Published July 10, 2013
And you thought Angry Birds was boring.
Driving from Tucson, Ariz., to Las Vegas takes about eight hours and is exactly as boring as you’d imagine -- a straight strip of highway through the flat, brown desert scrub, interrupted only by the occasional signpost or oddly shaped rock by the side of the road.
Desert Bus, an unreleased 1995 video game by entertainers Penn Jillette and Teller, celebrates that trip in all its horrid glory by re-enacting the 16-hour, round-trip journey. In real time, at 45 miles per hour. In a vehicle that doesn’t steer straight, forcing constant vigilance.
One trip earns the driver a single point.
Paul Saunders, who first heard of the game in 2003, is apparently a fan, despite its obvious flaws.
“It is, without a doubt, the very worst video game I have ever played,” he told the New Yorker.
Saunders runs an annual charity called Desert Bus for Hope, in which he and a group of colleagues drove the virtual journey. Though the charity event now plans for its seventh run, on Nov. 16, 2013, it was unclear whether even one full trip would be completed.
“That first year, we had no plans for food or scheduling,” said Graham Stark, a co-founder of the event. “If it hadn’t been for friends and family coming by with food, and to just hang out and keep us awake, I don’t think it would have succeeded.”
Desert Bus for Hope has now raised over a million dollars, the New Yorker reported.
The terribly tedious video game was first detailed in 2006; LostLevels.org offers the following review of the “action” in the game:
The goal of Desert Bus was to, quite simply, drive a bus from Tucson, Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada; a very very boring drive, as those of us who have done it know. There were a couple catches, though: in the game, your bus could not go over 45 miles per hour. Also, it veered to the right, just ever so slightly, so you could not simply tape down the accelerator button on your Genesis pad and leave the game alone; you had to man the wheel at all times.
In a 2006 interview about the game on the site, Jillette waxed poetic.
“It was a really mean, groovy game,” said Jillette.
“You saw nothing. It was just desert stuff going by,” said Jillette. “And you couldn’t take your hands off the controller, and if you did…it didn’t have a spectacular crash, it just slowly went into the sand, and then overheated and stopped.”
“And then the game was you being towed backwards all the way back to Tucson.”