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'Desert Bus': Even In Virtual Reality, It's Still 'Boring'


Now to something kind of boring.


MARTIN: It's actually been called legendarily boring, tedious and among the most boring games of all time. We're talking about the '90s Sega video game "Desert Bus," and it's now available in virtual reality. A single player boards a digital bus in Tucson, Ariz., and then drives it through the pixellated desert all the way to Las Vegas in real time - 360 miles, 45 miles per hour for eight hours.

GRAHAM STARK: There is no one on the bus. It is a perfectly-straight road. There is absolutely nothing interesting that happens. But the bus pulls to the right, so you need to constantly, through these eight hours, tap left on the controller to correct and keep the bus on the road. And at the end of that eight hours, you get one point, and you can turn around and go back to Tucson. It literally never ends.

MARTIN: That's Graham Stark. He's been a "Desert Bus" driver for more than a decade. He's part of the Internet comedy troupe LoadingReadyRun, which hosts charity telethon sessions of "Desert Bus" every year.

STARK: It's one of those things that sounds hilarious, and then you sit down to play it and you're like, oh, wait. I get it. It's awful.


PENN JILLETTE: It is amazing. It is amazing - amazing.

MARTIN: That's Penn Jillette of the magical comedy duo Penn & Teller talking on his podcast about the new virtual-reality version of the game. Penn & Teller created the game as a satire in the 1990s when a debate raged in Congress over violence in video games and television. Then-Attorney General Janet Reno was one of the voices who spoke out against gory video games that were deemed to lack educational value.


JANET RENO: The accumulated research clearly demonstrates a correlation between viewing violence and aggressive behavior.

STARK: And so this was a direct response to that.

MARTIN: Player Graham Stark again.

STARK: It's like, OK, if you want a game that's super normal and boring, then here's a game that's going to teach you how to drive a bus through the desert.

MARTIN: And Penn Jillette promises the new version includes even more real-world skills.


JILLETTE: You pick up your time card. You punch it in. You walk out to the bus. You get in. It's really a lot of activity for 45 seconds and then nothing for eight hours.

MARTIN: If that's still too much action for you...


JILLETTE: there is a multiplayer option. You can now ride "Desert Bus."

MARTIN: If you're into that.

(SOUNDBITE OF PETER FRAMPTON'S "OFF THE HOOK") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.