Cancel all of your plans and crack open those piggy banks: it is time, once again, for the best damned internet telethon in existence - the 4th annual Desert Bus for Hope! You would think that watching people play what is arguably the worst video game ever created nonstop would be a torturous affair, but web comedy troupe LoadingReadyRun (Unskippable, ENN) and assorted special guests keep us all coming back for more, raising over $140,000 for Child's Play Charity in 2009.
If you don't know anything about Desert Bus, here's the TL;DR version: Penn and Teller had an idea to create a game in response to criticism of video game violence by Janet Reno. You're a bus driver that drives from Tucson, AZ to Las Vegas, NV in real time (about 8 hours) with little to distract you. You get one point every trip you finish without crashing. The bus pulls to the right a bit so it's tough to rig. If you crash the bus you're towed back - in real time. So basically it's 8 hours of non-stop playtime for a single point. Hell, the DesertBus.org FAQ itself describes it as "really boring and mind numbing and generally unpleasant". But it's for the children, so they'll keep on playing as long as people keep donating money. The event kicks off it's 4th year this Friday, November 19th at 6pm PST, and there are five 24-hour shifts each - changing up the Rules of Desert Bus from previous years.
In order to entertain themselves and the internets at large, the LRR team and guests run continuous auctions, contests, drawings, games, and readings in addition to the kind of random miscellany that makes for a truly shenanigan-tastic affair of epic proportions. The team hosts a live chat and ustream channel, where fans and followers can talk to the Desert Bus team, watch and comment on their antics, ask questions and bid on a vast array of prizes. The site is also updated continuously with updates, fan-art and milestone images created by LRR fans. Basically, Desert Bus is one big crazy party and you're all invited!
Last year was my first year watching the gang and I have to say I'm really looking forward to it again this year. I remember the PAX09 LRR Panel where Matt promised to watch every screening of 'Twilight: New Moon' possible if a $100,000 in donations were reached. And lemme tell you, the live-tweets of Matt's torture was worth every penny donated. Desert Bus for Hope introduced me to Woody Tondorf and his hit web series Elevator, and Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie's classic song of internet history, "Every OS Sucks". This year they even organized a Craft-a-Long and accepted submissions from crafty fans who wanted to create potential prizes and giveaways for other donators.
One of the craziest and most unpredictable parts of the internet telethon fundraiser are the donation challenges the team accepts via email, such as someone donating $50 for the team to Caramelldansen, do the Macarena, sing various songs, or perform skits. Whatever you can think up and donate the cash for they will consider because it's all for the children, so of course this leads to sheer hilarity. It's the sole reason you will find yourself glued to your computer for a truly questionable number of hours, rivaling the woot-off in sleep deprivation, silliness, and utter dedication to the cause.
And now, I leave you with three penultimate Desert Bus videos:
Donations are ridiculously simple - you can donate using ChipIn on the DesertBus.org page and if you're a resident of the US, request a receipt to deduct it as a charitable contribution on your federal taxes. No donation is too small to be appreciated, and it's all for a good cause - so let's gear up for Desert Bus, and don't forget to follow @desertbus on Twitter!