Is This The Train To Desert Bus?


Desert Bus

This is part two in our ongoing coverage of meaningless content. -Ed

Do you like Penn & Teller? Did you know they once made a video game? I just heard about it and I have to say, I love it!

“[H]ere’s another dirty little truth that the media try their best to conceal: There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people. Through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse. And here’s one: it’s called Kindergarten Killers. It’s been online for 10 years.”

–Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President of the NRA

So how very nice then that Penn & Teller, in their infinite wisdom, gave us a video game that has no violence. At all. Not even jumping and stomping turtles and knocking them out of their shells. They are inventive bastards, I’ll give ’em that.

Ladies and gentlemen and everyone in between, I present to you the classic video game known as Desert Bus.

Desert Bus

Desert Bus is a trick minigame in [Smoke and Mirrors], and was a featured part of Electronic Gaming Monthly’s preview. The objective of the game is to drive a bus from Tucson, Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada in real time at a maximum speed of 45 mph. The feat requires 8 hours of continuous play to complete, since the game cannot be paused.

The bus contains no passengers, there is little scenery aside from an occasional rock or stop sign, and there is no traffic. The road between Tucson and Las Vegas is completely straight. The bus veers to the right slightly, and thus requires the player’s constant attention. If the bus veers off the road it will stall and be towed back to Tucson, also in real time. If the player makes it to Las Vegas, one point is scored. The player then has the option to make the return trip to Tucson for another point, a decision which must be made in a few seconds or the game ends. Players may continue to make trips and score points as long as their endurance lasts. Although the landscape never changes, an insect splats on the windscreen about five hours through the first trip, and on the return trip the light fades, with differences at dusk, and later a pitch black road where the player is guided only with headlights.

Penn Jillette commented in his radio show that the overly realistic nature of the game was in response to Janet Reno’s comments in support of the moral panic about violent video games at the time (see Video game controversies). He also stated that there would have been a prize for the person or group to get the highest score in the game, also substantiated by the various “Desert Bus” contest materials prepared for the release of the game. Penn said that the prize “was going to be, you got to go on Desert Bus from Tucson to Vegas with showgirls and a live band and just the most partying bus ever. You got to Vegas, we’re going to put you up at the Rio, big thing, and then, you know, big shows.” Some have played the game using a tool-assisted emulator, managing to obtain 99 points, the maximum the game allows. A run of this length would have taken over 33 days to complete in real time.

Source: Wikipedia – Penn & Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors #Desert Bus

That’s a hellishly inventive idea for a video game! Wow. I really wish I had thought of it. It makes Flappy Bird seem like a walk in the park.

And that idea that “people don’t kill people – video games do” espoused as fact by LaPierre? Wikipedia says this:

Since the late 1990s, some acts of violence have been highly publicized because the perpetrators had a history of playing video games containing violent elements. Some research finds violent video game use correlates with a temporary increase in aggression and a decrease in prosocial behavior (caring about the welfare and rights of others) but these results have not been reproduced. Others theorise positive effects of playing video games including prosocial behavior in some contexts and argue that the video game industry has served as a scapegoat for more generalized problems affecting some communities.

Source: Wikipedia – Video game controversies

Yes, it’s Wikipedia. That doesn’t make anything automatically true. So check the link. Read for yourself. Study the linked sources. Do some research of your own. But at least make an effort to add some context to the opinion of a man with extreme bias.

In the meantime, I’ll be killing passing some time on the bus.

3 responses

  1. This is an interesting subject. It needs further study. I’ll help you write the grant proposal.

    I’ve come to believe that there are some people who are predisposed to acts of violence. Through lack of empathy, sympathy, paranoia, a conscience, pure evil. It doesn’t matter if they’ve never seen an act of violence or played a violent video game, it that behavior is in them, it will out eventually. There is no comprehension of a difference between reality and fantasy. There are examples of this in the news every day.

    There are thousands…millions…who’ve watched violent movies, television shows, read horror novels, who know the difference. It’s a form of entertainment, which if done right, can be fun to participate in as a viewer. But as soon as they hit the off button on their tv set, they are back to the real world, dealing with real world problems in a constructive and balanced way.

    I do think it’s possible that overconsumption of violent games, shows, etc. can sometimes desensitize a person. 24 hours a day of anything isn’t good. But still, if you can tell the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, violence in any entertainment form is not going to trigger acts of violence unless there’s a disconnection going on somewhere.

    This was a long comment for me. I’ll end by saying that this belief does not mean I think violent video games and television show are GOOD entertainment. They just are.


    1. Logic dictates that if you have a problem and you don’t address the real causes, that problem will continue. “I just cut open a vein in my leg. Rather than apply a bandage I’m going to dance around and shake some chicken bones.” Fortunately the dancing will accelerate the process of bleeding out.

      No one in our society gives a shit about truly solving problems. It’s all just a game based on primitive biological urges. We’re doomed.


  2. I really liked the way you articulated it…. And not to mention very nice ideas…. And by the way I’d be more than glad to have you read my blog… Just take a look…. I hope you’ll like it…


Bringeth forth thy pith and vinegar

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: