Penn and Teller’s scrapped 1995 video game Smoke and Mirrors
was never intended to be an art piece per se
— they developed the Sega platformer with game studio Imagineering— but their vision for an interminable, nearly unplayable series of mini-games would prove hugely influential in the decades to come.
In the most notorious of Smoke and Mirrors’
mini-games, “Desert Bus”, players were required to drive a bus from Tuscon, Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada at 45 miles-per-hour in real time
. That meant a successful player would have to be in active control of the game for eight hours straight.
explains it, “The bus contains no passengers, there is little scenery aside from an occasional rock or bus stop sign, and there is no traffic. The road between Tucson and Las Vegas is completely straight. The bus veers to the right slightly, and thus requires the player’s constant attention.”
The game was originally conceived as a satire of the 90s anti-video game lobby, but as legend quickly grew the game developed a cult following. In 2017, Gearbox Software released Desert Bus VR,
and its influence can be clearly seen in the video game-based art that would emerge in the 2000s.