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Carmen Sandiego’s 90s CD-ROM Game Made Me Realize I’m Bisexual

In the dark, you see a long brown hair and a red wide-brimmed hat. A sassy voice interrupts your communication, taunting nearby detectives. You wonder how she did it, how she kept avoiding you. She commits impossible thefts while looking cool and terrifying. She stole many things, including my heart, when I grew up and realized I couldn’t play her games anymore.

Carmen Sandiego, in hindsight, should have made me realize I was bisexual. She didn’t do it in the end, because I didn’t even know the term existed until I was a teenager; Alison Bechdel had to provide that awakening with her memoir Fun house. That and Carmen Sandiego are not real. She is a villain in the game franchise.

The Greatest Thief in 90’s Entertainment

Brief summary for those who never chased after her: In most of Carmen Sandiego’s CD-ROM games from the ’90s, she’s an unrepentant thief. Most of the rules confirm she has previously worked for the Taxonomy and Monitoring Agency for Scammers. The head of ACME, played by the late Lynne Thigpen in various shows and games, explained that Carmen has risen through the ranks as a detective. In the end, however, catching the crooks became too easy for her; As a challenge, Carmen betrayed the ACME. She even called her past there “shameful”.

Depending on the rules of the game, two different ACME agents claim to be Carmen’s partners. Chasing Devineaux in Are from and Math detective the game maintains a dry scepticism, while Julia Argent in Treasure of knowledge the game has seen good things in Carmen. The two had a chemistry with Carmen during their interaction, reminiscent of one of the bitter exes.

A law that keeps the same chemistry but has changed the dynamics: Netflix’s 2019 Carmen Sandiego recital turned Carmen into a hero thief. The VILE criminals raised her as their new weapon, but Carmen rebelled when they realized they wanted her to kill innocent people. She stole from criminals to donate to charity or restore items to their proper owners. Julia and Chase appeared in the Netflix show, with their personalities completely changed. While Julia became less vivacious and observant, Chase went from a cold mean girl to an impulsive and stubborn Javert archetype. Both admit that Carmen is hard to catch, but very charming.

A cutscene showing

Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? Screenshots
Image: Broderbund

Why Carmen Sandiego?

The Netflix series started the experiment by asking “Who is Carmen Sandiego?” Most of her games ask about “where”. After all, she can navigate to another country and steal a great historical landmark in just a few minutes. With that said, why Carmen Sandiego? Why do we love her? What is it about her that makes her so attractive and a great villain?

Carmen’s tendency to get addicted to adrenaline makes her attractive; Netflix adaptations keep this trend going. She taunts the player character, offering hints about her next heist. What if the crook was caught? She blamed them for their incompetence.

Even time travel is not immune to her. She stole an ACME device known as the Chronoskimmer, ordering her VILE minions to travel through time and retrieve historical objects. Carmen ends the game leading the players in the pursuit of time. When caught, she bragged that the high-tech prison lasers couldn’t hold her down. You’ve got to admire bragging.

Clothing also reflects the thief’s confidence. Carmen wears a bright red outfit, but she’s notoriously hard to spot when it comes to her theft. We know she’s a master at camouflage when necessary and can even bend over to adjust her height. The coat made her stand out from the crowd, but she knew when to switch to shabby chic and a wig. The look is still stunning 30 years later.

Carmen also has an obsession with your character. We played like adults in the game because neither ACME nor Interpol hired a kid to take down an international criminal. We fascinate her, because we can follow her without breaking a sweat. You can see that in Where in America?, Where in timeand Detective from, where Carmen takes her scammers around America. If you’ve traveled from East to West Coast so many times, you’re exhausted. However, neither Carmen nor the player. You’re right on her tail, ready to rumble. Good Guides have followed your lead, defeating criminals or throwing handcuffs when necessary.

Falling in love with a villain

Carmen appealed to my bisexual in many ways. She examined the criteria for intimidating villains, inviting real people into a conflict. If she does let the heroes survive, there must be a good reason, such as a giant hole, or one of the two sides getting injured in their more serious confrontations. I admire Carmen for being absolutely terrified of the worst of her.

Carmen is a clear threat. In her best matches, she’s unafraid of the moral hazard of her actions. Steal the Forum from the Romans? That could cause the empire to collapse faster than in real life. Stealing the light bulb prototype so that Thomas Edison wouldn’t benefit from stealing Tesla’s ideas? No one can work the necessary cemetery shifts as the doctors are called. Carmen also has no limit to what she can pickpocket. Sometimes, she and crooks have snatched national monuments.

Detective from showed Carmen the worst in terms of villains. She has developed a machine, the Babbling Machine, that can steal written language from the mouth and brain. That was bad enough for people with communication problems or language barriers. However, Carmen planned to steal the language of the world. The beam will mess up people’s brains.

A cutscene showing the two characters looking at large buildings in the distance

Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? Treasure of knowledge Screenshots
Image: Learning Company

I refused to play or even watch Detective from like a child. It’s too creepy. As an adult, the opening remains pure nightmare fuel. Carmen’s Babble-On Machine has captured Longtime Good Guide Ann Tickwittee. Ann, known as Agent 12, has previously defeated crooks bigger than her. The fact that the tower caught and shackled her, as well as Rock Solid and many other good Guides, proves that Carmen has raised her game. Carmen is also under the influence of agents. All they can do is beg for help in gibberish as you infiltrate the lair. It’s pretty kinky for a kids game.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that the game won’t harm you. There is no deposit as you search for clues to puzzles and keys to unleash your Good Guide. You can take your time, reset and not have to worry about anything worse than a few jump scares. That game, however, is quite successful for the way I see good villains. It also reinforces the way I see Carmen. She’s a villain, but she’s good.

Turn off the computer screen

It’s a pity that it’s not possible to play a 90s Carmen game now. One must know how to run an emulator that emulates the 2000s Windows desktop, downloading files from a website that maintains Carmen’s love and troubleshoot. I used to spend all night trying to do that and failed miserably, even with the guidance of a friend. Carmen disappeared after the oldest computer in our house decided to shut down forever.

The Carmen Sandiego of my childhood lives in a defunct CD installer, a few booklets we keep, and YouTube Let’s Plays. However, she will never go away, given the nostalgia we have. It won’t be the awakening that hindsight can bring, when you see brown hair blowing in the wind.

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