Desert Bus for Hope: Raising Money for Charity by Playing the Worst Game in the World

Originally part of an unreleased Sega CD title starring magician/comedian/TV personalities Penn & Teller, Desert Bus is the cruelest, most boring video game ever created. It is also at the core of a charitable effort that has raised over $130,000 in the past month, Desert Bus for Hope.

In-game screenshot from Desert Bus

Desert Bus, in brief, is a video game interpretation of the drive from Tuscon, AZ to Las Vegas, NV. Players must drive an empty passenger bus along a straight, empty highway at no more than 45mph. The game cannot be paused, the bus drifts erratically to the right, and going off the pavement means crashing and being towed back to the start. Unfortunately for the player, the entire game takes place in real time… even the potential tow back to Tuscon.

In simpler terms, that means a player must spend roughly eight hours playing Desert Bus perfectly to reach Las Vegas and earn one point, whereupon they are then given the opportunity to turn around and make the return trip to improve their score. This can be repeated up to 99 times, assuming the player can figure out a way to survive the forty-ish days of random button presses it would take to hit that number.

Unlikely as it may seem, one group of intrepid individuals has made an attempt to do just that for the last three years. Desert Bus for Hope is the brainchild of Canadian sketch comedy group LoadingReadyRun, and they have collected over $200,000 dollars on behalf of Penny Arcade’s Child’s Play charity to date.

The total for this year’s drive stands at a staggering $138,449.68, enough to hire a team of four Desert Bus drivers (switching off at set intervals, for sanity’s sake) for five days and sixteen hours. They earned over 10 points, their scoring potential slightly marred by an unfortunate bus crash midway through the run. Breaking the $100,000 mark also added to the masochism by forcing LRR member Matt Wiggins to watch as many viewings of “New Moon” as possible in a single day… all in the name of charity.

To better involve fans and help boost support for the event, the Desert Bus for Hope site featured live camera feeds of both the game itself and the driving team. A laundry list of folks connected to the games industry called in to chat with the drivers during the run, including A Life Well Wasted’s Robert Ashley and geek icon Wil Wheaton. The DBfH team also kept fans up to date on Twitter, collecting over 2,000 followers and making their way into the trending topics for a short time.

Desert Bus for Hope’s 2009 fundraising efforts have helped push Child’s Play over $1,000,000 for the fourth year in a row, an incredible feat in itself considering that the charity was only founded six years ago. To the folks at Desert Bus for Hope and Penny Arcade, you have our heartfelt thanks for making the world a better place on behalf of gamers everywhere.