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Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?

Entry updated 23 February 2021. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (1985). Broderbund. Designed by Dane Bigham, Lauren Elliott, Gene Portwood and David Siefkin. Platforms: Amstrad, AppleII, C64, DOS, MasterSystem, TRS80, others.

Carmen Sandiego is the antagonist – later protagonist – of this long-running educational Videogame franchise initially inspired by the early Adventure game Colossal Cave and beginning with Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? (1985), produced by Broderbund until 1998 and then by The Learning Company. There have been two animated Television series, Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? (1994-1999) and Carmen Sandiego (2019-2021), with other tie-ins including television game shows, books, Comics, Board Games and Card Games, and a film for screening at planetariums. A live action movie, starring Gina Rodriguez (Carmen's voice actor for the 2019 series), is (as of 2020) in production.

Until the 2019 television series and games, Carmen Sandiego, conspicuously attired in a red wide-brimmed hat and red trenchcoat, was a Villain: head of V.I.L.E (Villains International League of Evil), an organisation that steals valuable artefacts from around the world. The game's player takes the role of a member of A.C.M.E. (Agency to Classify & Monitor Evildoers) Detective Agency, tasked with foiling her minions and capturing Carmen (see Crime and Punishment). Her backstory and character are not entirely consistent throughout the franchise, but in most Carmen was once a top agent for A.C.M.E., until deciding crime would be much more fun. In 2019 she became an orphan raised by V.I.L.E. that rebelled against them.

The games had a strong educational element, initially geography but later covering history, Mathematics and astronomy. The most genre-related games were Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego? (1989 and 1997, the latter vt Carmen Sandiego's Great Chase Through Time), which involves Time Travel; and Where in Space Is Carmen Sandiego? (1993), set in the Solar System and including Spaceships and Aliens. The games proved extremely popular with both children and schools; the newest ones work with Google Earth software. [SP]


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