In general, Status Quo Is God. This isn't a snarky term used to describe the stagnation of Character Development or bringing us into Arc Fatigue, but the reality is that the Status Quo does not have any reason to change unless something forces it to change. The game changer is an element that significantly alters the current direction of the story or event. There is some sort of stalemate involved, or a seeming Foregone Conclusion. The game changer is a Hope Spot that gives the heroes a dramatic new angle to attack the problem; if dealing with The Empire it often leads to the downfall of the Big Bad. It isn't always a heroic benefit; sometimes what kicks up a new Evil Plan is the Big Bad acquiring a new super weapon that can subdue the good guys. The long-term goals of the characters do not change, but the situation itself is altered. Nothing Is the Same Anymore is related, but tends be about a change in the actual situation, not just the options available to the characters. No one has won the "war" by the game changer, they usually just win a decisive battle and that's it. Somehow, someone has just gained a major advantage. This is often used as a Stock Phrase or at least implied through the dialogue. Compare Wham Episode and Mid-Season Twist. Not to be confused with Game Breaker. Often on a smaller scale, the Spanner in the Works functions similarly to this. Expect spoilers.
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Anime and Manga
- One Piece has a huge shake up to the Status Quo, right around the time-skip:
- Whitebeard, World's Strongest Man and head of the most powerful pirate alliance, is dead, along with his 2nd division commander.
- Blackbeard, in defiance of what is known about Devil's Fruit abilities, takes on a second one (Whitebeard's)!
- Gecko Moria follows on the heels of Jimbei and Crocodile as newly-former Warlords of the Sea, let loose on the sea.
- Sengoku retires as Fleet Admiral of the Marines, along with Garp.
- Aokiji leaves the Marines, following a nasty spat with Akainu, who'd been appointed Fleet Admiral against Sengoku's advice.
- Trafalgar Law and Buggy the Clown are now ranked among the Seven Warlords of the Sea.
- Attackon Titan has has the same formula for 100 years before the series even began. The Wall are all that stand between mankind and extinction, and they make fruitless efforts to fight or even understand the Titans. Then along come the Titan Shifters, and one of them just happens to be on their side...
- Queen Of All Oni completely upends its status quo in chapter 20, when Jade's Sanity Slippage hits a full-blown Villainous Breakdown, resulting in her kidnapping Viper and fusing her with Ikazuki's chi (killing him in the process), in order to transform and brainwash her into the Shadowkhan General Hebi. This gives Jade control of the Samurai Khan, while Hebi also lifts Ikazuki's curse, returning Jade's control of her own Ninja Khan. Meanwhile, Jade fires the Enforcers, while rededicating herself to completely defeating the J-Team, who she now believes want to kill or seal her.
- In TRON: Legacy, Kevin Flynn explains to Sam that his arrival into the Grid shook up the previous stalemate between Flynn and Clu. This is what Clu was expecting by summoning Sam to the arcade, hoping to egg Flynn out of his self-exile. Flynn initially tries to ignore the bait but Sam doesn't like trying to stay still.
- Star Wars: This is basically the meaning behind the title of A New Hope and Return of the Jedi. Without Luke's involvement helping to bring down the Sith, including learning the ways of the force and bringing back the Jedi Order, the Rebellion would never have won.
- Rescuing Leia is a game-changer. The Empire knew that Leia knew where the rebel base was and Leia knew the Empire would know this and track her. They let her go and Leia had no choice but to bring the Death Star plans (and the bugged Falcon) to the rebels.
- Destroying the first Death Star counts as one in the series/franchise, but as the last act of the movie it is the finale to the climax.
- From Obi-Wan and Yoda's perspective, Luke starting on the path to become a Jedi is the real game changer in order to defeat the Sith. The premise of the original trilogy remained "Rebellion vs. Empire."
- The Clone Troopers in Attack of the Clones are TGC when they arrive on Geonosis to rescue the overwhelmed Jedi. They become Nothing Is the Same Anymore when they obey General Order 66 and eradicate the Jedi, leaving Emperor Palpatine as Lord And Master of the Galaxy.
- The Dark Knight: The Joker killing the Batman impersonators was cited by Bruce as crossing the line, while Alfred points out that him becoming Batman to begin with is what made the mob so desperate.
- The One Ring of Power is TGC in The Hobbit where it acts as a James Bond device for Bilbo Baggins. That same Ring becomes Nothing Is the Same Anymore in The Lord of the Rings when it's revealed to be Sauron's Soul Jar, with which he could reclaim all of Middle Earth under his iron rule.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier mid-film twist changes everything only Steve Rogers, but for the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. The first half of the film is an investigation by S.H.I.E.L.D. into who led the assassination attempt on Nick Fury. The second half reveals that the culprit was the unexpectedly alive HYDRA, who have infiltrated S.H.I.E.LD. and are using to bring about a New World Order. The defeat of HYDRA necessitates the dissolution of S.H.I.E.L.D., leaving heroes and citizens without its protection to rely on.
