It’s the most Desert Bus-iest time of the year!
November 11, 2016 8:37 AM   Subscribe

In less than 24 hours, a group of Canadian Internet sketch comedians will begin playing the most boring video game for over five days straight for the 10th year in a row.

Founded by Graham Stark (@Graham_LRR) and Paul Saunders (he’s Not on Twitter) in 2003, the sketch comedy group called Loading Ready Run acquired a copy of Penn & Teller’s unreleased “Smoke and Mirrors” video game in 2007 from the Lost Levels website and decided they wanted to do something fun with it. Penny Arcade’s Child’s Play Charity was also in its fourth year, and so the idea to livestream them playing it from their friend Bill Watt’s living room was born. The first hour cost $1, and every subsequent hour would cost 7% more. They had hoped to raise at least $5,000 by the end of a weekend; they wound up raising over $20,000 over four and a half days.

As the years went on, new innovations were added to the Internet-telethon:
  • Year 2 saw them move into an official office space where they raised over $70,000 in over five days.
  • Year 3 introduced formalized guest call-ins from such folks as Penn & Teller themselves and Jonathan Coulton, the Craftalong where handmade crafts were auctioned off live on stream, and official prize support from folks such as comics illustrator Ken Steacy.
  • Year 4 moved them into their third office space in as many years where they would stay for a long time.
  • Year 5 introduced an automated auction bidding system, which worked and then didn’t work and then finally works for good now.
  • Year 6 was produced in HD for the first time, sponsored by Steve Dengler, co-creator of the first foreign currency exchange calculator and the MegaCynics webcomic. It was also the year they collectively raised over $1 million dollars.
  • Year 7 introduced the Random Dance Party button as well as a Video Strike Team which logged and uploaded all the notable moments to YouTube.
  • Year 8 moved them for the first time into a donated space from the Fort Tectoria. This new locale helped contribute to the auctioning off of a houseboat vacation during the appearance of The Honourable Andrew Wilkinson, MLA.
  • Year 9 moved them to yet another donated space which contained a murder hallway; the run itself began with a eulogy for a former Desert Bus volunteer.
Now, in its 10th year, the Desert Bus for Hope will begin rolling again on Saturday, November 12 at 10:00 am Pacific on their channel on Twitch. In their previous 9 years, they’ve raised over $3.1 million dollars and already as of this writing, they’ve raised at least $4,929.60 which means they’ll be streaming until Tuesday, November 15 at least. Would you like to know more? Previously.
posted by TrishaLynn (44 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I imagine they'll be following up with a charity movie screening.
posted by Quindar Beep at 8:42 AM on November 11, 2016

They play this game so I don't have to. Thanks, Canada!
posted by spacewrench at 9:15 AM on November 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Mod note: Just a quick mod note: Desert Bus for Hope is one of those strange, wonderful internet institutions for which I am willing to make a rare fiat call on not worrying about our general fundraiser proscription for front page posts. If that's itching at you a little, I can sympathize, but on this of all weeks I'm gonna insist that no, it's Friday and we need some extra goofiness, so let's just roll with it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:16 AM on November 11, 2016 [66 favorites]

As a note, MeFi's own dialMforMara (also my girlfriend) has contributed some knits to the Craft-a-long for the second year in a row.

I've been watching little bits of Desert Bus since....I'm not sure. I think DB1, might have been two, but I only would watch an hour or two near the start and end typically. However, I've been watching a lot more (and donating) in the past few years, and I've written up why.
posted by Canageek at 9:24 AM on November 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

I didn't see it in all the links, and I apologize if I missed it, but here's Desert Bus for your Browser if you want to experience the tedium firsthand.
posted by Mchelly at 9:33 AM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

While these guys did it all themselves, the support of the tech community in Victoria (as represented by VIATEC) should also be recognized.
posted by My Dad at 9:40 AM on November 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'd kind of like to see somebody do a Desert Bus ROM hack that adds Fury Road theming, but that might be against the ineffable/unplayable spirit of Desert Bus.
posted by Strange Interlude at 9:40 AM on November 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

we need some extra goofiness, so let's just roll with it.

