In the 1990s, a group of online film nerds posited a theory: “Kevin Bacon is the Center of the Universe”. Because Bacon was so prolific, users would try to figure out the fewest number of steps between his filmography and a given actor. We now know this game as Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon and the number of steps as an individual’s “Bacon number.”
If there is a Kevin Bacon of gaming, it is certainly Ryu from Street Fighter. Capcom’s meat and potatoes fireball-chucking warrior has battled hundreds of characters and made official appearances in everything from Monster Hunter: World to the video game adaptation of Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law. It would be easy and fun to play Six Degrees, substituting Ryu for Bacon and video game characters for actors.
But, as an incredibly hardcore gamer who has completed level 460 of Pepper Panic Saga, I seek a higher level of challenge. If video games are truly art, then why can’t Ryu be on the level of Kevin Bacon and connect to real celebrities? After all, video games are full of star power these days. You can hear the dulcet tones of Brad Garrett in the interactive version of Hollywood Squares or play a thrilling game of Multimedia Celebrity Poker with Jonathan Frakes. To that end, let’s calculate the “Ryu number” of some of our brightest stars.
TV’s A.C. Slater has built an incredible career out of being just sort of “around”. It feels like he somehow lives inside of your television, waiting for you to turn it on. In 2006, Lopez was one of the contestants on Dancing with the Stars and his likeness was later added to several video games based on the reality hit, one of which also starred former *NSYNC heartthrob Joey Fatone. Fatone is in the video game adaptation of MTV’s Celebrity Deathmatch with NBA star Dennis Rodman. Rodman is in NBA Jam with Ad-Rock from the Beastie Boys. Ad-Rock is in the Gamecube version of NBA Street V3, a game which has Super Mario himself as a playable character. The heroic plumber fights Ryu for the first time in the fourth entry of Super Smash Bros, giving Lopez a Ryu number of 5.
The late Nirvana frontman is a playable character in Guitar Hero 5, meaning you can make a weird uncanny valley version of him sing with the voice of Stevie Wonder or dance to YMCA. (This was received so poorly by fans and his former bandmates that Activision took out the entire playable celebrity concept in the sequel.) Guitar Hero 5 also features series mainstay Judy Nails, who is also an unlockable skater in Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground. Tony Hawk meets Wolverine in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 and Wolverine fights Ryu in the arcade classic X-men vs. Street Fighter. Kurt Cobain has a Ryu number of 4.
Tennis player Anna Kournikova was one of ten approved heterosexual crushes for your big brother who read Maxim in 2002. She lent her name to the second entry in Namco’s Smash Court Tennis series, a game in whichyou are able to play as a variety of Namco characters, including Tekken villain Heihachi Mishima. Mishima fought Ryu in 2012’s Street Fighter X Tekken, meaning Anna Kournikova has a Ryu number of 2.
You know, sometimes I wonder if White Chicks or the movie where he was disguised as a baby is a weirder concept. It keeps me up at night. But anyway, Wayans is an unlockable fighter in Knockout Kings 2000 where you can pit him against Muhammad Ali. Ali can also fight Little Mac in the Gamecube version of Fight Night Round 2. Little Mac and Ryu meet in Smash 4, so Marlon Wayans has a Ryu number of 3.
Elvira, Mistress of the Dark
The legendary movie hostess stars in multiple video games of her own, in addition to making in an appearance in the zombie mode of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Director Kevin Smith also stars in Infinite Warfare and shows up in Lego form in Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham. Beyond Gotham features Adam West as himself, a role he also plays in 2006’s Family Guy video game. The cast of Family Guy stars in American Dad vs. Family Guy Kung Fu II, a web game which, impossibly, has a licensed appearance by Ryu. Elvira’s Ryu number is 4.
Now we come to the true test. Can these two centers of their respective universes actually meet? Kevin Bacon’s only video game credit is YOU DON’T KNOW JACK Volume 2. The game has a “Celebrity Collect Calls” feature where weird guests like Tim Allen or Milton Berle banter with the host. Bacon is one of these guests along with Brady Bunch star Florence Henderson. Henderson is in a CD-ROM trivia game called TV Land Presents: Blast from the Past with Laugh-In star Gary Owens. Owens is in the Sierra adventure game Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers as the narrator — he even refers to himself, out loud, as Gary Owens.
Space Quest IV has a cameo appearance by King Graham of the King’s Quest series. King Graham is an unlockable skater in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5. Tony Hawk is a special Summer of Arcade Minecraft Skin on Xbox 360. That version of Minecraft also allows you to download skins for the heroes and villains of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, who also star in Power Rangers: Legacy Wars with Ryu. Ryu actually has his own morphing sequence and ranger suit which is wonderful and absurd. And so, according to this very scientific process, Kevin Bacon is six degrees of separation from Ryu.