In general, StatusQuoIsGod. This isn't a snarky term used to describe the stagnation of CharacterDevelopment or bringing us into ArcFatigue, 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 ForegoneConclusion. The game changer is a HopeSpot that gives the heroes a dramatic new angle to attack the problem; if dealing with TheEmpire it often leads to the downfall of the BigBad.

It isn't always a heroic benefit; sometimes what kicks up a new EvilPlan is the BigBad 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. NothingIsTheSameAnymore 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 StockPhrase or at least implied through the dialogue. Compare WhamEpisode and MidSeasonTwist. Not to be confused with GameBreaker.

'''Expect spoilers.'''


[[folder: Anime and Manga]]
* ''Manga/OnePiece'' has a huge shake up to the Status Quo, right around the time-skip:
** Whitebeard, WorldsStrongestMan 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.
** [[spoiler: Aokiji leaves the Marines, following a nasty spat with Akainu, who'd been appointed Fleet Admiral against Sengoku's advice]].
** [[spoiler: Trafalgar Law and [[IKnewIt Buggy the Clown]] are now ranked among the Seven Warlords of the Sea]].
* ''Manga/AttackonTitan'' 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...

[[folder: Comic Books]]
* In most continuity reboots of [[MarvelUniverse Marvel]] and [[DCUniverse DC]], the dawn of superhumans is treated this way.

[[folder: Fanfiction]]
* ''FanFic/QueenOfAllOni'' completely upends its status quo in chapter 20, when Jade's SanitySlippage hits a full-blown VillainousBreakdown, resulting in her [[spoiler: kidnapping Viper and fusing her with Ikazuki's chi (killing him in the process), in order to transform and brainwash her into the Shadowkhan [[TheDragon General Hebi]]. This gives Jade control of the [[EliteMooks Samurai Khan]], while Hebi also lifts Ikazuki's curse, returning Jade's control of her own Ninja Khan. Meanwhile, Jade [[ShooOutTheClowns fires the Enforcers]], while rededicating herself to completely defeating the J-Team, who she now believes want to kill or seal her.]]

[[folder: Film Live-Action]]
* In ''Film/TronLegacy'', Kevin Flynn explains to Sam that his arrival into the Grid shook up the previous stalemate between Flynn and Clu. [[spoiler: 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.]]
* ''Franchise/StarWars'': This is basically the meaning behind the title of ''Film/ANewHope'' and ''Film/ReturnOfTheJedi''. 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. [[IKnowYouKnowIKnow 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 ''Film/AttackOfTheClones'' are TGC when they arrive on Geonosis to rescue the overwhelmed Jedi. They become NothingIsTheSameAnymore when they obey General Order 66 and eradicate the Jedi, leaving Emperor Palpatine as Lord And Master of the Galaxy.
* ''Film/TheDarkKnight'': 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 ''Film/TheHobbit'' where it acts as a James Bond device for Bilbo Baggins. That same Ring becomes NothingIsTheSameAnymore in ''Film/TheLordOfTheRings'' when it's revealed to be Sauron's SoulJar, with which he could reclaim all of Middle Earth under his iron rule.
* ''Film/CaptainAmericaTheWinterSoldier'' mid-film twist changes everything only Steve Rogers, but for the entire Franchise/MarvelCinematicUniverse. 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. [[spoiler: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 NewWorldOrder. The defeat of HYDRA necessitates the dissolution of S.H.I.E.L.D., leaving heroes and citizens without its protection to rely on.]]

[[folder: Film Animated]]
* The Game Changer in ''WesternAnimation/HowToTrainYourDragon'' 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 EvilBoss. The dragon revolution against the Red Death cements this change into NothingIsTheSameAnymore.
* In ''Disney/WreckItRalph'', 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''. [[spoiler: 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 WesternAnimation/{{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 ''WesternAnimation/KungFuPanda'' 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.

[[folder: Literature]]
* The magic ring found by Bilbo Baggins in [[Creator/JRRTolkien Tolkien's]] ''Literature/TheHobbit'' 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 ''Literature/{{Safehold}}''. By GivingRadioToTheRomans Merlin strives to break the planet Safehold's enforced MedievalStasis. 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 ''Literature/TheDayOfTheJackal'' 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 ''Literature/CodexAlera'' 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 [[PersonOfMassDestruction 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 Literature/TerranConfederacy universe, the Paralian tach drive allowed the Centauri Trading Company to overthrow the U.N. and form the Terran Confederacy. [[spoiler: 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 Literature/InheritanceCycle, Galbatorix is absurdly powerful, and Eragon and Saphira know that he can [[CurbstompBattle curbstomp]] them with magic without raising an eyebrow. It seems hopeless to confront him, until [[spoiler: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 ''Literature/HonorHarrington'' 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 TheNexusSeries, [[BrainComputerInterface 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. [[spoiler: It does at the end of Crux, after a 31-hour battle with the NSA to contain it.]]

