Carmen Sandiego is an American media franchise of educational computer and video games, television series, books, and other media featuring a thieving villain of the same name created by Brøderbund Software. The main premise follows the user or protagonist who become agents of the ACME Detective Agency and attempt to thwart and capture V.I.L.E. ringleader and former ACME agent Carmen Sandiego. The franchise originally focused on teaching geography and history, but later branched out into mathematics, English, and other subjects.
Originally distributed in North America, most of the computer games are now available to international audiences. With the exception of Carmen Sandiego: Junior Detective Edition, all the games within the franchise are aimed at preteens. Many entries in the franchise contain elements of various genres including mystery, comedy, science fiction, spy-fi, and fantasy.
In March 2014, Broderbund founder Doug Carlston "donated business records, software and a collection of games that includes Myst, Prince of Persia and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? to The Strong National Museum of Play...Collection will include almost 1,500 pieces of software. Original art, awards, board game versions of video games and promotional materials will be available to researchers".
- 1 Games
- 2 Television shows
- 3 Book series and Comics
- 4 Board Games and Card games
- 5 Other media
- 6 Awards
- 7 Critical response and legacy
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
||This section includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (April 2012)|
Carmen Sandiego was originally created by Brøderbund Software co-founder Gary Carlston and proposed to programmer Dane Bigham in 1983. The idea of the franchise was to create a computer game which would get kids interested in geography, a childhood hobby of Brøderbund co-founders Gary and Doug Carlston. Bigham provided the "look and feel" for the game interface from an adventure game he was developing independently and further development was entrusted to the creative "Rubber Room", led by ex-Disney artist Gene Portwood and Lauren Elliott at Brøderbund Software. The game script, graphics and humor were created by Gene Portwood, Lauren Elliott, and writer David Siefkin. An early draft version of the game was written by Gene Portwood and Lauren Elliott and was based in England, chasing Henry VII around London collecting treasures. Another idea proposed was a game based on the Time-Life series of books about great cities of the world. In the end, Carlston decided to base the game on The World Almanac.
Siefkin wrote an early script for the game beside the swimming pool in Strawberry Canyon on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley. He was inspired by an early computer fantasy game he had played called Colossal Cave Adventure, in which players searched for treasures in an imaginary underground cavern. Siefkin's idea was to transform the cavern into a map of the world, where the rooms of the cavern become countries with real treasures, and the clues were based on the languages, culture and geography of those countries. He believed that children would learn about the world through trial and error as they played the game. His script featured several villains, one of whom he named Carmen Sandiego. He adapted Carmen's name from a Brazilian singer and actress Carmen Miranda and the city of San Diego, California. Siefkin left the project soon after submitting the script to become a foreign service officer, serving as a diplomat in several of the countries featured in the game. He is listed in the game manual as a contributing author.
Portwood and Elliott developed the game into its final form, taking clues from The World Almanac and developing new game mechanics and the personality of Carmen Sandiego. Catherine Byrd was the first project manager at Brøderbund Software and the original project manager of the game. The game was programmed by Dane Bigham. Graphics and clues were by Gene Portwood and Lauren Elliott. The final name and scenario of the game came out of a number of meetings between the development group. The final name was originally considered too long to fit on the box. The first game of the franchise, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, was released in 1985 for the Apple II computer and was subsequently ported to other systems. The first seven games were each awarded one or more SPA Excellence in Software Awards, particularly for their educational effort. The Brøderbund-produced games were as follows:
- Where in the World (1985)
- Where in the U.S.A. (1985)
- Where in Europe (1988)
- Where in Time (1989)
- Where in North Dakota (prototype) (1989 or 1990)
- Where in America's Past (1991)
- Where in the World Deluxe (1992)
- Where in the U.S.A. Deluxe (1992)
- Where in Space (1993)
- Junior Detective (1995)
- Where in the World (reboot) (1996)
- Where in the U.S.A. (reboot) (1996)
- Great Chase Through Time (1997)
- Word Detective (1997)
- Math Detective (1998)
- ThinkQuick Challenge (1999)
- Treasures of Knowledge (2001)
- Secret of the Stolen Drums (2004)
- Mystère au Bout du Monde (2009)
- Where in the World (Facebook) (2011)
- Adventures in Math (2011/2012)
The first game in the series, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, established a formula that was followed very faithfully in all Carmen Sandiego games for over ten years. This formula involves a series of missions in which the user tracks and apprehends each of Carmen's underlings. Each case begins with the user being alerted that a spectacular theft has been committed. Immediately transported to the scene of the crime, the user must find clues to infer the suspect's next destination and to create an arrest warrant describing the guilty party's attributes. The culprit travels through a series of different destinations in an attempt to shake off any pursuers, so the user will have to continue tracking the thief for some time. The game continues in this manner until the user catches up with culprit, at which point the thief is arrested and if the warrant is correct, put in ACME prison. As more and more thieves are arrested, the user rises up through ACME's ranks and the cases the user is assigned become more difficult. On the last case, the perpetrator turns out to be Carmen herself and once she is captured the game is completed.
