For most young children, educational games are often the first encounter they have with videogames, and thus, games like Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? teach children, at the most basic level, how to interact with game software. Long before I ever even touched a console game, the simplified menu-based input of educational games was my entrance into the culture. Games like Carmen Sandiego simplify the experience of an adventure game, swapping text-based input like that of Colossal Cave Adventure for menu-based commands to facilitate the gaming experience for much younger audiences with a more limited vocabulary skillset. Seeking to develop these skills further, Carmen Sandiego also instructs children how to interact with reference books and apply their knowledge to solve problems. As the game was originally packaged with a physical copy of The World Almanac and Book of Facts, its gameplay extended beyond the screen and into the material world of reference books. Finally, the game’s ultimate message is the value and fun in cultivating a greater sense of worldliness. While children’s experiences and reception to the game will differ, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? merits some credit for introducing elementary school children to places like Port Moresby or Reykjavík in ways that encourage greater curiosity for a world outside their own. By teaching basic facts about the world and encouraging children to seek out deeper knowledge with an almanac, Carmen Sandiego promotes worldly curiosity and independent learning both within and outside the game.
Read the full column at Haywire Magazine.