Thursday, July 11, 2013

Oh Fine. I'll Talk About Desert Bus

So everywhere I went online this week, I kept seeing headlines for a game called “Desert Bus” and apparently it’s the “worse video game ever.” I didn’t bite because, well, it was everywhere. Even on Fox News

My curiosity got the better of me.

Sometime in 1995 the illusionists Penn and Teller came up with an idea of simulating the bus ride from Las Vegas, Nevada, to Phoenix, Arizona. It’s an 8 hour ride of boredom, as they put it. Not Penn and Teller as out-spoken activists for the gaming community. Penn even released a few papers in the 1990’s showing that video games had no connection to real world violence and social problems. They have even addressed it in on their tv show Bullsh!t. While rehearsing for an interview with David Letterman (The Late Show) they came up with the game concept as a way to prove their point. They wanted something that allowed you to make repetitive tasks just enough to keep you conscious (that was a big key, apparently). There would be no cheats. No save points. No pausing. No stopping the game. You had to complete it from start to finish in one run.  It would be an informative game based on a real-world scenario: driving a bus.

Originally when the game was finished, it was meant to be released on the Sega CD. And then the market for Sega’s consoles went belly-up. They originally intended to have a huge prize available for the person that would manage to make 100 points (which is an 800 hour trip, or 800 hours of continuous play). So the game died, and there were rumors of its existence, but no one had a chance to play outside of a handful of game reviewers. Circa 2005, a freelance journalist and gamer historian was sent a copy of said bud driving simulation. The game was revived for a sketch comedy online act, which turned into a charity run for Child’s Play in 2007, and it just snowballed from there. This year they raised over a million dollars. Penn and Teller support the charity and have donated in the past, as well as offered food to the crew during their first year.

So why is it labeled as the worse game ever? Well, for one, it’s pretty boring. You sit on a bus. You drive. You have to ensure the bus stays on the road. If you stray, you’ll immediately stall and have to get sent back to the start. There are no breaks. And as I said, no pausing. You have to sit the full 8 hours and just drive while the scenery remotely changes. I have no idea how the game mechanics are, but I’m sure there are worse games out there. E.T. for example was pretty badly designed. At least this looks like a bus driving simulation. And hey, money to charities. Always a good cause to game no matter the title!

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