Something interesting happened to me today. I had a "street" game of six degrees of separation. Somehow I got involved in talking about movies with this guy while waiting in the financial aid office and so I asked him if he'd ever played the game. He said he'd heard of it, but always thought it was called six degrees of Kevin Bacon. I decided to have a test match with him, so he could see how it works, how a match can sometimes last ten seconds or ten minutes.

For those of you unfamiliar with the game, you take two actors or actresses and then using the movies they've starred in and the actors and actresses that they've co-starred with, you connect them to each other. The streets matches I had today were pretty easy, just to give this guy a sense of the game. One round was Ed Harris to John Candy. There are plenty of ways that you can connect them, but the one which I came up with the quickest was Ed Harris to Tom Hanks in Apollo 13 and Tom Hanks to John Candy in Volunteers.

Me and my brothers play this game way too much, sometimes spending hours dueling each other (hours doesn't quite cover it, since we can play for hours over different locales (such as house, car ride, mall, dinner, car ride, house). After telling my brother Jack about the match I had today, he said that we should start a league of with houses similar to Hogwarts and me, him and our younger brother Jeremy would each have our house, duelists and most importantly our own house names (I'm thinking of my house being the Subtitlists).

I just thought I'd list here for those interested a number of different variations that me and my brothers play.

1. Street Version: The most basic form. Have someone name two different actors and then connect them in less than six links. The participants then race to see who can connect the pair the fastest, not necessarily in the least amount of links, but whoever can spit out their chain first. So for example, if your match was to connect Alfred Molina to Patrick Stewart and if someone said they had it first and proceeded to connect them with Alfred Molina to Johnny Depp in Chocolat, Depp to Paul Giamatti in Donnie Brasco, Giamatti to Virginia Madsen in Sideways and Madsen to Patrick Stewart in Dune, although someone might afterwards say they could do it in a single link (Molina to Stewart both start in Steamboy) to point is whoever can call that they have it first and successfully link the actors within the six links. Its important to make sure that you set house rules, or level of intensity before you begin. This means, settle ahead of time whether the entire name of a movie must be mentioned. Such as is Agent Cody Banks 2, appropriate or do you have to say Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London.?

2. Unhappy Team: This version is ideal for long full car rides. Two actors are randomly chosen and people take turns attempting to connect them, without giving each other hints or support. Ideally, you will want to work together and help each other out, by connecting the actors to movies which will provide lots of options for outlets.

For example, let's say the two to be connected are Antonio Banderas and Rufus Sewell. In this game, each player will have a different level of film knowledge which makes it far more difficult and intense. So the goal is to think ahead if you can and help the next person who is doing the connecting. In this hypothetical example, let's say Jose the first player connects Antonio Banderas to Catherine Zeta Jones in The Legend of Zorro. This is where the challenge comes in this game, because in actuality, Banderas and Sewell are in the same movie, namely The Legend of Zorro, but because one player doesn't know that, the game will continue. It therefore passes on the Pedro who has to connect Catherine Zeta Jones to something. The goal if you don't have an intended strategy, is to connect these actors to movies which will provide the next person lots of options. So will Pedro give Tomas the next player a Catherine Zeta Jones film with limited options (such as Blue Juice) or bula' options (such as Ocean's Twelve or Chicago)?

3. Harrowing Narrowing: This is a more hardcore version in that you have to connect actors to each other using particular movies. There are two forms of this. The first is that when the actors are named, the person naming also names the movie through which they have to be connected. So instead of merely saying Brad Pitt and Charlie Sheen, you would say "Brad Pitt in The Devil's Own" and "Charlie Sheen in Scary Movie 3." This adds a whole new dimension to the game since these two movies limit greatly how you can connect them, because instead of being able to chose from every Brad Pitt movie you can think of and all the actors he starred with, you are now limited to who he starred with in The Devil's Own, Ruben Blades, Treat Williams, Harrision Ford and Natasha McElhone. The other version of this is usually a bit easier, where a movie will be named through which you have to go through. For example, if the two you are to connect are Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, you can't just say they were in the same movie (Godfather II, Heat) but have to connect them through a usually completely unrelated movie like Dude Where's My Car? (I dare you to try this one, its a real pain, especially off the top of your head or in a match).

4. Video Palace Version: This is my favorite version however its hard to find people to duel through it. In order to place this form you have to be in a video store, and instead of just naming movies off the top of your head to connect people, you actually have to run around the video store, looking for the videos and only videos which are in stock in the store can be used (and if there is only one copy of a movie, whoever grabs it first gets the use it).

My brother Jack is much better at six degress of separation than I am, partially because if you develop strategies and collect certain movies to connect generally unconnected groups of actors you're chains form alot smoother (for example, what films allow you to bridge generations, or ethnic actor groups). Also, what are movies that just have way too many people in them, from which you can go just about anywhere, some good examples of films like these are Ocean's Twelve, Heat, Sin City, Deconstructing Harry and Its a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Find these types of movies, memorize who's in them and you'll have some great hub flicks.

Its because we already have so many memorized routes in place, that coming up with stumpers means alot of times using obscure names and films. For example, how fast can you connect Rosamund Kwan with Jennifer Lopez? It's actually pretty easy, just depends on what films you know Rosamund Kwan from. Rosamund Kwan was in Once Upon a Time in China III with Jet Li. Jet Li was with Bob Hoskins in Unleashed. Bob Hoskins with with J-Lo in Maid in Manhattan.


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