The Existential Lie of Death Valley Rally

Death Valley Rally Cover Art

At some point in your life, you will be presented with information that does not coincide with your already cemented beliefs and you will completely ignore it. It will have nothing to do with the veracity of this information. It just won’t seem right to you, so you will ignore it. There will also be a point that you will be presented with something that so completely lines up with what you already believe that you will carve it onto two stones and carry it up the mountain. Everyone does it. They even have a name for it: confirmation bias.

In 1992, Sunsoft released Death Valley Rally for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, a colorful Looney Tunes-licensed platform game in which the player controls the Road Runner and is handed the task of making a fool of that dastardly Wile E. Coyote. It wasn’t exactly fun, but I played it because I was 9 and I was the target demographic for any and all licensed merchandise (I may have had one or two shirts that didn’t have Batman on them, but that was only because they had a Ninja Turtle and Hulk Hogan, respectively).

But the ugly truth is Death Valley Rally lied to me. Not because it wasn’t the fun filled romp the box art promised, but because the game cast me as the Road Runner. I fell for that lie hook, line and sinker. I fell for it because I had been telling myself that lie for years. Of course I was the Road Runner. He’s so cool! So fast! No one can outsmart him!

I continued to believe I was the Road Runner, even though I flat-out sucked at actually being the Road Runner. It wasn’t my fault though: Death Valley Rally just isn’t easy. It’s all colorful and the box art looked great, so I was sure that once I finally got it home, it would perform exactly as expected. Instead, the whole operation blew up in my face like it was manufactured by the ACME Corpor….

Oh shit.


I considered myself a smart kid, which sounds egotistical, but I had the A’s to back it up. I, however, was not a smart child, as evidenced by the fact that I thought I was the Road Runner. I had never been to the desert and ran at the speed of rolling Jell-o, but I thought I was the Road Runner. I would have to take a handful of pills before eating any roadside bird seed, but I thought I was the Road Runner. I owned more than one machine dedicated to removing mucus from my lungs, but I thought I was the Road Runner. It took many years of many failures and a lot of wasted money and time before I realized that we, as humans, are forever destined to throw everything we have into chasing something that is just beyond our reach. We are most definitely not the Road Runner. Still, I didn’t come to this conclusion myself. I had to have the lesson hand fed to me by the creator of the Road Runner.

In Chuck Amuck, Chuck Jones writes:

In the Road Runner cartoons, we hoped to evoke sympathy for the Coyote. It is the basis of the series: the Coyote tries by any means to capture the Road Runner, ostensibly and at first to eat him, but this motive has become beclouded, and it has become, in my mind at least, a question of loss of dignity that forces him to continue. And who is the Coyote’s enemy? Why, the Coyote. The Road Runner has never touched him, never even startled him intentionally beyond coming up behind the Coyote occasionally and going “Beep-Beep!”

No, the only enemy the Coyote has is his overwhelming stubbornness. Like all of us, at least some of the time, he persists in a course of action long after he has forgotten his original reasons for embarking on it.

The question here is this: is it so bad to be the Coyote? While the Coyote’s stubbornness is his enemy, but it’s also what gets him up in the morning. That guy is dedicated! If he could direct a little bit of that stubbornness towards something that’s not chasing that Road Runner, he’d really be on to something. Even still, he’s always trying to come at the problem from a different direction. He goes all in, but when it fails, he looks at it with fresh eyes. He may not be eating Road Runner every night or really any night, but he doesn’t let that take the fight out of him. He is going to wake up in the morning and he is going to chase that Road Runner.

Here’s where shit gets real. Barring a gag in the 1980 short Soup or Sonic where a shrunken Coyote catches the leg of a normal size Road Runner, the Coyote never caught the Road Runner. This is important. This is how it should be. Cystic Fibrosis is a disease you can fight, but you cannot beat. You know the saying “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes?” With CF, if you don’t like feeling good, just wait a few minutes. That’s not fatalism; that’s the truth. My adherence to my treatments is great and I exercise quite a bit, but that doesn’t mean I don’t spend a good amount of time acting as a human mucus geyser (or, even worse, a human mucus prison). Those treatments might reduce my risk of getting sick, but there’s never a point where I’m like, “Well, that just about does it for the CF!” No matter how I feel, no matter how many cliffs I run off of, I still have to strap on my Acme Mucus Remover and chase that damn Road Runner. Did the Coyote have to chase the Road Runner? Who knows? Maybe, given the circumstances, he didn’t have a whole lot of choice in the matter. There didn’t seem to be a lot of options in that desert.

What SNES game told you the worst lie?

One thought on “The Existential Lie of Death Valley Rally

  1. Chastity

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