Teenage streamer Cairo is caught off guard when he receives a video call from a new online rival called Gavreel. He is even more surprised when the handsome stranger asks him out. Can two gamers make romance work during the COVID19 pandemic lockdown, or will it be game over for their love story? Edit Translation
Cast & Credits
A story of love and acceptance even in the worst of times.Story: I’m writing this as a lesbian who experienced the same events as Cairo within this drama as I can understand and appreciate the plot in a different way because of this. I also struggled with my sexuality the same as Cairo, and was outed when I was still not ready. I (like Cairo) was outed by my now ex best friend who I thought would accept me, but turned completely against me. Being outed by the person you thought was your best friend completely breaks your trust which explains why Cairo is so closed off. Dealing with the burden of such a huge secret weighs you down and having friends by your side is the most important thing you can have when you’re struggling with your own identity. The way Cai also handled it, accepting her apology but not forgiving her yet made me happy. When someone hurts you that much it’s almost impossible to go back to the way things were before, so I love that they didn’t make what his best friend did out to be a minor issue and showed the consequences of her actions both for him and her. The slow but quick progress of their relationship was fast but also felt quite natural in some ways. When they finally met you could see so much love in their eyes I actually teared up when I saw them crying. This was not just a story about a simple internet romance during the Covid-19 pandemic, this is a story of love and acceptance even in the worst of times.
Cast: Elijah Canlas as Cairo- At first I did think Elijah’s acting was a little awkward but as the series progressed we saw an actor who took on a role giving it his own interpretation and completely taking on the role of Cairo. It wasn’t even the big things, but the most subtle actions made his role so believable. When I first realised I was interested in woman the term ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ felt so foreign, so when I finally confronted my sexual preference I remember getting choked up and it took me a few seconds to even say the word ‘gay’. When Cairo did the same when talking to his mum I had to pause the episode and breath because of how emotional I felt. I can officially say that Elijah as Cairo is the best actor to have played such a role in order to represent the fear those of the LGBT community still face even to this day. When he portrayed his father dying, it wasn’t the case of quickly moving on, but it also wasn’t portrayed as him being constantly depressed, it was more he was sad but wanted to continue living his life and carrying on his father’s memory which I loved.
—Kokoy de Santos as Gavreel- Kokoy created a character for Gavreel that was more than just the simple playboy he may seem on the outside. He created a confident but secretly insecure character who always wanted the people around him to be happy. He was a character that was pushy in some ways, but also understood when Cairo needed space and would back off but still show and send his love and support throughout all the tough times he faced. Gavreel was also just as prone to jealousy as anyone would be, and although he clearly struggles to communicate he does try and we watch him grow through the series.I really loved the character of Gavreel and I think describing him as “boyfriend goals” would be especially fitting.
—Adrianna So as Pearl- Wow, Pearl was literally my favourite female character not just in this series, but possibly ever. She was the shipper female friend that was there for the couple, defended them, but also knew when not to interfere with their love lives. She had a strong sense of right and wrong and would even argue with her best friend on Cairo’s behalf if she thought he did something wrong. My favourite quote of hers is “if you did something stupid don’t use mental health as an excuse, own up to your mistakes make up for it and don’t do it again”. She even drove all the way out to help Gav and Cai meet for the first time, and left as soon as they were together so they had chance to be alone as if she knew how important this meeting was. She’s someone that seems like she would be easy to make friends with and talk to when you go through tough times. I can’t wait to watch her own series when it comes out.
Music: It was pretty enjoyable with some good backtracks and sound effects, but nothing I thought was incredibly memorable.
Rewatch value: I can definitely say as soon as this series ends I’ll straight away be rewatching it, and I can imagine that I’ll go back to this series many times.
Overall: I’m so grateful for this series and I believe this series alone will help so many people in Cairo’s position. This is more than just a simple BL series and I can’t thank The IdeaFirst company enough for creating this. This will definitely be a game changer, not only for Filipino BL’s, but the representation of gay characters as a whole. I’m so glad I was able to watch this series when it first began.
