I have played Desert Bus

By Mike on 7:36 pm

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People complain about realism in games. I often find myself screaming at the TV because the game did something I didn't think was realistic. What if there was a game exactly like reality? Such a game does exist. It's called Desert Bus, and it's a piece of sheer mind-numbing brilliance.

The title itself is a legend in the gaming community. Penn & Teller planned to include it with their 1995 Sega CD game Smoke and Mirrors. It was never released to the public and was largely forgotten. A bootleg version ended up on the internet some time later.

Won't you ride my magic bus?

Desert Bus was a brilliant piece of political satire. It was the brain child of Eddie Gorodetsky, later producer of the "winning" sitcom Two and a Half Men. The game was a response to the violent video game controversy of the mid-90s. The attacks on the gaming industry were largely being driven by then US Attorney General Janet Reno. Gorodetsky wanted to make a game so dull and bland that even Reno would be pleased. As the intro video points out, why waste money on fantasy when you can learn skills valuable to your pathetic life.

Penn & Teller explain the game, with "gameplay" footage at the end

You drive a bus non-stop between Tucson, Arizona and Las Vegas. You travel along an empty desert highway with no other traffic on the road. There are bus stops, but nobody gets on or off. The bus is also governed to 45mph. At this speed, the trip takes a mind-numbing 8 hours to complete. To top it off, the bus pulls to the right, making impossible to set and forget. Should you veer off the road, a tow trucks comes and drags you back to Tucson, in real time. You can't pause the game either. Hitting "Start" only honks the horn.

Desert Bus forces you to play it from start to finish. Should you actually get to Vegas, you get a single point and the option of driving back to Tucson.

"Gameplay" shot with a lone bug hitting the windshield. Supposedly only happens once.
This is about as exciting as Desert Bus gets.

Desert Bus would have been a foot note in video game history. Then in 2007, Canadian comedy group LoadingReadingRun decided to play it, non-stop for charity.

The money went to Child's Play, a charity that buys video games and toys for childrens' hospitals around the world. In the first year, they raised $22,805 and played the game for 4 days and 12hr strait. Penn & Teller have been avid supports of the event, now known as Desert Bus for Hope. The event has raised almost $210,000 over the past four years.

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