15 Gaming Influences: Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?


Do the videogames I play make me who I am or reflect who I am? Back in March, Belghast the Aggronaut posted a list of the top 15 games which influenced his playstyle today and I’ve been meaning to write the same list for ages. The more I look at my top 15 games, the more I realize they influenced my entire life more than just my playstyle. I have so much of me wrapped up in each game on my list that every one really deserves its own post.

So, my first stop is 1990 where we have just intercepted a time patrol crime alert!

Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? (1990 DOS release)

Just kidding, Gumshoe. At ease and clean up that coffee.

How did it work?

You start as a Time Cadet, working your way up the detective hierarchy by solving crimes throughout history. You’re given a crime and have to investigate to figure out what happened and who the criminal was while tracking their movements through time. Your aim is to predict their next movements, obtain a warrant for arrest, and catch them for good. Every promotion unlocks harder cases, until you’re after the mastermind herself, Carmen Sandiego.

What was my life like at the time?

I was 8 years old, diving headfirst into computers with my father. We were still on our first PC, and gave my mom a heart attack by opening it up in the first week to reverse engineer the very expensive equipment all over the living room floor. I was learning how to make calculations and batch files in BASIC.

What did it mean to me?

My family is big on reading and research. Roughing it through the Kentucky wilderness in the 80’s, we had several encyclopedia sets, bookshelves on nearly every wall, and I could use both the Dewey Decimal System and a library card catalog. It was utterly mind-blowing to enter a videogame world dependent on that same knowledge and love of history, culture, and time-travel via entertainment media. I don’t know how much time I spent working up to tracking Carmen Sandiego, but those 80 criminal cases each playthrough seemed to last for days. I adored it; I still adore it.

The game came packaged with the New American Desk Encyclopedia, an all-in-one history of humankind for digging through when the game questions became too hard. When I left for college in 2000, I took this handheld repository of history with me–a seed from which to sprout the home library my children dig through today.



Bonus: that theme song.


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  • I think that Russian henchman should be your new profile picture!

    • Maevrim

      I love my profile pic by @ihatemmorpgs:disqus D: