Back in the 90s we didn’t have fancy time wasters like iPads and Angry Birds, so we had to occupy our time by relying on stupid things like talking to other people and using our brains. These were truly dark times, but they were made less dreary by three students at Albright College, who in 1994 made up the greatest movie geek trivia game of all time: Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
For those not in the know (you youngsters are so cute), Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is a takeoff of the six degrees of separation theory that says no two people in the world are separated by more than six connections. For these purposes, the theory is that no actor is separated from the prolific Kevin Bacon by more than six shared credits.
A traffic-driving celebrity like Justin Bieber, for instance, is separated from Kevin Bacon by four connections: Bieber was in School Girls with Riker Lynch, who was in Glee: The 3D Concert Movie with Gwyneth Paltrow, who was in Classical Baby: I’m Grown Up Now: The Poetry Show with John Lithgow, who was in Footloose with Kevin Bacon.
How did I know all that? It’s not because I’m an aficionado on all things Glee and Justin Bieber. It’s because Google engineers have now baked the game right into their search results. Thanks to the work of guys like Engineering Director Yossi Matias, one now only need to type the phrase “Bacon number” followed by a celebrity’s name into a Google search field to find out how many numbers separate them from The Bacon Brothers Band’s most famous member. Essentially, this means that anyone with an Internet connection can now figure out in seconds what it used to take us flannel-clad cavemen several hours and a ten pound movie guide to discern.
And it also means that anybody with a mischievous gleam in their eye and a smartphone in their pocket is going to be able to cheat the next time this game gets played at a (nerd) party. It’s still too early to tell, but this might be the worst thing that’s happened to gaming since those online word generators had everyone cheating at Words With Friends.