Sunday, December 19, 2010

BUS STORY # 215 (The Desert Bus Christmas Story)

desertbus, originally uploaded by busboy4 from the website TorrentFreak.

Here’s the lead: a sketch comedy team based in British Columbia raised $208,349.82 this past November for an organization that donates toys, books, and games to hospitalized children. They did this by by playing a video game until people stopped sending them donations.

What makes this a bus story is the video game used to raise the funds. The game is Desert Bus.

Here’s the story.

The organization donating toys to hospitalized children is called Child’s Play. Child’s Play was organized by gamers, and currently has over 100,000 members. It began in 2003 and to date has contributed more than seven million dollars to some 70 children’s hospitals in North America, including New Mexico’s UNM Children’s Hospital here in Albuquerque.

LoadingReadyRun is the sketch comedy team that raised the more than $200,000 for Child’s Play this November. Interestingly, they were also founded in 2003. The team is noted for producing a new sketch comedy video every week.

Desert Bus is an unreleased video game that was part of a package of minigames called Smoke and Mirrors. It was designed by the comedy team Penn & Teller (although Jillete Penn credits Eddie Gorodetsky for Desert Bus). Wikipedia provides a nice summary of the Smoke and Mirrors story:

"The game starred the comedy-magician duo Penn & Teller. The publisher Absolute Entertainment went out of business before they could release the game, yet the game was featured and previewed in various gaming publications such as Electronic Gaming Monthly and reviewed by VideoGames magazine...The game re-surfaced years later when Frank Cifaldi, editor of Lost Levels, a website dedicated to unreleased video games, received a copy of the game from a reviewer who had covered it years ago."
The Desert Bus game requires a player to drive a bus from Tucson to Las Vegas -- in real time. We’re talking an eight-hour drive/game here. And, no: the game cannot be paused.

But wait! There’s more!

The drive features an absolutely straight road through a virtually unchanging desert landscape in which nothing happens -- unless the driver lets his or her attention lapse. That’s because the bus, left to its own devices, will veer to the right or left. If the driver isn’t paying attention, the bus goes off the road and the game is over. (Actually, what happens is a tow truck eventually arrives and hauls the bus back to Tucson -- at the real time speed of 45 mph. The player gets to watch the road trip in reverse.)

Especially funny (at least to Busboy) is the fact that if you get all the way to Las Vegas without driving off the road, you win -- one point! You also win the opportunity to turn around and drive back to Tucson. The drive back features a change. Toward the end of the trip, you get sunset, then dusk, then night, with the road illuminated by the bus headlights.

A successful arrival in Tucson wins you another point and the opportunity to head back to Las Vegas. The maximum score you can win is 99 points.

The time it takes to score those 99 points depends either on your own clocked experience or on who you listen to. Wikipedia says each trip runs eight hours, which calculates out to 792 straight hours of driving. But TASVideos says the time is “41 days, 17 hours, 15 minutes and 6 seconds” -- or 1001+ hours.

More humor comes from Penn's story of the inspiration behind the game. He says the game was a reaction to the then-current controversy over the violence of video games. The joke was to create a real life scenario that was as boring as, well, reality. (Of course, any bus driver will recognize the reality flaw in the game: the nirvana of nothing happens never happens.)

As it turns out, the video game is not completely violence-free. Gamers report that about five hours into the drive, a bug gets splattered on the windshield.

LoadingReadyRun launched its first “Desert Bus For Hope” campaign in November, 2007. That marathon game lasted 4 days and 12 hours and raised $22,805. This year’s game ran for five days and 21 hours and raised $208,349.82. Since it’s inception, the team has raised over $442,000 for Child’s Play.

Contributions to Child’s Play can be made any time of the year to either the hospital of your choice or directly to Child's Play itself. Contributing to a hospital is more interesting because the site directs you to that hospital’s “wish list” on Amazon. I can see, for example, that, among other things, UNM Children’s is looking for three copies of the Ninetendo video game Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time.

It’s pretty cool how a bunch of gamers have gotten together to provide diversionary entertainment to hospitalized kids. And it’s pretty wonderful how a sketch comedy team has taken the gaming theme and turned "the most boring video game ever" into an entertaining fund raiser.


The photo at the top of this story comes from the website TorrentFreak. Busboy is especially fond of the timely "Christmas tree" air freshener hanging from the mirror.

I’m indebted to Mrs. Busboy for bringing the Desert Bus For Hope story to my attention and suggesting it as a Christmas bus story. Thanks, love.


Anonymous Brenda said...

I'm not a fervent driver even in my real time so I don't think I'll be playing this game any time soon! Wonderful fund raiser, tho!

1:50 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...


9:19 PM  
Blogger Top-of-the-Arch said...

Merry Christmas and best wishes in 2011.
Thanks for sharing your stories.
PS: Your kind comments and support is much appreciated.

1:56 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

The very same for you and your family, TOTA -- best wishes and thanks both.

3:58 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

December 1, 2012: This year's Desert Bus For Hope 6 brought in $436,015.71.

8:39 AM  

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