With the release of Word Detective, Math Detective, and Great Chase Through Time, Brøderbund began to abandon this formula in 1996. Word Detective and Math Detective involve the user infiltrating V.I.L.E. hideouts around the world and therefore maintain the globe-hopping element of previous games. However, Great Chase Through Time completely abandoned the series' original formula and has the user spending each mission in one time period, where the goal is to create makeshift solutions to any historical problems that the theft has caused and find the thief whom Carmen has dropped off. The last mission of the game has the user to track down Carmen in similar to the traditional formula, although the user does not construct a warrant.
Style of humor
The games created by Brøderbund featured silly humor and especially a distinctive style of word play with extensive use of puns, rhymes, and alliteration. This style of word play was also present, in varying degrees, in all three of the Carmen Sandiego TV shows.
Gag names ("Hardley Worthit," "Rob M. Blind," "Ruth Less," "Joy Ryder," "M. T. Pockets," etc.) were quite frequently used in the series, often to the point where Carmen herself seemed to be the only person without such a name. Clues about the suspect's next destination often used extended puns (example: "I pumped her for information, but her unrefined answer only suggested a crude plan to visit oil wells near Ahvaz.") or rhyming couplets. Even as the games began to abandon their original formula, this word play was still retained. For example, a news report on massive blackouts from Carmen Sandiego Math Detective quotes an official as saying, "We're taking a dim view of the situation."
Although Carmen's V.I.L.E. agents were often portrayed as cartoonish buffoons, they seemed to be capable of "stealing" landmarks, cities, national parks, notable cultural exports (such as "stealing all the sushi from Japan") and the like. Her thieves have also been known to steal geographic features and even nonexistent map features such as the Mason-Dixon line. Some thefts were even non sequiturs based on word play, such as "robbing the banks of the Nile," or plays on the word "steal" such as "stealing the show."
Learning Company games
After Brøderbund was purchased by The Learning Company in 1998, the Learning Company apparently sought to redesign the series. Under The Learning Company, the series seems to take its premise more seriously and uses character-based humor. Since The Learning Company has only created two Carmen Sandiego games, one of which is no longer sold, this change is evident mainly through marketing and which Brøderbund products The Learning Company has chosen to continue to sell.
The first title released by The Learning Company was Carmen Sandiego's ThinkQuick Challenge, a quiz game with a similar tonality to Carmen Sandiego: Word Detective and Carmen Sandiego: Math Detective, including the reappearance of Chase Devineaux. The new structure of Time was apparently to The Learning Company's liking since their new version of Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, fully titled Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Treasures of Knowledge, was similar. The Learning Company decided to return the series to its original focus on geography and history, discontinuing Word Detective, Math Detective, and ThinkQuick Challenge.
In 2004, Bam! Entertainment released Carmen Sandiego: The Secret of the Stolen Drums to the GameCube, Xbox, and PlayStation 2. It is so far the only game of the franchise to use real-time 3D computer graphics, although many previous games had used pre-rendered 3D graphics. It was also an action game and while geographical facts were included, learning them was not necessary to complete the game. Although The Learning Company evidently licensed the use of the series as well as some of their own characters from Treasures of Knowledge, this game is not distributed by or sold under The Learning Company name.
Carmen has also appeared in three television shows during the 1990s. The World game show was broadcast on PBS between 1991 and 1996 and won a Peabody Award for creative excellence in 1993. World was followed by Time, which later aired up until 1998. The Earth animated series was broadcast on FOX between 1994 and 1999.
Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?
This was the original PBS series designed for children ages 8–12. The World game show was staged in a slightly off-skew detective office, which was part of the ACME agency with Lynne Thigpen portraying "The Chief" and Greg Lee portraying himself as a special agent in charge of training new recruits. Greg was helped in this training by various live-action and animated characters. Among the show's most popular were the members of the a cappella house band and comedy troupe, Rockapella, who also sang the show's main theme song.
