This may be the best videogame ever invented. In 1995, the illusionists Penn & Teller created "Desert Bus" for the then-popular Sega Genesis console. The first-person driving game requires you to drive an empty bus from Tucson, Arizona to Las Vegas along a desert highway. The drive takes eight hours and it must be completed in real time; there is no pause button.
Even better, the steering alignment on the bus is off, so it constantly pulls to the right. In other words you can't take your hands off the wheel. The bus maxes out at 45 m.p.h. and all you'll see is the dull desert scenery, the odometer slowly turning over, and the clock ticking by in real time. There are no other cars on the road, nobody else on the bus with you, absolutely nothing to provide narrative interest. And if you go off the road, you get towed all the way back to the beginning—purportedly for repairs, though the steering alignment problem remains—and you have to start all over again.
Should you successfully complete the entire drive, you get one point. One.
So, why on Earth did they create this game, and why have you never heard of it? Obviously the game is a satire, and some of you may recall that in the mid-'90s, there was an anti-videogame-violence movement. "Desert Bus" was Penn & Teller's joking response to this. "It's a boring job that just goes on and on repetitiously, and your task is simply to remain conscious," Teller told The New Yorker. "That was one of the big keys--we would make no cheats about time, so [videogame opponents] could get a good idea of how valuable and worthwhile a game that just reflects reality would be."
As for why you've never heard of it: Sadly, the completion of the game's development process coincided with the demise of Sega's Genesis platform. Imagineering, the videogame company working with Penn & Teller, went bust shortly thereafter. Only a handful of review copies exist.
Amazingly, a group of die-hard gaming geeks got their hands on one of these copies, and a working Sega Genesis console. In 2007 they set up an annual charity, Desert Bus for Hope, that took donations for miles driven in the game. Proceeds would go to Child's Play, which donates videogames and consoles to children's hospitals around the world. The take has been impressive: While the first-year run only took in $22,000, the haul for last year's event netted $443,630, pushing the total to over one million dollars.
This year's Desert Bus for Hope is slated for November 16th. If you want to get involved and need to practice, but don't have a Genesis, you're in luck: "Desert Bus" can now be downloaded for iOS and Android.
Via The New Yorker