Tuesday, August 19, 2008

TV: Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?

My friends and I all used to be hardcore "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" players. If you've never seen this computer game, you owe it to yourself to try it - it's a sterling illustration of how to make an educational game fun. It packages geography facts into a fun detective game about chasing international relic thief Carmen Sandiego. Particularly devious clues sent us scurrying to the school library encyclopedias.

The computer game must have been popular in a lot of places, and its spinoff is perhaps the most memorable public television children's game show of all time - that's right, I'm talking about the game show version of WitWiCS?, with an incredible opening theme by Rockapella:



The TV show was successful, I think, because it didn't lose sight of what made the PC game fun to play. A geography quiz show could get real boring real fast, so they spiced it up using a multimedia presentation and fairly elaborate costumes and sets (elaborate for a game show, that is). As in "Legends of the Hidden Temple," each episode centered around an object that had been stolen by Carmen's gang.

The final challenge that needed to be completed to catch Carmen herself was identifying eight countries and landmarks on a continent map with the labels removed within 45 seconds. The problem here is that you had to physically run to and place markers on each spot - very difficult:

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