For around a week every November, Canadian sketch comedy troupe Loading Ready Run launch into a round the clock gaming marathon called Desert Bus For Hope, complete with challenges, dancing, singing, and lots of silly hats. The whole thing is broadcast live on their website and raises money for gaming charity Child’s Play, who distribute toys, books and games to children in hospitals around the world.
Why is it called Desert Bus For Hope? The game played during this gaming marathon is Desert Bus, which is a mini game included on the never released title Penn and Teller: Smoke and Mirrors for the Sega CD from 1995. Desert Bus forces the player to drive a listing bus, in real time, from Tuscon, Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada. The player may not pause the game, so they must sit and drive for eight continuous hours to earn a point. If they wish, they can then turn around and drive back to Tuscon to earn another point. The game was designed as a response to the fears surrounding violent video games at the time, and now the team plays the game as a challenge, seeing as it’s unofficially the most boring game ever made. They explain more in this video.
Players challenge the online audience to keep the torture going by donating to Child’s Play. The more money donated, the longer the team have to play. In their first year they raised a total of $22,805 for the charity. In following years the amount has grown, last year culminating in a total of $443,630. The cumulative total raised by Desert Bus For Hope since 2007 is over $1.2 million.
The Loading Ready Run team have been running the event since 2007, when they streamed gameplay from a troupe member’s living room. Nowadays, Desert Bus For Hope is a tightly scheduled and organised show, although it is no less silly. In fact, they spend over half of the year preparing for this one week of madness!
The marathon also features charity auctions and live phone ins from various celebrities (internet and mainstream) for the viewers’ entertainment. Past guests have included Notch, the creator of Minecraft, Jonathan Coulton, Tim Schafer of Double Fine Productions, and even William Shatner. The auction prizes consist of donor prizes from various gaming studios and companies, and of items created by fans in the ‘Desert Bus Craftalong’. This year, prizes include a super rare Duck Tales Remastered cartridge and lunchbox, handmade Gipsy Danger and Otachi plushes, and an uncut sheet of rare and mythic Magic: the Gathering cards.
Desert Bus begins this year tomorrow, Saturday 16th November, at 6pm UK time. Tune in and enjoy the madness, and maybe donate some money so you can issue a challenge to the crew, or bid on one of the excellent lots. It’s for the children.