Mid-November: depending on your location, the temperature’s dropping, retail stores are decorating for the holidays, and coffee drinkers are riding out the Gulf. And on a small island off the coast of Canada, a group of comedians is playing a video game for charity. Yes, friends and enemies, it’s once again time for Desert Bus for Hope.
This annual fundraiser, run by the fine folks at LoadingReadyRun, has gained a huge following over its 12-year run. For a solid week, the LRR team and friends sit down to play the world’s worst video game: Desert Bus. A real-time simulated drive from Tuscon, AZ to Las Vegas, NV. Stay with me, that’s not all of it. Prizes are given out, games are played, donations are made, and all proceeds go directly to Child’s Play at the end. There are stories, jokes, random dance parties, songs, heartfelt messages, guests, and more during the run. And it all started with a few friends playing a terrible game.
Origins of the Bus
When Paul Saunders, Graham Stark, and the LRR crew first fired the SegaCD in 2007, nobody could’ve predicted the outcome. With call-ins from Penn and Teller to the $22,805 total, the first DBFH was a surprising success. In fact, the event was so popular and so loved by those involved, they announced a second run at PAX 2008. And a third, with even more shenanigans and silliness. The group eventually moved from a basement to an office. From there, they would move offices, wherever their needs took them. People would leave the group, and others would join. But the bus always rolled up mid-November and left behind a group of exhausted, laughing, hope-filled people.
One of the biggest draws to the bus, I feel, is the sense of community it engenders. When tuning in live, it’s amazing to see how many people are participating. From site volunteers to the Video Strike Team to Twitch chat, it feels like a giant party where there’s something for everyone. Everyone is unapologetically themselves on stream, as well. Everyone on the bus is there for a reason and nobody is left out. Put on the hats and grab the Random Dance Party button, let’s raise some money for kids.
Tuscon or Bust
By the time this article goes live, Desert Bus 2018 will have come to a close. The set’s been struck, decorations are taken down, computers are powered off for the night. A group of Canadian comedians and their friends heads home for some much-needed rest. In the morning, the prizes will be shipped out and donations sent to Child’s play. In fact, this year marks $5 million in lifetime donations for DBFH. That’s 5 million bucks going to hospitals, abuse shelters, and therapy facilities. It’s a kid getting a chance to interact with people when they can’t leave their room. It’s therapeutic for stressful environments. And it’s a ray of hope in a very dark moment in a child’s life.
And it was raised by playing a video game, the idea born from a group of friends in a basement. I leave you with the words of Alex Stacey, as the closing speech from DB10.
Happy bussing, everyone.