Thinking back on my childhood, I realize how many of my favorite games and shows were based on detective work. My favorite computer game was Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? (I especially loved the typing sound as I, the gumshoe, was promoted to my next case). One of my favorites shows was Mathnet, a children’s TV segment in a math show called Square One. I also absolutely adored the board game Clue.
Mathnet, a parody of Dragnet, focused on two detectives, Kate Monday and George Frankly, who solved crimes with mathematical and scientific concepts. A few of their cases stand out in my mind, especially that of loot stolen by motorboat that Kate and George find while scuba-diving by calculating the tidal drift between objects. And, of course, the murder mystery episode which totally freaked me out (you don’t usually expect a children’s math program to be scary). They think they’ve gone to a friend’s murder mystery weekend, but accidentally arrive at another house where guests are really disappearing. Thinking everyone is a great actor, they’re not alarmed until they realize they’re the only guests left. Them and the butler.
Which brings me to Clue. Clue was apparently created in 1944 by a British man to play while waiting out air raids, and originally included such potential murder weapons as an axe, bomb, syringe, and shillelagh.
I still remember playing Clue with my family when I was no more than five years old. I was allowed, for the first time, to play as my own character instead of being a team with one of the adults. I felt I was doing pretty well checking off boxes I knew to not be the murder weapon or suspect. Suddenly I realized I only had one unchecked box per category: in essence, I had solved the case of who killed Mr. Boddy. I made my guess: Ms. Peacock in the library with the candlestick. And one by one my family said they didn’t have any of these cards. When it came full circle and no one had any evidence to the contrary, one of my aunts gently prodded, “You’re sure you have none of those cards, Jenna?” I looked down at my hand, where I saw Ms. Peacock next to the library card, only partially obstructing my view of the candlestick. Oops. Luckily, Carmen Sandiego and Mathnet would come along later to teach me how to be a real detective.