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Desert Bus for Hope pulls in with a record $700,000 raised

Absurd gaming marathon delivers $5 million lifetime to Child’s Play

Desert Bus for Hope Andrew Ferguson/Desert Bus for Hope
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Desert Bus For Hope, the charity gaming marathon now in its 12th year, finished on Friday after setting records for money raised and hours driven.

The fund drive, which benefits Child’s Play, brought in $730,289.37 after volunteers piloted the bus for 160 hours. The previous record was $695,242.57 in 2016. A news release from organizers LoadingReadyRun said more than 6,300 donors contributed to the six-day, 16-hour run, which reached 11,026 Twitch viewers at its peak.

In Desert Bus for Hope, donors “buy” time behind the wheel, with the first hour starting at $1 and rapidly scaling up from there. The volunteers “play” Desert Bus, a satirical minigame for the unreleased Penn & Teller’s Smoke & Mirrors for the Sega CD from 1994. Conceived as the worst and most deliberately boring video game ever, Desert Bus drives between Tucson, Arizona and Las Vegas in real time.

Other records set at this year included the largest auction bid ever, at $12,000, and the longest single shift behind the wheel, which raised $101,014.73 on its own. Desert Bus for Hope also went over $5 million raised, lifetime, with this year’s total.