Playing an iconic character is a thankless task. Nail it, and you pacify fans — for the moment. Screw it up, and you may have to go underground for a while (Remember Ben Affleck’s Daredevil? He wishes you didn’t.) For Ronnie Shalvis, the chance to don the distinctive costume of a video game hero catapulted his parkour career.
Shalvis, 23, spent six years training and making videos by himself and the now-defunct Team StreetStunts. But he was unable to turn that into a steady revenue stream until a chance meeting with action video producer Devin Graham in the fall of 2012. Graham wanted to make a parkour sequence using his favorite video game, Assassin’s Creed, as the backdrop.
On Sept. 3, 2012, Graham posted the video “Assassin’s Creed Meets Parkour in Real Life.” Within four days, it had 1.5 million views. It now has over 24 million. Assassin’s Creed developer Ubisoft acknowledged the video’s viral success, and commissioned Graham and Shalvis to make a second video in conjunction with the release of Assassin’s Creed III.
Shalvis’ popularity as a stuntman took off in the video’s aftermath. “Once that video came out and went viral, it got me a whole bunch of exposure, and I started getting a lot of jobs with ads,” he says. Aside from a slew of local ads, he has appeared in a video with Freddie Wong, or “Freddiew,” a filmmaker, musician, and competitive gamer, garnering nearly 12 million views, as well as an ad campaign for Disney’s Max Steel cartoon. His YouTube channel now has over 75,000 subscribers, and its 38 videos boast more than 4.7 million total views.
With popular franchises like Mirror’s Edge, Infamous, and Assassin’s Creed, parkour and video games maintain a mutually beneficial relationship. “I get a lot of comments from people who say they’ve played video games like Assassin’s Creed, and it wasn’t until they came across my videos and how they were related to the video game scene that they were like, ‘Whoa! This is something I’m really interested in and want to start learning,’” Shalvis says. “I really think it has an influence on the parkour community.”