Desert Bus: Virtual Reality Edition in Development for Charities

Desert Bus: Virtual Reality Edition in Development for Charities

Now charitable game players can have the tedium of Desert Bus beamed directly into their eyes.

Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller has a surprise for all you charitable people out there: A virtual reality edition of Desert Bus is coming.

Forget petting dinosaurs or riding dragons. VR is best used for letting you feel the raw joy of driving across a flat, featureless desert.

Jillette broke the news about VR Desert Bus on the January 10 edition of his podcast, Penn's Sunday School. The game is engineered specifically for organizations that suffer through Desert Bus to raise money for charity (like Desert Bus for Hope, which raised over $600,000 in 2015 after playing the game for 159 consecutive hours), and will be part of a bundle of games.

"Thanks for riding with us. We'll be showing Bio-Dome."

Jillette says VR Desert Bus will be "platform agnostic," and will probably be available for Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR.

In case you've forgotten the history behind the most beautiful video game ever made, Desert Bus is part of a Sega CD mini-game collection called Penn & Teller: Smoke and Mirrors. Smoke and Mirrors was unreleased, but the crown jewel of the collection, Desert Bus, still made its way into the wild.

Desert Bus tasks you with driving at a steady 45 mph across the American southwest -- from Tucson to Las Vegas, specifically -- in real time. The trip takes about eight hours. The road is straight, the scenery is brown, and there's nothing to distract your eye save for the occasional windshield bug-splat, rock, or bus stop sign. And when you finally reach Vegas, all you can really do is turn around and drive back to Tucson.

It's not possible to tape down the accelerator button and make a sandwich, either. The bus's alignment is off, so it constantly jerks to the right. If you crash, you get towed back to Tucson -- also in real time.

Charities that play Desert Bus have to make their own fun.

Desert Bus is agonizing, awful, and is guaranteed to make you hate life. All people who play games for charity should be praised, but the folks who endure Desert Bus for days on end really deserve a standing ovation. Not only because the game can potentially induce insanity, but because the people in charge of said charity streams often have to come up with additional ways to keep potential donators entertained.

Cruel as Jillette's announcement is, it's cool to hear the magician is planning to update the game exclusively for charity use. Though it initially makes sense to ask ourselves "But how will we see the game as it's being played?" actually watching a run of Desert Bus is pointless, unless you want to give yourself a case of yellow-line fever.

When VR Desert Bus is released and starts popping up on charity feeds, we'll just have to make do with listening to the player's anguished moans.

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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve,, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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