Hello Asia! writer K-Ci Williams kicks off his year of TV-binging with Gameboys.

I have set myself a goal for 2021 to consume as much TV as I possibly can, which inevitably led me to Gameboys, a BL series from the Philippines set against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic. It was also released months ago.

As a reader you must try not to expect anything half-intelligible from this review. That means that my only signs of brain activity right now are Kokoy de Santos saying ‘baby’ on repeat and the faux-annoyed expression of Elijah Canlas sitting as a crisp image in my mind’s eye. 

I am obsessed with this show. 

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It’s rooted in our current reality

The coronavirus pandemic upended life as we know it in 2020. And it is still not done. The pandemic itself is so seamlessly woven into the fabric of the show; not just a backdrop, but integral to the series. By limiting the scope due to quarantine, fresh takes on BL tropes were able to be written. Fictional versions of Instagram, Zoom, and Facebook were a stylistic device to propel the story forward, but I loved the transition to regular filming once the characters were together in person. And of course, the mental health impacts of quarantine were explored well. 

The dialogue rings true

When a show almost entirely uses ‘virtual connection’ for all scenes, it can become stale watching characters through their phone or computer screen. But what keeps this show alive for its freshman run is the dialogue. It is witty, cheeky and most importantly, it rings true. I believe these characters would say things like they do and make jokes like these. Gavreel’s “choke me daddy” quip made me bust a lung. Hugging Cairo in plastic arm sleeves and saying “put it inside, slowly” also had me in fits of laughter.

Characters feel like friends

Pearl is the absolute best. Her charisma shines through any scene she is in. She has major ‘main character’ energy (I expect I will be watching Pearl Next Door at some point).

Even the rendering of the side characters on paper is so well crafted, they feel like friends, or people I know. Imperfect and impulsive, but still incredible people. Gavreel’s charm steals the show; Kokoy de Santos portrays it like a mask, a facade that’s only dropped when his character opens up to Cairo. 

A love story worth believing in

I have always approached romance with unruly trepidation. I do not really care for it. And maybe that is because I have never truly felt represented in the media I consume. What I found when I watched Gameboys is a love that I believe in, a love that feels true to me and my sexuality, a love that I wish I had seen when I was younger. I asked myself, is this how straight people feel when they see every other romance catering to their identity? Because it feels good — so so good. Gavreel and Cairo are the sweetest guys in the world and they deserve every shred of happiness that I hope awaits them. My gay heart needs them to be happy. 

2020 was shit. But the flair and passion I saw in Gameboys is the energy I am carrying with me in 2021. These characters and their triumphs and their losses will stay with me for a long time. Caireel for life. 

Gameboys is streaming now on YouTube and Netflix