[[folder: Live-Action TV]]
* "Phase One", the post-Super Bowl episode of ''Series/{{Alias}}'' changes things big-time: Mission "Take Down SD-6" is completed, Syd and Vaughn resolve their UST, and [[spoiler: Francie]] is killed and replaced by a doppleganger.
* In the fourth season of ''Series/{{Angel}}'' the BigBad 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 ''Series/BurnNotice'', the game changer was Michael coming across a NOC list of the organization that burned him.
* The third season finale of ''{{Series/Lost}}'' shows flashbacks of Jack at his alcoholic worst. [[spoiler: Except that it's actually the first flash-''forward,'' revealing that some of the flight 815 survivors escaped the island.]]
* In ''Series/OnceUponATime'', 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, [[TheHero Emma]], the very reluctant designated curse breaker. [[spoiler: She succeeds in breaking the curse in the first-season finale.]]
* ''Series/BabylonFive'': The results of Sheridan's visit to Z'ha'dum ([[spoiler: mainly the nuking of the Shadows' center of power]]) "opened an unexpected door" (in the words of Kosh II/Ulkesh), which [[spoiler: 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 [[spoiler: and Vorlons]], rather than [[spoiler: the last of them]].
* From ''Series/LawAndOrder'', 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 [[spoiler: until detectives discovered the suspects routinely rode the [[StrangersOnATrainPlotMurder 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 ''Series/DoctorWho'', "The Day of The Doctor":[[spoiler: 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.]]
* ''Series/RobotWars'': In early seasons, roboteers were firm believers in ArmorIsUseless, and so preferred much lighter plastic armour for their robots. And then along came [[{{Badass}} Hypnodisc]], which ''[[CurbStompBattle 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, [[FlippingHelpless robots that were flipped over were considered instantly defeated]]. That is, until [[SugarWiki/MomentOfAwesome 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 RuleOfCool, some even got specialised [=SRIMECHs=] [[note]]Self [=RIghting=] [=MECHanism=][[/note]].

[[folder: Newspaper Comics]]
* ComicStrip/FlashGordon 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.

[[folder: Video Games]]
* In ''VideoGame/HaloCombatEvolved'', the war on the ring progresses in a military fashion, with humans beating back [[ScaryDogmaticAliens the Covenant]]. Then the ring turns out to have been carrying an EldritchAbomination, 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 [[GoMadFromTheIsolation its insane curator]] is trying to fire [[WellIntentionedExtremist to contain the infection]].
** A meta one in ''{{VideoGame/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 [[VillainProtagonist the Arbiter]].
** ''{{VideoGame/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. [[spoiler: The artifact turns out to not be the Ark, but a ''portal'' leading to the Ark, which is outside the Milky Way galaxy.]]
** ''{{VideoGame/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. [[spoiler: The satellite turns out to be [[SealedEvilInACan actually a containment pod of a Forerunner]], who breaks free and resumes his genocidal campaign on humanity.]]
** In ''VideoGame/HaloReach'' 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''. [[spoiler: Destroy the super carrier? A fleet of hundreds more ships immediately arrive to take its place.]]
* When the Reapers finally launch their invasion in ''VideoGame/MassEffect3'' 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 [[OperationBlank 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 [[LoopholeAbuse 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 SpaceNavy, all whilst continuing to abide by the terms of the treaty.
* In ''VideoGame/{{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.
* ''VideoGame/MetroidZeroMission'': Samus destroys Mother Brain and blows up the Space Pirate's base on Zebes, just as she did in the original game. [[spoiler: 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.]]
** ''VideoGame/MetroidPrime 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 [[spoiler: 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.
* ''VideoGame/TheWonderful101'' 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 [[ItsPersonal massive grudge]] against the titular army of superheroes. Cue the planetary shield protecting Earth from the gigantic AlienInvasion hovering in orbit suddenly deactivating.

[[folder: Visual Novels]]
* Hanyuu in ''{{Higurashi no Naku Koro ni}}''.
-->"[[spoiler: Takano]] and Hanyuu, were you listening to what Mion said? We don't play Old Maid. Just Old Geezer. [[spoiler: 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."

[[folder: Western Animation]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/TransformersPrime'' the [[StoryArc Iacon relic hunt]] took a marked upswing when the outnumbered Autobots got the Forge of Solus Prime (a hammer capable [[ImaginationBasedSuperpower of forging anything]]) from [[spoiler: 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 [[spoiler: the Decepticons discovered the location of the Autobot base and destroyed it, the Auobots being scattered around the world to hide from them]].
* ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'': 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.

[[folder: Multiple Media]]
* In ''Franchise/{{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 [[BigBad 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 [[TheBadGuyWins Makuta winning]] and exiling Mata Nui into space, leading to further revelations.

[[folder: Real Life]]
* The atomic bomb was a game changer for WorldWarII.
-->''"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 NothingIsTheSameAnymore 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.