Gameboys (2020): The First Pinoy BL Series and the Best BL Series“Gameboys” is the first Filipino (Pinoy) boys’ love (BL) series and the best BL series. While there have been a number of Pinoy gay-themed and lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-queer+ (LGBTQ+)-theme series (kindly check out my list of Pinoy gay-themed, LGBTQ+-themed, and BL series), “Gameboys” is the first Pinoy BL series since it’s closest to the traditional definition of BL series which is described as depicting homoerotic, romantic, and/or sexual relationships between two “male” characters, usually high school boys, university students or young professionals. It’s the best BL series not only because it showed excellence in plot/storyline, performance, and production, but also because it showcased innovation and promotion of social change in the BL genre. Indeed, “Gameboys” is a revolutionary BL series. It redefined traditional BL series typically written by female authors for female audience. Most Pinoy BL series are created by male and/or LGBTQ+ creators for a more general audience, including male and LGBTQ+ viewers. While Pinoy BL series were inspired by Thai wai/y series (and to a limited extent, Japanese yaoi series), Pinoy BL series trace their roots not only from the many Pinoy gay-themed and LGBTQ+-themed series since “My Husband’s Lover,” but also from the long history of Pinoy queer cinema (please see my list of Pinoy queer cinema) since “Jack and Jill.” Most of the creators of Pinoy BL series worked on independent (indie) Pinoy queer cinema prior to doing Pinoy BL series which account for Pinoy BL series’ often “woke” characteristics. The audience of Pinoy queer cinema are also audience of Pinoy BL series. “Gameboys” best exemplifies these “woke” characteristics of Pinoy BL series. It has no qualms in associating itself with the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community. It discussed being outed and coming out, family acceptance, lack of marriage equality, etc. In addition to these, “Gameboys” also discarded hegemonic, heteronormative, and toxic tropes in the BL genre by rejecting LGBTQ+ stereotypes, representing gays and bisexuals, ditching the problematic representations of female characters, challenging hegemonic and toxic masculinity, normalizing male characters crying, promoting consent in relationships, dumping the heteronormative “husband and wife” in favour of “husband and husband,” doing away with dichotomic dominant (“seme” or top) and submissive (“uke” or bottom) roles, among others. On top of these, it tackled the COVID-19 pandemic and the various issues associated with it like inadequate government response, quarantine and lockdown, social distancing and safety protocols, long distance and online/virtual relationships, poor internet connectivity, mental health, and even death. All these were touched upon without losing track of its main plot/storyline -- at its core, “Gameboys” is still a story of two boys who are in love -- the perfect BL series.
Unlike most BL series that treated the main characters’ homoerotic, romantic, and/or sexual relationships as the be-all and end-all of the series, as if they occur in social isolation, in a vacuum, the plot/storyline of “Gameboys” was very much contextualized in Pinoy culture and society (particularly in showcasing Pinoy gaming culture, highlighting the importance of family for the Pinoy, and even promoting Pinoy tourist attractions) and the country’s daily struggles during the new normal brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Being away from the Philippines, I really miss my country and my people. I’m also deeply frustrated with the Philippine government in its handling of my country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. What’s great about “Gameboys” was its ability to seamlessly tie all these contextualizations with the things we absolutely love about a BL series. The finale, with its happy ending, with Cai and Gav loving and kissing each other and even living together was proof that "Gameboys" is still a BL series after all.
Screenplay throughout the series was consistently realistic and relatable. Art should not only make us think, it should also make us feel, and the script of “Gameboys” that banked on giving its audience emotional rollercoasters and cliffhangers each episode did just that. “Gameboys” made me excited and happy but at the same time it also made me mad and sad. With this series, I got excited, I laughed, I got annoyed, I cried. I’ve always been a sucker for series that make me feel something that’s why I love “Gameboys.” Aside from making me reflect on personal and societal issues, “Gameboys” made me emphatize with the characters. Plus, there were a lot of sexy and sweet lines that I thoroughly enjoyed. Of special note, the cute dialogues complemented the Kokoy and Elijah shirtless scenes that were hot and the kissing scenes of Episodes 10 and 13 that were both iconic.
