CLOSE

Desert Bus: This is a Long Driving Game for Someone With Nothing To Think About

Desert Bus is a horrible, horrible driving game -- and it was meant to be. In the game, you're tasked with driving a bus from Tucson to Las Vegas. The trick is, you have to drive the bus in realtime, at a maximum speed of 45mph -- which means that the trip takes eight hours of continuous gameplay to complete (and there is no "pause" feature). The steering wheel pulls slightly to the right, so you have to sit there and actually "drive" the whole time. Upon completion of the trip, you get one point. One. If you go off the (almost completely featureless) road at any point, you are towed back (again in realtime) by a towing company, as you watch helplessly. It's utterly maddening. Oh, and once you complete the trip you're offered the option to drive the bus BACK on the same trip. The only blessings seem to be the lack of traffic and the pine tree air-freshener twirling from the rearview mirror. (The mirror shows that the bus is completely empty.)

The game was designed by Penn & Teller as part of their unreleased 1995 Sega CD game pack called "Smoke and Mirrors," and was a response to the Clinton administration's declamation of violent videogames. Instead of violence, "Desert Bus" features dullness. What's surprising is that there actually are a few (very minor) things that happen during your eight hours on the road. While I haven't played the eight hours, Andy Baio reports that there is a "bug splat" on the windshield at various points, you sometimes pass road signs, the lighting changes as day turns to night, and, as I mentioned earlier, if you go off the road you'll be towed back. If you complete the eight-hour trip, you get a screen showing your total number of points (with seven leading zeroes, thus a single successful trip would show the point counter at 00000001), and a clock showing your total play time.

Here's a video of a play session (I urge you to zip through parts of it, as there is almost literally nothing to see for large stretches of the game...or maybe you'll find the utter dullness soothing):

If you like "Desert Bus" (or at least appreciate its cruelty), you'll dig Andy Baio's article Metagames: Games About Games. He categorizes "Desert Bus" under "Abusive Games." Other categories include "Minimalist Games," "Game Mechanics Gone Wild," and "Violent Games."

Original image
iStock
arrow
fun
The Funniest Word in the English Language? 'Booty,' According to New Survey
Original image
iStock

Some words, regardless of their meaning, are simply more chuckle-worthy than others. To determine which expressions in the English language are truly the most comical, Smithsonian reports that psychologists at the University of Warwick in the UK conducted a survey in which they asked people to rate the “humor value” of a sampling of chosen words. They recently published their findings in the journal Behavior Research Methods.

The researchers selected nearly 5000 words, and then used Amazon’s online crowdsourcing tool Mechanical Turk to ask more than 800 individuals to rank the humor value of 211 randomly chosen words from the list, on a scale from 1 (humorless) to 5 (humorous). Likely not surprising to anyone with younger siblings, the funniest word ended up being “booty,” with an average ranking of 4.32. In descending order, the remaining top 12 words—which all received a score of 3.9 or higher—were “tit,” “booby,” “hooter,” “nitwit,” “twit,” “waddle,” “tinkle,” “bebop,” “egghead,” “ass,” and “twerp.”

Why these words are so funny remains fuzzy. But when they analyzed their findings according to age and gender, the researchers did find that sexually suggestive words like “orgy” and “bondage” tended to tickle the funny bones of men, as did the words “birthmark,” “brand,” “chauffeur,” “doze,” “buzzard,” “czar,” “weld,” “prod,” “corn,” and “raccoon.”

Meanwhile, women tended to laugh at the words “giggle,” “beast,” “circus,” “grand,” “juju,” “humbug,” “slicker,” “sweat,” “ennui,” “holder,” “momma,” and “sod.” As for people under the age of 32, they were amused by “goatee,” “joint,” and “gangster,” while older participants liked “squint,” “jingle,” “burlesque,” and “pong.” Across the board, all parties were least amused by words like “rape,” “torture,” and “torment.”

Although humor is complex and dependent on elements like syntax and delivery, the study's researchers say that breaking comedy down to single-word units could demystify its essence.

“The research initially came about as a result of our curiosity,” said Tomas Engelthaler, the study’s lead author, in a press release. “We were wondering if certain words are perceived as funnier, even when read on their own. It turns out that indeed is the case. Humor is an everyday aspects of our lives and we hope this publicly available dataset allows future researchers to better understand its foundations.”

[h/t Smithsonian]

Original image
Chris Weeks // Staff // Getty Images
arrow
fun
Watch the Original Spinal Tap Short Film
Original image
Chris Weeks // Staff // Getty Images

Spinal Tap formed in 1979, five years before the classic film This is Spinal Tap premiered. They performed on TV and began developing their personas as idiotic heavy metal monsters.

When the band, along with director Rob Reiner, went to pitch their mockumentary to production companies, nobody "got it." It wasn't clear what an unscripted comedy pseudo-documentary would feel like. So Reiner asked for the screenplay fee—$60,000—to be paid up front as a budget for a short proof-of-concept film.

That skimpy budget went a very long way, allowing the group to produce The Last Tour, a 20-minute Spinal Tap film exploring some of the plot (and many of the songs) that appeared in the later film This is Spinal Tap. There's a surprising amount of concert footage, as various bits that were repeated in Tap (some interview clips were even used in Tap unaltered).

The Last Tour is delightful because it shows a well-developed idea being implemented on the cheap. The wigs are terrible, the sound is spotty, but the vision is spot-on. The characters and the core story of the group (including a string of dead drummers) is already in place, and we get to see the guys improvise together. Tune in (and be aware there's plenty of salty language here):

(Note: Around 4:38 in the clip above, we see Ed Begley, Jr. as original drummer John "Stumpy" Pepys in the "Gimme Some Money" video. Stumpy died in a gardening accident, of course.)

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios