Remember how trips to the mall were so mindblowing when you were a kid? Now they’re not so exciting. What happened?

What happened was that all the stores containing things you were into vanished. The toy stores are gone, sure enough, but so are the gadget sellers. An electronics store is the nerd equivalent of a hardware store for “normals.” Even if you don’t have any money, you can walk inside and just be entertained by all the cool gadgets on display. It’s getting harder and harder to have this experience, and I hate that.

Music stores are dead and never coming back. Franchises that specialize in home video have all but flatlined — you can’t rent them unless you use a vending machine, and specialty shops like Suncoast that carry rare titles can’t offer discounts like Wal-Mart and are disappearing too. The economy shuttered Circuit City, which was going south as it was with bad service and support. Now Best Buy has the big box monopoly (unless you have a Fry’s nearby, which you don’t) and THEIR service is starting to slack off as well. But they’re really losing business to jerks who come in, see something they like, push their smartphone screen and buy a slightly cheaper version on Amazon, without even thinking about the fact that losing these kinds of showrooms would make buying this stuff difficult.

Every video game store is a Gamestop, and if you’ve been in one you’ve been in them all. You have to really search to find a homespun independent game store like Granny used to make (tip if you visit Portland: Game Trader at Cedar Hills Crossing, CD Game Exchange on Hawthorne, and Video Game Wizards right outside the Foster Exit on I-205). I guess there’s always the oldest nerd pasttime, reading a book….Oh wait — bookstores are closing as well! They’re getting pushed out by e-readers, which are electronics, which are getting pushed out themselves! If things keep sliding downward the way they have, brick and mortar will become the sole format for clothes and food. What reason will a geek have to go outside anymore?

It’s pretty much happened with malls. Think about the last time you’ve been to one. There’s a reason that memory is so distant. In 2012, most mall stores sell just clothes. It’s a far cry from the smorgasbord of the 80’s.

This is a mall I’d actually never been to before this week. It used to be called the Vancouver Mall (as it’s located in Vancouver, WA) but now it’s the “Westfield.” There are no landmarks or areas in the vicinity this name could have possibly been derived from.

Once inside, giant wall cards like this revealed “Westfield” is a mall chain. You read that correctly, a chain of indoor malls. You thought such a thing was too immense to manufacture en masse; you thought wrong. Everything contains the “Westfield” brand, from the photo booths to the drinking fountains. They even sell exclusive “Westfield” merchandising.

(Excuse the low definition of these pictures; people are less likely to get freaked out if you point a 3DS at them than something that looks like a camera.)

The one element I have to admit has gotten better in malls is their movie theaters. I can remember when a mall movie was something you only did to kill time. They were six cramped, echo-y chambers hidden in the back of the building with 4-foot-high screens and stereo sound if you were lucky. Nowadays they’ve transformed into 3-D, state-of-the-art, stadium-seated, THX-certified, velvety-chaired masterpieces. Cinetopia is a fairly new theater chain that will (no exaggeration) serve you a full-course meal while you watch. Yes, I’m talking things like steak here.

Westfield does something odd to promote their movies I’ve never seen anywhere else: they put the cardboard standees elsewhere in the mall and draped curtains around them. I don’t have much to say about that other than pointing it out.

“Make Your Own Minnie Mouse Inspired Bear.” I don’t think this is officially licensed. That thing doesn’t look remotely like Minnie Mouse and Disney themselves wouldn’t approve of such a confusion-causing product, would they? Although I guess it’s not trying to be a mouse, but a “mouse-inspired bear.”

At least the Westfield has its own arcade; the malls near my house no longer do. But once inside, it brought up another Thing That Drives Nerds Crazy: arcades that DON’T stock any of the classics. Because they didn’t! No Pac-Man, no Donkey Kong, no Q-Bert, nothing that could get a cameo in “Wreck-It Ralph.” 80% of the games in this room had an HD screen! BOO-URNS

One other weird thing about this faux arcade worth mentioning is that for some reason, all their crane games contained identical prizes. If you wanted Spongebob, for example, you’d go to the Spongebob crane and test your luck. If you wanted a pink Domo, you would use the Pink Domo Machine. Simple, no? (If you want a regular brown Domo, this isn’t the place for you.)

They put a lot of stock in the Annoying Orange. It may not pay off.

You might be thinking that if you can’t find tech products in the mall itself, you can at least find them somewhere within the anchor stores, right? Not in this one, you can’t. Westfield’s Sears has an electronics section, but aside from about five 3DS titles, there are no DVDs or games anywhere in it…just the machines to play them on. I don’t understand; it’s like they’re trying to be lame now. There may not have been games, but there was certainly this weird “Universal Game Selector” that attaches to the back of your DS and allows you to plug in three games at the same time.

If there are no electronics stores, there’s at least a bookstore, right? No, Westfield Washington Edition doesn’t have those either, but they do have….a library. It’s still full of books but it’s not quite the same thing. Since I don’t have a card I can’t bring anything out (unless I was feeling lucky) and I can’t return anything anyway since I won’t be coming back here.

This is the only place in the entire mall where I saw DVDs. They’re all obscure documentaries and art films; I didn’t recognize a single title.

Why is Kirby on the Sports Illustrated for Kids cover? I mean, I like Kirby and all, but I wouldn’t expect to see him on ESPN and it looks wrong for him to be here as well. SI 4 K used to run TV ads where it boasted how educational it was because it encouraged kids to get out and become involved in sport activities; i.e. get exercise. I guess that whole notion’s been dropped if they’ll put a video game on the cover now.

“Family Lounge”? What’s that?

Ha ha! It’s the bathroom! That was a funny joke, Westfield!

Finally, there’s this mystery. The requisite cluster of kiddie rides had this Ninja Turtle van to climb on….this near-mint, spotless rendition of the 1980’s Turtles. I thought these guys were retired a long time ago. They didn’t use the oldschool Turtle Van in the 2003 4Kids TMNT cartoon, and it’s too early for this to be based on the Nickelodeon CGI series. It’s….a new Turtle Van. Somehow.

Well, then….who says everything is gone? COWABUNGA!

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