What ever happened to: Carmen Sandiego

Renee Rosenow

I believe the last time I saw Carmen Sandiego was back in the fifth grade at my friend’s house and Camen had left me dwindling in France.

She was the girl who made being bad look good; dressed head to toe in scarlet red accompanied with flowing midnight locks. She led us on crime adventures across the world and stumped us with boggling clues. But what ever happened to Carmen Sandiego? Was she caught? Did she go into permanent hiding? Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego now?

Before Carmen’s unexplained disappearance from human existence, she was one of the craftiest brunettes of our 90s generation – at least after Monica Lewinski. The masterminds behind the Carmen Sandiego craze began with Broderbund Software in 1985 with the computer game. Upgrades to the game were made in 1986, 1990, 1995 and 1996 by Broderbund Software. In 1998 The Learning Company took over the publishing of Carmen Sandiego and in 2001 came out with one of the newest versions of the game.

The main idea behind all of the Carmen Sandiego games involves the player in pursuit of Carmen and her V.I.L.E accomplices. Depending on the edition, an artificial intelligence guide named DeeJay might be used to help direct the player through the game or the player will be able to use the ACME Good Guides for assitance with geography.

The game starts out by notifying the player that an outrageous theft had been committed. The player then is immediately taken to the crime scene where clues can be gathered and sources can be contacted for hints of where the thieves went. The hunt for the thieves and Carmen begins with word puns along the way to help lead the player to the locations of the thieves.

A big obstacle in the game that the player must be aware of is the potential of getting fake clues if they are in the wrong location. Since the game is either played on a time or fuel limit, the wrong location clues can cause huge setbacks and ultimately the loss of the game. If successful, however, the game allows the player to warrant and arrest.

Freshmen Jared Blaeser and Brandon Devine fondly remember Carmen Sandiego.

“The best part of the computer game was that you got clues and get to apply them,” Blaeser said, adding he remembered there was also a TV show along with the CD Rom.

After perusing YouTube I happened to run across some old “Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego” episodes – not to be confused with the PBS TV game show, “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego.”

The “Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego” TV show operated generally in the same way as the game with a player who ran the game or, in this case, episode. The main characters in the show were two teenaged sibling detectives, Ivy and Zack, the C.H.I.E.F. (Computerized Holographic Imaging Educational Facilitator), who is the artifical intelligence of the show and the theif and head of V.I.L.E., Carmen Sandiego.

The show aired Saturday mornings originally on FOX and made by DIC Entertainment in 1994. Time travel was eventually added to the show after it’s first season and remained a prevalent feature throughout the show’s run.

Both Blaeser and Devine felt the game was more fun because it was educational.

“I liked that it was a thinking game because if it’s easy, it’s not fun,” Blaeser said. Devine added “when you’re a child, you want to extend your mind,” and said parents were more supportive of a game like this than the video games that used guns.

So there you have it! Carmen Sandiego is still around today with old episodes on YouTube and with new games available on The Learning Company’s web site.

So now that you know, go ahead and bust out your old Carmen Sandiego game and try to catch the successful 22-year-old thief. I dare you!

Saeger is a senior print journalism major and Showcase editor for The Spectator.