Friday, October 28, 2022

Mall Madness Memories

Sega CD Summer is out now!

Malls still exist today, but they just aren't what they used to be.

I live on the south side of Indianapolis, and the closest one to us is the Greenwood Park Mall. Over the years, it's undergone renovations and additions in an effort to attract more customers. It seems like stores open and close all the time.

It's just not the same mall experience I had as a kid.

Richmond, Indiana, never had the greatest mall in the world. My mother always laughed at the "mall directory" because you could see all the stores from one end to the other from the entrance. Still, I liked going there. 

You had Waldenbooks, which was the bookstore where I bought the bulk of my books and video game magazines. There was just something great about asking the bookstore to hold a novel for you and then picking it up after it was released. I loved browsing through the big wall of magazines there and finding some issue of GamePro or Electronic Gaming Monthly with a cool cover. I also got the occasional sports magazine there.

My favorite section, of course, featured science fiction and fantasy books. To be honest, my "science fiction and fantasy" reading was pretty much limited to Star Wars and Star Trek books. I rarely left Waldenbooks without a paperback of some sort. Most of my Star Trek books were paperbacks while I had several hardcovers in the Star Wars series. Favorites included the Timothy Zahn Heir to the Empire trilogy and Steve Perry's Shadows of the Empire. None of those books "count" in the current Star Wars canon, of course.

Chapter 9 of Sega CD Summer dramatizes a trip to the mall, with Tommy visiting Electronics Boutique with his mother. I thought the store was incredible, packed with almost every game and system I could imagine. Electronics Boutique also featured PC games and components; it's the first place I can ever recall seeing a CD-ROM drive.

Games were arranged on wire shelves with the price marked on a placard below. If you wanted one, you took the case up to the register and paid for your game; the employee then retrieved a copy from a locked drawer. It was similar to the Target/Kmart/Sears purchasing process in which games were kept in locked cabinets. KB Toys, on the other hand, used a "ticket" system in which you pulled the ticket for the game you wanted and took it up to the counter.

Ah, yes. KB Games. Like most everything else in the mall, the products were overpriced and the store was kind of cramped. However, you could find things at KB that were hard to come by at Target or Kmart--you'd just pay a little more for them. For the most part, I was content with the selection of G.I. Joes at Target, but every once in a while, KB Toys would have that special figure I was looking for.

Five of the games pictured above came from the Sears bargain bin
KB also had a decent bargain bin for video games when it was clearing stock. A couple of games I remember buying from there include Zero Tolerance, a first-person shooter that was actually decent for a console shooter of the era, and Cosmic Spacehead, a game that wasn't worth the $15 I paid for it.

The champion of discount games, however, was Sears. The electronics section there was small, but Sears usually had discounted Sega CD games. I bought FIFA and NHL '94 there for cheap, along with Links: The Challenge of Golf. I believe AH-3 Thunderstrike and The Software Toolworks Star Wars Chess also came from Sears!

For the most part, Sears, JCPenney, and their ilk are irrelevant these days. But for those of us who grew up in the '80s and '90s, the mall was a magical place to hang out with friends, spend some time at the arcade, and do some clothes shopping. That's because the mall had everything all in one place.