- The Game Changer in How to Train Your Dragon is Hiccup discovering that dragons and humans are not mutual adversaries. The "kill on sight" directive in the Viking Handbook is fanaticism, and the dragons are raiding the Viking village under orders from an Evil Boss. The dragon revolution against the Red Death cements this change into Nothing Is the Same Anymore.
- In Wreck-It Ralph, Ralph is convinced that it's pointless to continue helping Vanellope, as he feels any further assistance will doom her home game of Sugar Rush. Until Ralph notices official artwork of Vanellope on the side of the game cabinet and returns to Sugar Rush, now determined to get answers as to what's going on with Vanellope. Indeed, this new information ultimately leads to bringing down Turbo's reign in Sugar Rush.
- When conman Dmitri brings orphan Anya before Princess Sophia, he thought he'd drilled Anya on every fact about the lost Princess Anastasia. But when Princess Sophia asks how she'd escaped the palace during the uprising, Anya replies with something only the actual Princess Anastasia could know. It is then that Dmitri realizes that Anya really is the missing Romanov princess.
- The Game Changer in Kung Fu Panda is the unexpected dubbing of Po as The Dragon Warrior, a clumsy giant panda who turns out be a preternaturally talented martial artist of considerable power with the right instruction who also enables his colleagues to find a happiness they did not know they needed.
- The magic ring found by Bilbo Baggins in Tolkien's The Hobbit gave Bilbo the power of invisibility, which allowed him to aid the dwarves far more than an ordinary hobbit could have done. Ultimately, this ring would shape the destiny of all of Middle Earth.
- This is the main role of Merlin Athrawes in Safehold. By Giving Radio to the Romans Merlin strives to break the planet Safehold's enforced Medieval Stasis. Approximately every other book features the Church of God Awaiting and its forces getting hammered by the Empire of Charis due to various innovations that were brought in thanks to Merlin's influence. Starting with farther-ranged and more accurate artillery in the first book and introducing ironclad warships in the most recent.
- On a more individual scale, Merlin had been acting alone in this plan for the first book and a half. The Game Changer to this strategy was the revelation midway through the second book that there were others who knew the history he did, enabling him to bring more people in on his ultimate plan.
- None of the OAS's efforts to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle succeeded, because their ranks were riddled with police informers. The Game Changer in Frederick Forsythe's The Day of the Jackal comes when the OAS leaders contract the services of a British assassin, about whom the French Secret Service know almost nothing.
- The final book of Codex Alera sees the first use of catapults, loaded with spheres containing fire furies (which can be produced by people with even moderate firecrafting ability) which prove incredibly devastating on the level of a High Lord, several characters note that if Alera survives the Vord this is going to be a game changer for their civilization, because now the destructive power of a High Lord is in the hands of the common people.
- In SA Swann's Terran Confederacy universe, the Paralian tach drive allowed the Centauri Trading Company to overthrow the U.N. and form the Terran Confederacy. The Dolbrian starmap on Bakunin showed the location hundreds of (presumably) terraformed worlds. Whoever controls it has a huge advantage in galactic politics
- In the Inheritance Cycle, Galbatorix is absurdly powerful, and Eragon and Saphira know that he can curbstomp them with magic without raising an eyebrow. It seems hopeless to confront him, until Eragon discovers a long-lost cache of Eldunarya storing the life-forces of ancient dragons. With their combined power, it became possible to face Galbatorix on even terms.
- The Manticoran "Project Ghost Rider" in the Honor Harrington universe, involving warships designed to lay down clusters of missile pods for massive salvos, missiles exponentially longer ranged than anything ever built before, and mass-deployment of light assault craft mounting previously-impossibly powerful weapons loads ended a decade-long stalemate in weeks (nearly all of the time taken being spent travelling from one star to another.
- In The Nexus Series, Nexus 5 permanently allows people to make direct mind-to-mind communication. This technology has the potential to disrupt the World Order if it ever makes it to the internet. It does at the end of Crux, after a 31-hour battle with the NSA to contain it.
- "Phase One", the post-Super Bowl episode of Alias changes things big-time: Mission "Take Down SD-6" is completed, Syd and Vaughn resolve their UST, and Francie is killed and replaced by a doppleganger.
- In the fourth season of Angel the Big Bad of the season, Jasmine, had brainwashed masses tracking down the heroes and they had no idea how to fight back. They even mention that they needed a break somehow. Traveling in the sewers they come across a demon from another dimension who claims to have loved Jasmine first, and Angel travels to that dimension to find out something more about her.
- In Burn Notice, the game changer was Michael coming across a NOC list of the organization that burned him.
- The third season finale of LOST shows flashbacks of Jack at his alcoholic worst. Except that it's actually the first flash-forward, revealing that some of the flight 815 survivors escaped the island.
- In Once Upon a Time, Storybrooke is a town in Maine where all the denizens of a fairy-tale world were sent by the powerful curse of Snow White's enemy, the Evil Queen Regina and live in an amnesiac state unaware of their true identities. Here, they do not age. The narrative revolves around Snow's daughter, Emma, the very reluctant designated curse breaker. She succeeds in breaking the curse in the first-season finale.
- Babylon 5: The results of Sheridan's visit to Z'ha'dum ( mainly the nuking of the Shadows' center of power) "opened an unexpected door" (in the words of Kosh II/Ulkesh), which emboldened the Vorlons to unleash their planet killers and go all out destroying any worlds "touched" by Shadows—and the Shadows to reciprocate in this escalation. This turn of events showed the younger races just how dysfunctional and dangerous the Vorlons' and Shadows' guardianship had become. Sheridan gathers a massive fleet of the younger races to confront both the Shadow and Vorlon fleets near a targeted planet of six billion sentient beings, calls them out on their unfitness as guardians, and persuades them to leave the galaxy as their moral exposure becomes apparent to all. Thus had the events of "Z'ha'dum" not happened, the current war would arguably end up being just one more of a millennial cycle of wars orchestrated by the Shadows and Vorlons, rather than the last of them.
- From Law & Order, two men riding the train together make a Devil's Pact: each would murder the other's antagonist, thinking the police would fail to connect them to their crimes. Their scheme almost worked until detectives discovered the suspects routinely rode the same train together. This game-changing fact moved the prosecutor's cases from iffy circumstances to roll-over confessions.
- The sixth season finale of Bones, appropriately titled "The Change in the Game", ends in a subtle game changer as Brennan tells Booth, "I'm pregnant. You're the father."
- The 50th anniversary special of Doctor Who, "The Day of The Doctor": All of the doctors manage to save Gallifrey from destruction, so the Doctor's people are still alive and he now has a mission to find Gallifrey.
- Robot Wars: In early seasons, roboteers were firm believers in Armor Is Useless, and so preferred much lighter plastic armour for their robots. And then along came Hypnodisc, which utterly destroyed Robogeddon in a brutal and humiliating match. Roboteers went nuts and began piling heavy protection onto their robots from then on.
- In early seasons, robots that were flipped over were considered instantly defeated. That is, until Cassius was able to right itself with it's own flipper. After that, many robots took the form of wedges and flippers became a popular weapon choice. Other robots were specifically designed to run both ways up, and for maximum Rule of Cool, some even got specialised SRIMECHs note .
- Flash Gordon is the game changer in his series: before he arrived on Mongo, various worlds under Ming's thumb were fighting each other. Flash slowly convinced the various worlds to set aside their differences and concentrate instead on overthrowing Ming the Merciless.
- In Halo: Combat Evolved, the war on the ring progresses in a military fashion, with humans beating back the Covenant. Then the ring turns out to have been carrying an Eldritch Abomination, which is set free and proceeds to start infecting anyone it encounters. A later game changer is when the ring turns out to be a super weapon, which its insane curator is trying to fire to contain the infection.
- A meta one in Halo 2. The game opens with Master Chief's bold defense of Earth. But the Covenant carrier flees and the second half of the game turns into a political plot playing as the Arbiter.
- Halo 3: Master Chief and the UNSC break a hole through the Covenant's defenses so that they can deactivate the Ark artifact on Earth. The artifact turns out to not be the Ark, but a portal leading to the Ark, which is outside the Milky Way galaxy.
- Halo 4: Master Chief and Cortana hurry to activate a satellite so that they can escape the abandoned planet they're trapped on and be rescued. The satellite turns out to be actually a containment pod of a Forerunner, who breaks free and resumes his genocidal campaign on humanity.
- In Halo: Reach Dr. Halsey explains to NOBLE Team that on its current course humanity is doomed to extinction. The only solution lays in the Forerunner information she and Cortana have managed to decipher, explicitly calling it a Game Changer. This info reveals the location of Halo, and leads into the main trilogy, where the Covenant's resolve was broken when the Halo's true purpose was revealed.
- Inverted with the previous events of the campaign. No matter what the UNSC tries to stop the Covenant on Reach, some new complication is revealed that just escalates the conflict. Destroyed their corvette attacking their base? Covenant Special Ops still got the data they were looking for. Infiltrated their radar dark zone? It turns out to be hiding an entire Covenant army. Destroyed their spire bases? Those turn out to be cloaking a Covenant super carrier. Destroy the super carrier? A fleet of hundreds more ships immediately arrive to take its place.
