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Island-based group raises more than $1M playing ‘worst video game’ for nearly seven days

Desert Bus for Hope smashed records in 15th year, supporting sick kids charity Child’s Play
The noon to 6 p.m. shift of entertainers chat during the live stream of the 2021 Desert Bus for Hope fundraiser. This year, the marathon event ran for nearly seven days and raised more than $1 million for the Child’s Play charity. (Photo courtesy of Graham Stark)

A Greater Victoria-based fundraiser has raised more than $1 million for sick kids, and those involved did it by playing what they describe as “the worst video game ever made” for nearly a week straight.

For 15 years Desert Bus for Hope has raised funds for Child’s Play, a charity that provides games and toys for hospitalized children, through its unique marathon gaming session streamed for the world to see.

Event spokesperson Andrew Ferguson said a team of volunteers and entertainers participate virtually from around the world, each taking shifts to either play Desert Bus, or entertain viewers.

“In it, you drive a bus from Tuscon Ariz. to Las Vegas Nev. … it takes eight full hours of playing to get one end to the other. The bus also tilts to the right, so unless you keep tapping left, you will crash,” Ferguson said. “You just keep driving back and forth forever. There is nothing else to the game.”

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Despite their video task being incredibly boring, the players will keep at it as long as donations come in, Ferguson said. Four shifts of volunteers keep the audience entertained 24 hours a day, performing everything from game shows, challenges from the audience and general improv.

It can be a grind at times, but Ferguson, a 10-year veteran of the event, said it is the most fun he can imagine having with friends and provides an opportunity to have a huge impact on the lives of people in need.

As of the official end to the fundraiser on Nov. 19, the global group had raised nearly US $1.19 million (CAD $1.5 million) and played nonstop for six days and 23 hours, setting a new record for the event and blowing away organizers’ expectations.

While details are unavailable on how much of the money donated to U.S.-based Child’s Play from the fundraiser will be passed on to hospitals in Greater Victoria, Ferguson noted the charity has donated $50,000 worth of items to Canadian hospitals s far this year. It also encourages hospitals to place technology and games on a wish list which Child’s Play draws on to periodically purchase and donate items to hospitals.

“We are never going to meet these children, or even really know anything about them, but being a kid in the hospital alone is scary, and if I can help even one person by dancing around with my friends on the Internet like an idiot, I am definitely going to do it,” Ferguson said.

According to the event website, Desert Bus for Hope is the longest-running online fundraiser in the world and was founded in 2007 by Victoria-based online sketch comedy group LoadingReadyRun. The game, at its core, is a mini-game from the never-released Sega CD game, Penn & Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors.

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Justin Samanski-Langille

About the Author: Justin Samanski-Langille

I moved coast-to-coast to discover and share the stories of the West Shore, joining Black Press in 2021 after four years as a reporter in New Brunswick.
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