I see what you did there.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:48 AM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh man, Desert Bus on the FP. This is, hands down, my favorite time of the year. My friends and I are planning a "Busgiving" holiday, starting tomorrow (roughly when Desert Bus starts), and we're potlucking a bunch of food before having a sleepover for the weekend to commemorate the 24-hour streaming coverage of our very favorite charity.

Very, very few things in life give me as much joy as watching Desert Bus for Hope. More and more, as life gets basically terrible, DB4H becomes the thing I look forward to, to give me a little bit of hope back.
posted by Joviwan at 9:49 AM on November 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

the support of the tech community in Victoria (as represented by VIATEC) should also be recognized

Argh, you're so right. I contacted the mods to ask them to change the Alacrity Foundation link to Fort Tectoria; hopefully they'll get that done soon. I just recalled from last year's run that the folks who either designed or set up the second donated space also were involved in the first one and I think I conflated the two.
posted by TrishaLynn at 9:50 AM on November 11, 2016

What is so boring about the game?
posted by shothotbot at 9:52 AM on November 11, 2016

What's so boring about Desert Bus? Imagine you are driving a bus down a long, straight highway in the desert. There are no turns. There are no stops. There is just you, and the road, and an hour or so between the start of the drive and the end. When you get to the end of the road, you get a single point, and then you turn around and go back the way you came.

Oh, and the bus tends to drift to one side, so you can't just put a brick on the gas pedal and pay attention to something else.
posted by egypturnash at 9:57 AM on November 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

Wow, they should find a great empty hour long stretch and a sat uplink donation and to it for real.
posted by sammyo at 10:02 AM on November 11, 2016

Argh, you're so right. I contacted the mods to ask them to change the Alacrity Foundation link to Fort Tectoria;

I was wondering about that, since Owen Matthews / Alacrity / Wesley Clover have their own spot now just a block up the street, and Matthews now sits on the board of VIATEC (he's also on their home page at the moment, too).

It's hard to keep track sometimes! Does this mean Desert Bus is still being done at Fort Tectoria/VIATEC?
posted by My Dad at 10:03 AM on November 11, 2016

Actually, it's 8 hours between the start (Tucson) and the end (Las Vegas). And you still only get one point.
posted by TrishaLynn at 10:04 AM on November 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

Does this mean Desert Bus is still being done at Fort Tectoria/VIATEC?

Nope, this year they worked with a commercial real estate person and are in a third new space.
posted by TrishaLynn at 10:07 AM on November 11, 2016

Cool. So odd to see photos of Victoria on MetaFilter—I live in James Bay :)
posted by My Dad at 10:15 AM on November 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

cortex is a desert bus?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:33 AM on November 11, 2016

Always worth a reminder that the game Desert Bus was created by P&T in response to the late Janet Reno's comments to the TV industry that if they didn't do something to reduce the amount of crime and violence on TV, the Federal Government would do it for them. It's not a one-hour bus ride, but 8 hours, no pausing, no violence, just boring almost featureless desert.

So it was a natural choice to support Penny Arcade's "Child's Play" charity, which was created in protest against the Jack Thompson-fronted moral panic against video game violence.

(This all gets weirder when you look at the strange encounter between Thompson and Reno in 1988, as they ran against one another for her job as Dade County State Attorney, in which he charged her with battery for putting her hand on his shoulder, which she did in response to a note he gave her, asking her to record her sexual orientation.)

New Yorker on Desert Bus.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:34 AM on November 11, 2016 [13 favorites]

I'm so happy to see this on MetaFilter! I've been watching since DB5, I think. I begrudge having to sleep and go to work during Desert Bus week; yes, you can catch up via YouTube clips afterwards, but it's not the same as experiencing it in real time while interacting via live chat.

This year has been terrible, this week has been worse. I need this.
posted by Shmuel510 at 10:51 AM on November 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

Didn't even have to ask if it was Desert Bus...
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:52 AM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Argh, you're so right. I contacted the mods to ask them to change the Alacrity Foundation link to Fort Tectoria

posted by cortex at 10:59 AM on November 11, 2016

Pfft. Whatever. I've playing a more boring game at work for 10 years: Excel.