- When the Reapers finally launch their invasion in Mass Effect 3 it's clear that their technological and numeric advantages are insurmountable. All anyone can do with conventional warfare is slow the Reapers down as they blitzkrieg the home worlds and colonies of several Citadel races, including Earth. Then Liara discovers plans for a super weapon in the Prothean ruins on Mars that may be able to wipe them out. Building the weapon, dubbed Project Crucible, becomes the Citadel's only hope. On another note, the invasion finally convinces the Council that the Reapers are real, and the Turians in particular start actively helping Shepard.
- The destruction of Sovereign during the failed attack on the Citadel likewise qualifies, as the second game shows that there has been a major technological boom since the first game, due to the military rapidly reverse-engineering the Reaper and Geth technology recovered in the aftermath.
- The Codex reveals that Humanity is responsible for introducing one in the form of Carriers, the concept of which was entirely new to the various Council races, thus not subject to the same limitations as Dreadnoughts under the Treaty of Farixen. This allowed the Alliance to build numerous Carriers to supplement their large Space Navy, all whilst continuing to abide by the terms of the treaty.
- In Alundra, the researcher Septimus explains how he sought out the village of Inoa to research what's afflicting the inhabitants with cursed nightmares, only to discover he can't actually do anything to stop it (and getting a bit depressed over it), and how everything changed when Alundra, who can enter and change people's dreams, washed up ashore of the village near the beginning of the game.
- Metroid: Zero Mission: Samus destroys Mother Brain and blows up the Space Pirate's base on Zebes, just as she did in the original game. Then pirate ships ambush her starship and send her crashing back down to the surface, now without a suit, weaponless, and with little hope of escape.
- Metroid Prime 3: Corruption: After the game's first mission, Samus is infected with an alien substance called Phazon that allows her to briefly supercharge her abilities but corrupt her if she uses it for too long. It's a game changer for the Prime series as a whole as the previous games had Phazon be a hazard you were trying to destroy.
- The Wonderful 101 reveals that the Super Reactors the player has been striving to protect for the entire game are all connected to a single master controller, which is currently in the hands of somebody who has a massive grudge against the titular army of superheroes. Cue the planetary shield protecting Earth from the gigantic Alien Invasion hovering in orbit suddenly deactivating.
- In Persona 3, this occurs when the twelve Full Moon Shadows are defeated. The following night, the Dark Hour is revealed to have not stopped, Ikutsuki is revealed to be Evil All Along, and what they actually did was kick-start The End of the World as We Know It. The rest of the game has the party trying to figure out how they can stop it.
- Hanyuu in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni.
" Takano and Hanyuu, were you listening to what Mion said? We don't play Old Maid. Just Old Geezer. Takano laughed it off as being the same but it is a completely different game. After all, if one adds the missing card that is taken out in a game of Old Geezer, it becomes a game without losers. After adding Hanyuu, our missing card the world became a world free of losers. It is the height of folly to purposely take one card out of the game. This world doesn't need a loser."
- In Transformers Prime the Iacon relic hunt took a marked upswing when the outnumbered Autobots got the Forge of Solus Prime (a hammer capable of forging anything) from a defecting Dreadwing, allowing Optimus to build a space bridge to meet the Decepticon forces on Cybertron looking for the Omega Lock, as without it they couldn't make the journey. Another game changer happened in the second season finale, where the Decepticons discovered the location of the Autobot base and destroyed it, the Auobots being scattered around the world to hide from them.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Learning about Sozin's Comet and the utter destruction the Fire Nation could use it for was a game changer in that it gave the heroes a limited time frame to accomplish the premise of the series, learn the four elements and defeat the Fire Lord.
- In BIONICLE, the discovery of the Mask of Light leads to, in short succession: Takua becoming Takanuva, the first-ever Toa of Light; the revelations that the island of Mata Nui wasn't the original home of the Matoran and they have to abandon it, that the Makuta was just one of many, that Tahu and his team weren't the first Toa, and that the elders have been lying to their people for a thousand years; the expansion of the story to multiple islands; and Makuta winning and exiling Mata Nui into space, leading to further revelations.
- The atomic bomb was a game changer for World War II.
"Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization."— Japanese emperor Hirohito, August 15, 1945
- The Steam Engine. Ships were no longer at the mercy of the tides and the weather to maneuver, providing naval commanders with far more flexibility
- The Airplane. At first this merely meant it was far more difficult to conceal troop movements from the enemy, but as the technology developed, it also meant that almost any part of a country's territory could be vulnerable to enemy attack and defenses had to be spread out to cover any strategic assets.
- When gunpowder first appeared on the battlefield, it was a game changer that likely won the day for the army that used it. Over the few next centuries, it became Nothing Is the Same Anymore as ballistic weapons replaced swords and shields for every modern army on Earth.
- The transistor. Before that, electronics were prohibitively large due to vacuum tubes. Without the transistor, you would not be reading this.