Around this time of year, charities begin to ask us to remember the less fortunate. Somewhere, someone is the least fortunate person of all, however, and should be immune to such entreaties. This is the way comparisons work; there always has to be a top and a bottom of the comparison line.
This means there is, somewhere, the worst professionally made video game of all time. Let me submit as a contender, Desert Bus.
The game was developed for the Sega CD platform, but it was never officially released. Preview copies were sent to professional reviewers, but the project was killed and that was the end of it.
The internet, however, allows digital files to be shared, and one reviewer did exactly that with his copy of Desert Bus. Video game history was made.
I’ll allow the New Yorker to describe the game:
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.
The game was created in response to Janet Reno’s complaints that video games should restrict violence and be more reality-based.
So, that’s the end of it, right? Nobody in their right mind would want to play the game, other than as part of the occasional grueling marathon session for charity?
You know better. People want to top each other, and they want to do the things that others warn them against. Mindful of that, the game has been updated to a Virtual Reality version and is now distributed, free of charge, by Steam, the online distributor of games like Half Life 2, Counter-Strike and Far Cry.
If you really want to try it, it’s available at the Virtual Reality link, above, but I’m warning you, don’t waste your time. Seriously. Life’s too important to pretend to drive a slightly defective bus.
Question of the night: what’s your least favorite video game?