The game was played in three rounds: the first round was Q&A, where the two gumshoes with the highest scores proceeded to a second round. In the second round, the two remaining gumshoes had to find the loot, the warrant, and the cartoon crook in the correct order. The winning gumshoe captured the day's crook and later advanced to the third and final round to capture Carmen. As Greg shouted the names or places in a region of the world, the gumshoe had to place a marker on the corresponding place on a giant map of that area. A successful gumshoe who placed all the correct locations and captured Carmen would win a trip to anywhere in the contiguous United States and later in North America.
Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?
The Time game show refocused the show on history, but was otherwise similar to World with Thigpen reprising her role as "The Chief". Kevin Shinick portrayed himself as a Time Pilot Squadron Leader and Rockapella was replaced by another dance group, The Engine Crew. The third and final round of the game involved the pilot answering six various history-related questions to open time gates. If the pilot answered correctly, he/she walked through the gate. Otherwise, the pilot had to turn a crank, pull a lever, or do some other task within the 90-second time limit. A successful pilot going through all six gates and captured Carmen would win a personal computer.
Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?
The Earth animated series was a Saturday morning cartoon series made by DiC Entertainment. The show features the adventures of Zack and Ivy, two teenage siblings who worked as ACME agents and were aided by the Max Headroom-like Chief, who had to stop Carmen (voiced by Rita Moreno) and her henchmen from stealing artifacts. The series was the first Saturday-morning children's program ever to win the "Best Animated Program" Emmy in 1996. Its episodes have subsequently been repeated on the Fox Family Channel, the Pax network, Hub TV, and Univision. The first season was released on DVD by Shout! Factory on June 13, 2006., and the Complete Series was released by Mill Creek Entertainment on February 21, 2012.
Book series and Comics
John Peel book series
In the early 1990s, in response to the successful Carmen Sandiego franchise, "editor Sharon Shavers was tasked with turning the games into a book series". She gave the responsibility to John Peel. His "research" consisted of playing all the games, and this was followed by "Sharon and [him] work[ing] out a format for the series" before he commenced writing. While in the past his natural tendency to add jokes to his work had been looked down upon, "Sharon [actually] asked [him] to put more in". The art was done by Allan Neuwirth. The premise of each choose-your-own-adventure book is that "you are the detective", and each title features "four exciting detective adventures inside!". The books are written in the second person and in present tense, and have removable inserts that provided clues and the identities of the villains. The books are published by the Canadian branch of Golden Books Publishing.
- Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? (1991)
- Where In The USA Is Carmen Sandiego? (1991)
- Where In Europe Is Carmen Sandiego? (1991)
- Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego? (1991)
- Where In America's Past Is Carmen Sandiego? (1992)
- Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego, Part II (1993)
- Where In Space Is Carmen Sandiego? (1993)
- Where In The USA Is Carmen Sandiego? Part II (1994)
- Where In America Is Carmen Sandiego? (1992) - this title was, as opposed to the others, "a picture book like Where's Waldo?", and the only picture book Peel ever wrote.
- Where Is Carmen Sandiego? Calendar (1993) - this title was written for Workman Publishing, and Peel considers it "the strangest - and most difficult - writing job [he] ever had"
Melissa Peterson book series
In 1997 another series of Carmen Sandiego books was written by Melissa Peterson and illustrated by S. M. Taggart. Each book in the series was subtitled A Carmen Sandiego Mystery and featured child detectives Ben and Maya as the protagonists. These books were titled:
- Color Me Criminal
- Hasta La Vista, Blarney
- One T. Rex Over Easy
- The Cocoa Commotion
- Take The Mummy And Run
- Highway Robbery
Comic book series
From mid 1996 to early 1997, four Carmen Sandiego comic books were published by DC in a series entitled Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?. They involved the exploits of Evan Sawyer, "Acme Detective Agency's newest and youngest gumshoe".
- Issue #1 (June 1996)
- Issue #2 (September 1996)
- Issue #3 (November 1996)
- Issue #4 (January 1997)
Board Games and Card games
University Games published a number of board games, and at least one card game, based on Carmen Sandiego throughout the 1990s.
- Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? card game.
- Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? (1992)
- The designer is A. Robert Moog
- The number of players is 2 − 6
- The suggested playing time is 60min
- The suggested ages are 10 and up
- The game has two parts. First, players collect clued to work out which of Carmen's henchmen stole the landmark. Afterwards, players race to see who can catch the crook first.
- Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego? (1993)
- The number of players is 2 − 6
- The suggested playing time is 60min
- The suggested ages are 8 and up
- Where In The World is Carmen Sandiego? Card Game (1993)
- The number of players is 2 − 10
- The suggested playing time is 15min
- The suggested ages are 10 and up
- Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Junior Detective Edition (1994)
- The number of players is 2 − 4
- The suggested playing time is 30min
- The suggested ages are 4 and up
- Where in Space is Carmen Sandiego (1995)
- The number of players is 2 − 4
- The suggested playing time is 60min
- Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego (1996)
- The number of players is 2 − 4
- The suggested playing time is 60min
- The suggested ages are 8 and up
Where in the Universe Is Carmen Sandiego? is a movie that was made to be played in a planetarium. It is less like a traditional movie, and more like one of the Carmen Sandiego game shows featured on PBS with the live audience as the detectives. This film also featured Lynne Thigpen as "The Chief" and was based on Where in Space Is Carmen Sandiego?. This marked Thigpen's final appearance of the franchise before her death of a cerebral hemorrhage on March 12, 2003. A sequel was later created called Where in the Universe is Carmen Sandiego? - II.
Where in the World of Music is Carmen Sandiego? is a concert series developed by Gary Sheldon. It conissts of 3 concerts: The Case of the Missing Concert Hall, The Case of the Missing Bells, and The Case of the Missing Pyramids.
Walden Media has planned to make a live action version of the film with Jennifer Lopez as both Carmen Sandiego and producer of the film with her production company Nuyorican Productions. Writer Darren Lemke (Jack The Giant Slayer) has been attached to write the screenplay in July 2012.
The Carmen Sandiego franchise has also extended to other merchandise, including T-shirts, watches, and stickers.
Team Concepts released a Carmen Sandiego Acme Crime Net Electronic Computer.
In the late 1990s, the Metro Washington Park Zoo in Portland, Oregon, (now the Oregon Zoo), in conjunction with Brøderbund, ran a summer-long event titled Where in the Zoo Is Carmen Sandiego?, which functioned as a full-immersion live-action Carmen game in which zoo patrons were the investigating detectives. Actors were hired to play Carmen's henchmen, who could be found around the zoo, and on occasions a costumed Carmen appeared, as well, but never in a location where patrons could interact with her. Clues were given out at various stations by members of the ZooTeens volunteer group.
As of February 3, 1999, the franchise has won over 70 awards. They include:
- Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego? Version 3.0: World Class Award - Best CD-ROM for Children, PC World, July 1997
- Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Version 3.0: "Best Software of '97 - around the world for ages 9-12", Child Magazine, Dec/Jan 1997
- Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego? Version 3.0: "Best Software of '97 - around the world for ages 9-12", Child Magazine, Dec/Jan 1997
- Carmen Sandiego Series: Family PC - Top 50 Products, Family PC, July/August 1997
- Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Version 2.0, 1996 PC World Class Award, PC World, 1996
- Carmen Sandiego Junior Detective Edition, Silver Apple Award, National Educational Media Network, May 1996
- Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Version 2.0, Codie Award - Best Secondary Education Program, Software Publishers Association, March 1995
- Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, Excellence in Software Awards - Best Early Education Program, Software Publishers Association, September 1995
- Carmen Sandiego Junior Detective Edition, 1996 Newsweek Editors' Choice Award, Newsweek, August 1995
- Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, NAPPA Gold Winner for Children's Software, The 1995 National Parenting Publications Award, December 1995
Critical response and legacy
The series as a whole has been met with critical acclaim, although most of the games released after Broderbund was sold to The Learning company have received mixed to bad reviews.
A review by Mr. Bill & Lela for Mr. Bill's Adventureland Review  says of the 1996 game Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? "It teaches knowledge of world geography and cultures, electronic database research skills, map reading and deductive reasoning. This game became so popular that there is a whole series of them out now: Where in the USA, Where in Time, etc. It's a great game and one that is often used in schools today."
The 1994 journal article "The impact of a computer-based adventure game on achievement and attitudes in geography" by J. H. Wiebe and N. J. Martin found that there were no "significant differences in recall of geography facts or attitudes between the teaching methods" of the computer game Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and a "non-computer-based board-style geography game".
