When I received a tip to reach out to IdeaFirst Company barely 12 hours before the premiere of the series Gameboys on YouTube, I never really expected anything much from a series that was marketed as a virtual meeting of two young gamers set amongst the current chaos of the Pandemic that has swept across all parts of the globe and transformed the very landscape of our normal.
—Edited by TheFNGee
Yes, I definitely knew of the actors, who are both considered as two of the most effective actors of their generation based on their previous works in films and TV appearances. However, I was not very familiar with the company much less with the concept of having a story told through social media apps and the like. But the concept was very interesting, and the people behind the show were very gracious in accommodating us when we reached out that very moment and secured for us taped interviews from the cast and the director.
I approached the situation blindly when the first episode was released. It had no fanfare, no extravagant marketing, and publicity; it was a quiet and timid Boys Love series that came in softly on a night when not much else was happening. I had no preconceptions or expectations but nevertheless, tried to tell everyone through the various PsychoMilk and BL Haven platforms about the pilot episode.
It was barely 10 minutes, an introduction that had me transfixed at the ingenuity of the execution of an artistic concept and inadvertently got my thoughts tangled with the protagonists; the cocky, flirtatious and self-assured Gavreel portrayed by Kokoy de Santos and the timid, introverted and enigmatic Cairo played by Elijah Canlas. I could not take my eyes off the screen as what could have easily been cringe-worthy banter defined two opposing characters that, in a way, reflected sides of myself – in a sense, Gav and Cai are seemingly both echoes of me. It is this personal relatability that I got hooked and was pulled me into a story that was so realistic and natural. Such that I felt like a voyeur looking into someone else’s private video conference. But as I mentioned, I could not stop watching it.
The very moment the episode ended, I took to Twitter and Facebook and marveled at something so short could make me feel so much. As a long time fan and follower of Thai BLs, I have always dreamed of seeing a series that is distinctly Filipino but had the same feel. I realized then, that Gameboys could be that very series and that despite all the restrictions and the obvious challenges to mount and produce such a work, here is a story that managed to give me the feels despite the reality that the two characters were not even in the same physical space. A virtual romance as real as if they could be sitting together cuddling on a couch.
I reached out to my international friends to check it out; told them that here is a piece of my world – a sliver of my culture. And while some things were lost in translation, the overall feelings conveyed are still the same. I had a feeling Gameboys was going places. My heart was telling me that this series will resonate and allow those who do not know much of our culture and the way we do flirtatious banter, courtship, family intricacies, and other little things we take for granted and realize that feelings are universal.
That was two months ago.
In a span of eight weeks, Gameboys has exploded all over the world and has cemented the characters and the actors and the production team as trailblazers in the BL community in terms of changing the genre as it is; incorporating a distinct Filipino feel and a contemporary take on not only fun and games – as the title may suggest, but on everyday aspects and have been consistently leaving viewers, fans, reactors and even bashers open-mouthed as they relate to scene after scene and situations after issues.
While the series was originally planned to be a 6-episode miniseries, the response encouraged the production to expand the story into a 10-episode Season 1 with a follow-up movie in the works. For a small production company, this is no mean feat as they rush to meet deadlines, shooting episodes days before, working on overnighters for editing and post-production.
Not only that, but it’s not the fun part that has hooked everyone into keeping up with the lives of Gav and Cai, even of Pearl (played by the gorgeous Adrianna So), now touted as the best friend everyone needs, or even Terrence (effectively portrayed by the stunning Kyle Velino), the bitter ex who is by implication, is suffering from depression. Its the realism that hits you viscerally that things are not OK, but that there are better things to think about and cherish despite the chaos the world is experiencing.
Gameboys is teaching us about social issues that have long been left unsaid. It’s about the stability and the security of family; it’s the connection of friendship; it’s the art of moving on; it’s the accepting of loss, grief, and acceptance of one’s self. It is no longer about the story of Gamers meeting online, but the meeting of hearts and the communication of minds in this world of virtually no physical contact.
If the last episode (Episode 8 entitled No Matter What) is any indication, Gameboys is showing us the new normal and that things never really changed except that we are being reminded that we should value relationships more and that time is never infinite; tell those you love that you love them; show those you value that you care and let go of things that make you a lesser version of what could be a good person.
The last two episodes of Gameboys airs 8:00 PM on July 22 and 29, respectively, only on the official IdeaFirst Company YouTube Channel. It stars Kokoy de Santos, Elijah Canlas, Adrianna So, Kyle Velino, Jerom Canlas, Sue Prado, Angelie Sano, Rommel Canlas, and Paolo O’Hara. Written by Ash Malanum and directed by Ivan Andrew Payawal, it is line produced by Jen Enojo-Mauricio with Executive Producers Perci Intanal and Jun Robles Lana.