Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

updated 10/30/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/30/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

>Lauren Elliott

CARMEN'S CREATOR

GROWING UP IN RIIINEBECK, N.Y., Lauren Elliott was fascinated by construction kits for things like radios and strobe lights. When he bought his first Apple computer in 1982, Elliott, now 48, thought it was so simple that even kids could use it. Elliott felt that the computer, like the construction kits of his childhood, offered "learning experiences that suck you in." In 1982 he left his job as an architect and, with a friend, Gene Portwood, sold the software firm Broderbund on the idea for Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?

Ten years later, after several spinoffs such as Where in America's Past Is Carmen Sandiego? and a Carmen TV show, the games are still bestsellers. Carmen teaches geography by having players search the globe for a master thief. Elliott says Carmen caught on because it requires active participation. "Everything before it was arcade stuff," he says.

Carmen left him well-off but not rich, Elliott says; although he was a designer, he got only a small piece of the profits. In 1992 he and Portwood started their own Petaluma, Calif., firm. Now the team is specializing in games for young children, like Elliott's son Julian, 3, who helped develop the new voice-activated game Marty (see review). There's one drawback, Elliot says: "Now he talks to the television and expects it to talk back!"

From Our Partners