Oh god, what have I done with my life?
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 11:05 AM on November 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

(I should probably note, lest my comment above be seen as shilling, that I have made most of the edits to the Desert Bus pages on the LRR wiki for the past couple years. But that's been on a purely informal basis, as a fan of their work, and I'm not sure anybody on the crew knows I exist. [And if they do, it's confined to recognizing my name in the edit logs.])
posted by Shmuel510 at 11:08 AM on November 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

Shmuel510: I'm very gratified to know there are more LRR-fans on MetaFilter. :)
posted by TrishaLynn at 11:14 AM on November 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

so let's just roll with it

But not too much or we'll end up waiting for that damn tow truck.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:20 PM on November 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

My home town's pride and joy!
posted by chapps at 1:37 PM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, the tech test is happening at 6 pm Pacific (in about 1 hour) on the Twitch site. Go check it out!
posted by TrishaLynn at 2:53 PM on November 11, 2016

The Honorable Andrew Wilkinson, MLA video is worth the price of admission. Two representatives dancing the waltz, not laughing, and responding to chat is wonderful.
posted by Deoridhe at 4:54 PM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

One of the related videos on the side has more backstory, as it were, on the MLAs showing up - apparently that whole thing was entirely unplanned/unexpected (they were at a separate function next door), which wasn't immediately clear to me watching the original footage and makes the whole thing even more delightful.
posted by btfreek at 5:12 PM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you don't feel like watching and just want to know the highlights, the Video Strike Team has just started updating the new page with the milestones and moments from the tech test and will continue updating with links to YouTube links when they have 'em.
posted by TrishaLynn at 6:15 PM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I bet someone could use Google Maps data and imaging to remake a realistic Desert Bus that's equally boring. My treadmill at the gym has a series of hikes you can play and after you've done them once it's kind of the same effect, but in realistic video.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:08 PM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Better yet, the Waze team should track where the virtual Desert Bus is, and show it on the real space map.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 10:33 PM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Bug filed against Waze team to implement virtual tracking. Guessing unlikely, but you never know.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 11:01 PM on November 11, 2016

And we're off! Starting with a tribute to Bill and an "Alexander Hamilton" parody, written by Molly Lewis and performed live.
posted by Shmuel510 at 10:23 AM on November 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have been watching Desert Bus all afternoon.

I seriously needed this, after this week's, uh, festivities.

Thank you!
posted by spinifex23 at 4:45 PM on November 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

We had an extremely hard weekend, here. Even Desert Bus wasn't always able to pierce the gloom, and we weren't able to bring ourselves to liven up the thread with commentary as hoped, but it was a lifesaver anyway. I'm sure that will continue through the week. Thank you so much for this thread.
posted by gilrain at 10:26 AM on November 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

There has just been a special appearance on DB by Kris "Chainsawsuit/CandleCove/Starslip/CheckerboardNightmare" Straub who is doing a parallel fundraising 'stream' he calls Desert Kris. Just because it isn't Meta enough.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:16 PM on November 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hunh. Not quite the same, and yet... Inside the weirdly calming world of farming and truck simulators
posted by Mchelly at 6:29 AM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

There's been an absolute flurry of donation activity in the home stretch. Looks like they've got another hour (or two? depending on donations).

They're at around $675k for this year and they passed $3.75 Million lifetime a bit earlier. Pretty cool!

(I just bought a shirt.)
posted by ODiV at 10:49 PM on November 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Here's a neat graph.
posted by ODiV at 11:00 PM on November 18, 2016

I bought a DB 10 shirt, and am considering a DB 9 one.

I love you, Desert Bus. Can't wait until next year.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:21 AM on November 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Here's the official trailer for the documentary about Desert Bus 10, now revealed to be called "We are Desert Bus".

And also Liz Smith from Desert Bus, documenting the Desert Bus documentary, during Desert Bus.
posted by TrishaLynn at 5:15 AM on November 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you want a quick way of finding highlights, here's this year's poster, created during the run, with YouTube links to everything depicted. (Speaking broadly, the artist started from the bottom and worked his way up.)
posted by Shmuel510 at 11:24 AM on November 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

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