In the 1990s, staunch critics of video game violence, like then-U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, were abuzz with the idea that the games' reward system for bloody violence, was turning the nation's youth into skull-bashing hooligans.

Comedy magic duo Penn & Teller responded to Reno's call to make video games that taught children real world skills by coming up with the Sega CD cult classic "Penn and Teller's Smoke and Mirrors."

The unreleased disc included the incredibly useless and uninteresting "Desert Bus," a bus-driving simulator that took place in real time.

The game never hit the shelves, but bootleg copies of the review disc popped up all over the Internet, where the comedy group "Loading Ready Run" discovered the game and turned it into one of the most popular fund-raising efforts on the Web. "Desert Bus for Hope" is an annual gaming telethon that raises thousands of dollars for the children's game charity Child's Play.

LRR co-creator and troupe member Graham Stark talked to Asylum during "Day Four" of the gaming snore-fest about how the annual comedy charity grew its legs, the overwhelming response the telethon has achieved and what it's like to drive eight hours from Tucson, Ariz., to Las Vegas without leaving Victoria, British Columbia.

Playing a single video game might not sound like much of a sacrifice until you understand how "Desert Bus" works. The objective is to drive a bus from Tucson to Las Vegas in eight hours in a vehicle that never goes faster than 52 miles per hour. The vehicle swerves to the left ever so slightly at different intervals throughout the game, so the player has to keep the bus on the road, or it will get stuck in the sand and have to be towed back to the original destination in real time. Players get a single point for making it to their destination and another for making it back without steering the bus off the road or taking their own lives in the process.

"It is interminably boring," Stark said. "It is the worst gaming experience ever. You can't imagine how dull it is."

Hell, why have some bleary-eyed gamer describe it when the magic of the Internet allows us to actually show you the game ... in high-friggin'-definition?! This is literally what Stark and his friends see for hours at a time.



The event, which started in 2007, raises money from a long roster of online chatters and gawkers who bid on auctions for everything from posters and game packs to homemade items. (When we were on the phone with Stark, the group sold a homemade "Creepy Doll" holiday gift set for upwards of $900.) Loading Ready Run also takes requests for songs or skits on its live feed. (We accidentally interrupted Stark's live rendition of Eric Idle's "Galaxy Song" from "Monty Python's Meaning of Life.")

The longer the money rolls in, the longer the group endures the pixelated pain. The last three years, it raised a combined total of $233,677 for the Child's Play charity, which provides toys and games to hospitals. As of last Tuesday, they raised more than $112,000 in just four days. The event has become so popular that comedian Penn Jillette, one of the many minds behind the game, endorsed the charity on his Crackle vlog "Penn Says."


From Crackle: Desert Bus Charity

As long as the generosity keeps reaching new heights, Graham said he and his friends are willing to suck it up by playing the game.

"There's this mixture of generosity and spite," Stark said. "You feel good about doing it because you're giving money to a deserving charity, but at the same time, you're continuing to pay for our suffering."