I’ve been doing a series of Let’s Play videos exploring old adventures, text games and lost design forms from the 1980s Apple IIe and Commodore 64 era and beyond. In a time when young men shout over new action games, I will talk softly over strange old ones.
When it comes to my Lo-Fi Let’s Play series, I have just a few hard-and-fast rules. One: No twitch, no arcade. Two: No hits. Don’t ask me to play Monkey Island and King’s Quest unless it’s New Year’s Eve and you’re paying for my party, so to speak.
But today, I buckled. It’s the season for copious work travel, conferences and speaking engagements, and when I found myself in a Helsinki airport on the way to Malta with an hour to kill, I got this itch. In the car to the airport, the Finnish cab driver was scrolling through his dashboard computer, trying to find Malta on the map, I think so that he could tell me how much more daylight I could expect there than here, when the sun has set each day at 3:30 PM after cold-rinsed mornings of perfectly-white skies. Here, I took a jog to the sea, or what I thought was the sea. What are these snowfields, I wondered? Oh, it is the sea, totally frozen.
I know where Malta is because of Carmen Sandiego games. I know where a lot of things are because of them. It’s an experience unique to my generation, and for me, an imaginative child, clutching my Fodor’s Almanac full of flag pictures, it was a window to the rest of the world, to a presumed future of chasing around the world in pursuit of justice, or glamour, or both. There exists a picture of me as a six-year old kid in costume jewelry, wielding a fingergun. An international superspy, hunted but untouchable.
In some small sense, I know what it feels like to be hunted, to read online threads about my destination, my appearance, my performance in those places. The games told me that I was the hero. Weird.
Anyway, I played Carmen Sandiego for you in an airport, surrounded by the romantic ambient sounds of gate calls and rolling luggage. I hope you enjoy it. Thank you for watching my video series.
The entire Lo-Fi Let’s Play series is available and regularly updated at my YouTube channel if you’d like to subscribe, but my friends at RPS are graciously syndicating them here from now on, with some additional written analysis and commentary.