I’d never heard of Desert Bus before, so I read with fascination this piece in The New Yorker touting it as the worst game ever created. It is remarkable how the game was able to pivot many years after its release and become a major fundraiser for Child’s Play, a charity that donates video games and consoles to children’s wards in hospitals around the world
The drive from Tucson, Arizona, to Las Vegas, Nevada, takes approximately eight hours when travelling in a vehicle whose top speed is forty-five miles per hour. In Desert Bus, an unreleased video game from 1995 conceived by the American illusionists and entertainers Penn Jillette and Teller, players must complete that journey in real time. Finishing a single leg of the trip requires considerable stamina and concentration in the face of arch boredom: the vehicle constantly lists to the right, so players cannot take their hands off the virtual wheel; swerving from the road will cause the bus’s engine to stall, forcing the player to be towed back to the beginning. The game cannot be paused. The bus carries no virtual passengers to add human interest, and there is no traffic to negotiate. The only scenery is the odd sand-pocked rock or road sign. Players earn a single point for each eight-hour trip completed between the two cities, making a Desert Bus high score perhaps the most costly in gaming.
Fascinating and worth reading in entirety.