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A Heartfelt Review on Donny Pangilinan’s New Film, GG a.k.a. ‘Good Game’

This is a great film to watch with the family. At its heart, GG a.k.a. Good Game isn’t just about gaming or even the realm of esports. No spoilers here, but this girl shed a few tears just before the end. You need to watch it to understand. It has its light and dark moments all wrapped up in beautifully produced cinematography that displays courage with restraint and the overall visual finish of the film doesn’t steal from the story’s heart. 

Lead character Seth’s loss which thrusts him into obsessive gaming reminded me of my Dad. When my grandmother passed away when I was 15, we sort of “lost” Dad for a few years to gaming. We knew what he was like when he played new games with us…this phase wasn’t the same, he “left” us and gamed on his own racking up higher and higher scores on whatever it was that he was playing. We suddenly didn’t exist and he hogged our fastest computer. It was what it was. This wasn’t fun for Dad: it was heavy, it was serious, this was grief…and he needed to pass through it somehow. He needed to escape. 

It also must be noted that a number of Filipino youth flee their homes to seek refuge in net cafes simply to avoid multiple forms of domestic abuse or neglect from impoverished parents (as seen in the life of one of GG’s characters). The choice to game away from home is most often not a young person’s intention to be rebelliously unproductive, it is often their own mode of survival or coping for whatever besieges them. The point is being together elsewhere helps.

What is gaming really? It is animated graphic art made interactive and programmed to achieve specific, virtually rewarding goals. It’s an activity that generates fun, a sense of online community and camaraderie, but also on the dark side, when unchecked—no sugar-coating the obvious—it carries a notorious reputation for being highly addictive. On the flipside it can also be used as a tool to educate and advance technical skills.

In 1986 I was 2 years old when Dad taught me my first IBM video games: “Sticky Bear Math” and “Alley Cats.” He was not as vocal as a parent, but he was very learned and passionate about gaming and tech which he taught us with lightheartedness and joy. When I turned 10 he got me the game “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego” a pretend espionage program that taught kids geography, facts, and trivia while promoting the knowledge of countries and capitals to be able to catch bad guys. Then later came simulation, with Command & Conquer, Starcraft, and The Sims. Learning the games quickly (and modding them whether through codes, upgrades, or cheats) made my brother and I quicker than others at learning new software (whether for games or productivity), and it gave us an edge in school later on. My Dad was teaching us to understand both software and hardware to a degree advanced us both without our knowing. 

While I felt the overall telling of Seth’s story in GG could have been more balanced and polished in the bi-lingual sense when it came to the screenwriting (more Taglish properly woven in perhaps), there is definitely something precious in this film to take home with you. GG team GG!! 

The movie GG shows that there’s more to gaming than meets the eye. All of us should know by now that gaming in itself should be judged less harshly given that it has put food on people’s tables for so many during the 2020 pandemic, is great for keeping aging humans sharp mentally, and educating the academically challenged, AND it continues to create jobs for those who are part of the development pipeline. I believe it will continue to be common digital ground for hearts and minds to connect in the most unexpected ways.

GG is out now in theaters.