and decided it was probably to take out the 3 AA batteries the game requires and use them in something else. In terms of socialist feminist analysis? Totally worth it.  Mall Madness is a game that reinforces gender roles while training young girls that your personality is demonstrated through conspicuous consumption, and that it’s no big deal to drop a few hundred dollars in a trip to the mall.


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