“Gameboys” had the two best actors in a BL series. By a mile, Elijah and Kokoy’s acting was the best performance by a duo in a BL series. I felt their excitement, their happiness, their anger, their pain. You don’t really see such range in acting from both lead actors in a BL series. In the 100 or so BL series (Thai, Taiwanese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Korean BL series) that I've seen, oftentimes, one of the actors was really good but the other was just so-so. And there were even times when both actors were just easy on the eyes. But with Elijah as Cai and Kokoy as Gav, we got two exceptional actors who are also very good-looking. They are both very skilled actors (with or without masks, those eyes speak!). And both are quite handsome. Elijah has this cute charm about him while Kokoy is very sexy. They have great chemistry together. It’s also remarkable that both actors are socially conscious. Without a doubt, Elijah and Kokoy are the perfect actors for “Gameboys.” Some of the funniest scenes of this series were those with Adrianna’s (“Queen”) Pearl. Adrianna is such a fine actress. It’s commendable that her character wasn’t made into the antagonist which is a welcome departure from the usual female as villainess trope in a BL series. I’m excited for “Pearl Next Door”! Sue, who portrayed Cai’s mother Leila proved that you don’t need to be overdramatic to show great acting. The way Leila showed quiet grief in dealing with her husband’s death and clear conviction in accepting and comforting her son was simply astonishing. One of the biggest advantage of “Gameboys” over other BL series is its high-caliber cast. Elijah, Kokoy, Adrianna, and Sue are all fantastic actors while the rest of the cast members including Kyle, Miggy, Jerom, Angeli Nicole, and Rommel are all good actors. There were a few cheesy scenes here and there but because the cast members are amazing thespians, in the end, the corny scenes were negligible.
While production during quarantine has been done before (for example, check out one of my favorites, “Quarantine Stories”), the quality has been quite uneven until “Gameboys” came along. The innovations in production design, cinematography, computer graphics, sound engineering, musical scoring, and editing on “Gameboys” are now considered standards in Pinoy filmmaking. It’s not surprising studying “Gameboys” is now part of university courses on literature and mass media in the Philippines. Frankly, I have yet to see a better production (of BL and non-BL series) that employed split-screen techniques. Also, unlike other series which have lots of money that enabled them to acquire permission to use actual names of e-mail, social media, and social networking services, “Gameboys” had to invent their own versions of Facebook, Instagram, Gmail, Zoom, etc. to avoid infringing on the trademarks of these companies which I found really creative. Product placements (TM Tambayan, Silverworks, Bench, etc.) weren't subtle but because I understand the need to have sponsors for a production company like The IdeaFirst Company, I really can’t complain. And hey, SB19 was featured on the product placements, so that’s great! All the soundtracks including “Isang Laro” (A Game) by Nasser, “Panalo Ka” (You Win) by Dex Yu, “Angel of Peace” by Elijah, “Pag-asa” (Hope) by Elijah, “Hiling” (Request) by Joshua Ronett, “Ngayon” (Now) by Dex, and “Ako at Ikaw” (Me and You) by Joshua were perfectly incorporated on the different episodes of “Gameboys.”
Beyond all these, “Gameboys” ushered in the creation of an engaged Pinoy BL community composed of not only the cast and crew members of the different Pinoy BL series but also of fans, reactors, and reviewers from all over the world.
To sum up this long series review (my longest review yet, lol), I highly recommend rewatching “Gameboys” (especially in preparation for “Gameboys The Movie” and “Gameboys Season 2”). It’s the first Pinoy BL series. It’s the best BL series. And it’s now THE STANDARD for the BL genre.