Saturday, April 16, 2011

Desert Bus!

In 1995, the famous stage magician duo Penn & Teller created created a videogame for the Sega Genesis called Penn & Teller's Smoke and Mirrors. Although it was never actually released, copies of the game exist and are pretty widely available on the Internet. The game features several mini-games, most of which are jokes or scams. One particular mini-game, called Desert Bus, was designed to mock the perceptions of the videogame culture as violent and unrealistically excessive. Here's a video of the exciting gameplay of Desert Bus:

As you can see, Desert Bus features extremely realistic role-playing and action gameplay. The player controls a customizable bus driver who must get the bus from Tucson, Nevada to Las Vegas. The road from Tucson to Vegas is perfectly straight, and at the maximum speed of 45 mph, requires about eight hours of continuous play. There is extremely varied gameplay, such as the occasional rock, and a bug that splatters onto the windshield five hours in. In order to keep the game immersive, there is no way to pause the game, and the bus drifts slightly to the right so that the player must manually guide it through the desert. Driving off the road will cause a crash, and the bus will be towed back to Tucson in real time. Upon arrival in Las Vegas, the player is awarded one point, and is asked to make the return trip to Tucson immediately.

This game is a hilarious commentary on the critiques of videogames that were common in 1995 and continue today. The violence in videogames is part of the escape fantasy, a fantasy that is important to keeping games interesting and worthwhile. We play games to enjoy an environment outside of our normal lives, and Desert Bus shows how important the fantasy environments are.

1 comment:

  1. There's a Japanese Dreamcast game called Tokyo Bus Guide that takes bus driving simulation to another level of realism. I actually found it pretty difficult to play, mostly because it forces you to drive on the left side of the road. I don't know about the idea that violence is necessary to keep games interesting. Tokyo Bus Guide may have felt more like work than fun, but games like the SimCity series are fun to play while remaining totally nonviolent.


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