As if there weren’t enough things to worry about when connecting a device to the internet, you might now have to stress over your pet fish making online purchases you didn’t approve—at least if you run a YouTube channel where you live stream your pet fish playing video games like Pokémon.
There’s a lot to unpack here. According to SoraNews24, the Mutekimaru YouTube channel’s hook is using an aquarium filled with a handful of fish to play video games. These aren’t fish that have been carefully trained to interact with a submerged controller, or even to operate a panel of waterproof buttons. Instead, a webcam pointed at the aquarium is connected to a PC where software tracks the fish’s movements. A grid of controller inputs sits underneath the fish, and the webcam correlates where the fish are above the grid to inputs in-game. In this instance, if a fish pauses for a moment in the upper left corner of the screen, an A button input is sent to the Nintendo Switch.
As you can probably imagine, the fish don’t bring much strategy to the games they play. The inputs are more or less completely random, but that doesn’t mean the fish don’t eventually win. Back in 2020, a team of Mutekimaru’s fish successfully finished Pokémon Sapphire, a feat that would take human players about 30 hours of gameplay to accomplish, but took the fish over 3,000 hours.
It’s similar to the infinite monkey theorem, but the end goal here isn’t eventually reproducing the works of Shakespeare, but beating video games—or at least that’s what the folks behind this YouTube channel thought.
Any one who’s played the recent Pokémon Scarlet or Violet knows those games will occasionally crash, which is exactly what happened while this team of fish was at the controls. But because their inputs are completely random, and no one is monitoring their gameplay 24/7, instead of starting up Pokémon again, the fish managed to first find their way into the Nintendo Switch’s settings, and then the eShop, where the console owner’s login and credit card info were saved for easy access.
The team of fish managed to add a whopping 500 yen to the console’s eShop account, which is about $3.80 in US dollars. Given the horror stories we’ve all heard about kids accidentally making hundreds of dollars of purchases on smartphones and tablets without their parents knowing, this is more funny than unfortunate, and a refund from Nintendo has already been requested. However, were those fish left alone long enough, who knows how many games, expansion packs, and upgrades they could have purchased.