Gamers brave the infamous Desert Bus for charity this week

Desert Bus for Hope, a gaming-themed charity marathon spearheaded by Canadian comedy troupe LoadingReadyRun, has kicked off its ninth annual event benefiting Child’s Play.

The group is livestreaming its non-stop playthrough of the infamous Desert Bus over the next week, and viewer donations will increase the amount of time the team must spend behind the wheel of a simulated tour bus.

The event’s featured game, Desert Bus, is part of the unreleased Sega CD title Penn & Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors. Pitched as a compilation of playable pranks designed by magician team Penn & Teller, Smoke and Mirrors was canceled prior to its release, and remained an elusive part of gaming history until a review copy was discovered and distributed via the Internet several years ago.

Desert Bus offers one of the compilation’s more tedious gameplay concepts, challenging players to drive a rickety bus over the course of an eight-hour journey from Tucson to Las Vegas in real time. The trip takes place across a barren and featureless desert landscape, and immediately ends if players drift off-road. Adding to the challenge and monotony, the bus veers to the right at all times, requiring drivers to make constant steering adjustments.

Upon reaching Vegas, players are awarded one point, and then must make a return trip to Tucson for an additional point. The journey repeats endlessly until the bus crashes.

Now in its ninth year, Desert Bus for Hope features a rotating selection of drivers who must play Desert Bus non-stop over the course of several days’ worth of livestreamed gameplay. Drivers are assisted by fellow members of LoadingReadyRun, who perform skits and provide background commentary for the duration of the campaign.

The group offers donation incentives and prizes throughout the Desert Bus for Hope event. To date, LoadingReadyRun has raised more than $2 million for charity, earning nearly $650,000 over the course of last year’s marathon.