How Carmen Sandiego accidentally became an educational game icon

“We didn’t want to call it 'educational'. We wanted to call it 'exploration'," explains programmer and Carmen Sandiego co-creator Dane Bigham.
"Carmen Sandiego was always intended as a game. It was the school systems that decided it was educational, not us.”

- Brøderbund co-founder Doug Carlston shares how the game unintentionally became an educational hit

Brøderbund Software’s Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego has been spun off into everything from a television show to a comic book series, but none of that would have come to pass if the Apple II title hadn’t been an early hit with the educational game community. 

But according to an excerpt from David L. Craddock’s Break Out: How the Apple II Launched the PC Gaming Revolution shared by Kotaku, the game’s now-well-known status as an educational game wasn’t something the developer originally had in mind.

In the excerpt, Craddock offers an interesting look at how much a game can change from first inception to launch through the Carmen Sandiego story.

At first, he explains, the game started out as an adventure game take on cops and robbers from programmer Dane Bigham. Later on, Brøderbund co-founders Gary and Doug Carlston would infuse their love for travel and geography into the project, which would set it on its way to becoming the series known today.

But Craddock notes that none of would have come to pass if not for the early educational games community. While Bigham and Doug Carlston maintained that they never intended for Carmen Sandiego to be an educational title, they soon found that teachers were the driving force behind a powerful sales boom. 

“We didn’t want to call it ‘educational. We wanted to call it ‘exploration,’” explained Bigham. “Educational meant really boring software; it’s ironic that it got tagged as an educational game. That was not our objective, really.”

The full excerpt from Craddock’s upcoming book discusses this in greater detail and can be found over on Kotaku.

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