The Educational Technology Handbook says that the series "engage[s] youth in tracking elusive villains across the earth". It suggest that the many games in the franchise "...hold your child's interest by putting them in touch with real-life places and events in a way no formal history or geography lesson can match".
From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games suggests that software games like Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? challenge ideas of gender stereotypes in regard to games, due to it "hav[ing] equal appeal for boys and girls".
In 2001, the Los Angeles Times said "even the most sophisticated recent titles have a hard time competing with Carmen Sandiego, the grand dame of teaching kids where in the world they are".
The Stanford paper "Why in the World is Carmen Sandiego a Success?" by Todd Brown explained the longlasting appeal of the series: "Ultimately, the keyfactor of success for the Carmen series hasbeen cultural. The designers were able to appeal to all children, boys and girls, by developing an experience with something for everyone. Goals, conversations, intrigue, suspense, learning geography... it’s all there. Furthermore, they did it without just shoving a geography lesson down kids’ throats and without talking down to them either". He quoted Elliott, who said "We don’t use small words. Kids are short but not stupid", and concluded "By treating children as the intelligent little people they are, the designers had no need to hide from them the fact that they were playing and learning at the sometime. Kids knew. The beauty of Carmen Sandiego is that they kept playing anyway."
- Bernstein, Sharon (1991-09-30). "PBS Game Show Charts New Territory". LA Times. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
- Lewis, Peter H. (1989-04-09). "A Hard Look at Software". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
- Martin, Douglas (2000-07-30). "Raymond Portwood Jr., Computer Game Pioneer, Dies at 66". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
- The connection between Colossal Cave Adventure and Carmen Sandiego was first discussed by computer game historian and commentator Bob Clark on the site Game Design Advance. See 
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- "Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego (1996)". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved October 27, 2012.
- "Walden Media And Jennifer Lopez Team Up On ‘Carmen Sandiego’". Deadline Hollywood. 2011-11-03. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
- "Broderbund Carmen Sandiego Collection pdf free ebook download from www.bombjack.org". Ebookbrowse.com. Retrieved 2013-02-12.
- "New Team Concepts Carmen Sandiego Acme Crime Net Computer Electronic LOOK!". Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- "Derelict Studios Announces Carmen Sandiego! The first joint EA-DS mod". Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- "Young People's Theatre Project". Yptproject.org. Retrieved 2011-02-03.
- "Carmen Sandiego Connection, About Carmen Sandiego". Web.archive.org. 1999-02-03. Retrieved 2013-02-12.
- "WHERE IN THE WORLD Is Carmen SANDIEGO Review - Mr. Bill's Adventureland". Mrbillsadventureland.com. Retrieved 2011-02-03.
- Hogle, Jan G. (August 1996). "Considering Games as Cognitive Tools: In Search of Effective "Edutainment"". University of Georgia - Department of Instructional Technology. p. 12. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
- Hackbarth, Steven (1996). The Educational Technology Handbook:. pp. 119, 223. ISBN 9780877782926. Retrieved November 14, 2012.
- Cassell, Justine (2000-02-28). From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games. p. 90. ISBN 9780262531689. Retrieved November 14, 2012.
- Gudmundsen, Jinny (2001-02-22). "Where in the World Is the Perfect Kids' Geography Game?". Retrieved November 14, 2012.
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- Carmen Sandiego home page as of 1997 at the Internet Archive
- Carmen Sandiego home page as of 1998 at the Internet Archive
- Carmen Sandiego home page as of 2012
- ACME Virtual Detective Agency site at the Internet Archive
- Carmen Sandiego series at MobyGames
- TV-Series 1991-1996: Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? at the Internet Movie Database
- TV-Series 1994-1998: Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? at the Internet Movie Database
- Carmen Sandiego at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on APril 13, 2012.
- The Elusive Carmen Sandiego
- Carmen Sandiego at kyranthia (includes images, question and answer with Matt Fishbach, merchandise, and information on past film rumours).
- Beware! Avoid Carmen Sandiego Syndrome
- Carmen Sandiego in Cognitive Remediation for Psychological Disorders: Therapist Guide
- Carmen Sandiego at Home of the Underdogs
- Carmen Sandiego at The Download Center
- Why in the World is Carmen Sandiego a Success?
- Edutainment – Evaluating the Social Change-Value of Carmen Sandiego
- Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego®? Junior Edition
- The Ultimate Unofficial Carmen Sandiego Companion
- Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? TM Instructions
- Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? TM Jr. Detective Edition Game Instructions
- Carmen Sandiego as the subject of an xkcd comic