My Fight Money!

Ronald McDonald and Knuckles the Echidna are having a fight. Behind them, you can see snow, and a little M. Bison is skating around. The Ghostbusters theme is playing, and you are having the time of your life.

You are watching SaltyBet.

I first heard about MUGEN, the freeware fighting game engine where any div with a computer can freely create characters and stages, when I was 15 and a fan of DragonBall Z. Shut up. Back then, people were going nuts trying to make DBZ MUGEN characters in lieu of all the actual DBZ fighting games that weren’t getting released in the West.

It’s nice, then, that MUGEN is still a thing in 2013. And it’s doubly nice that people didn’t just use it to make DBZ characters. They’re still there, of course, alongside a whole stack of characters ripped straight from any other fighting game you’d care to mention. But on top of that, you’ve also got the likes of Marvin the Martian, Joker, Princess Peach, Shaquille O’Neal, some jerks from Naruto, the Kraken, Homer Simpson, the entire cast of Sailor Moon, and this guy:

And now, we’ve got SaltyBet’s Dreamcast Casino, a magical Twitch stream that takes all these home-made MUGEN characters, and puts them in an endless series of random AI vs AI fights. Which you can bet on.

Not with real money, obviously. That would be mental, and incredibly dangerous. Except it is still mental and incredibly dangerous. Since being told to check it out by Joypod cohort Michael Fox, I have been able to think about little else. You should see the looks on my co-worker’s faces when I try and explain how I’ve been spending my evenings. They’ll never respect me again.

Betting on the fights is basically a complete farce, unless you’ve studied the stream for some time and observed the characters at length. Since they’re all made by people in their spare time and undergo no moderation or balancing of any kind, you’ve really got no idea how tough any given character will be. And yet, you will always think you can pick a winner.

Whether it’s just through already liking a character from whatever game or cartoon they’ve been stolen from, or spotting that they’re well-animated (suggesting an impressive amount of care by the person who appropriated them for MUGEN), or just going by the fact that a character is roughly one tenth the size of their opponent and will therefore be difficult to hit, you will convince yourself that there is a trick to getting it right every time. And there kind of is! But also basically not.

Like most things that people enjoy gambling on, the fact that it’s largely unknowable bullshit completely vanishes when it seems that some degree of knowledge can occasionally help you out. You become convinced that you can master it, and develop your own set of bulletproof rules. Blackjack has card-counting, SaltyBet has ALWAYS BET ON EXPLODING ROBOTS.

The community chat feed continuously offers help, but it’s about as much use as the player-written hints in Dark Souls. Some people are genuinely trying to help, but you’ll never be able to tell them apart from the people who are just out to wind you up by telling you that you should definitely go all-in on that badly-drawn SSJ3 Goku. Beyond that, the community is kind of funny but frequently let down by frivolous use of the word ‘rape’ and jokes about female character’s bouncy tits. Come on, guys.

Still, even without the gambling stuff, the stream is entertaining in its own right. I just watched Sentry fight Mordecai from Regular Show, and now Terry Bogard is battering a tiny robot. I’m not even betting on the fights! Just watching them, and laughing.

OH and there’s the music. It veers constantly between shite metal bands, SNES game soundtracks and the theme from Rocko’s Modern Life. The other day, the Forest 1 music from Phantasy Star Online came on and I was physically and emotionally paralysed for several minutes.

The whole thing is a perfect confluence of very specific kinds of nerd bullshit. If you like fighting games, gambling, old JRPG soundtracks, saying “hahaha oh my god it’s Captain Ginyu”, and seeing Vega get destroyed by two swift kicks from a Transformer, I would recommend visiting this website: