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Game Changer

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In general, Status Quo Is God. This isn't (supposed to be) 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 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 to 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, though there can certainly be an overlap in an active metagame. Often on a smaller scale, the Spanner in the Works functions similarly to this. See also Genre Turning Point when a work itself is a Game Changer for its genre or even its entire medium.

See Nothing Is the Same Anymore for a change in the status quo more drastic than just giving one side an advantage in a conflict, without changing the conflict itself.

Expect spoilers.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • One Piece: The Straw Hats tend to be a Game Changer to whatever conflict they find themselves dropped into the middle of.
    • While the Straw Hats prefer to do their own thing and don't intentionally get involved in the larger picture, several instances could be considered Game Changers on this front. First was Sogeking burning the World Government's flag at Enies Lobby, which would eventually lead to a Buster Call being summoned on them. Second was Luffy punching out a World Noble, which led to the Straw Hats being utterly defeated and scattered around the sea.
    • The moments leading up to the Time Skip have several Game Changer moments all in a row. Whitebeard, World's Strongest Man and head of the most powerful pirate alliance, gets killed off, along with his 2nd division commander. This not only massively changed the balance of power in the world, but the fact that someone died in the present also served as a major meta game changer. Whitebeard's dying words confirm that the One Piece is real, inspiring an entirely new generation of pirates, also disrupting the status quo that the marines had worked so hard to build. Blackbeard, in defiance of what is known about Devil Fruit abilities, takes on a second one (Whitebeard's)! Sengoku retires as Fleet Admiral of the Marines, along with Garp, leaving Akainu to succeed him, and in turn, Aokiji resigning as well.
    • The Straw Hats were a major Game Changer in Dressrosa, breaking a status quo that Doflamingo had carefully orchestrated and kept in place for years. For the arc itself, however, knocking Sugar out is probably the biggest arc turning point in the series. With Sugar unconscious, her power turned off, allowing everyone to remember the people that Doflamingo had erased from their memories, irrevocably destroying the heroic image he had spent so long building up. Then it all goes public.
  • Attack on Titan has had the same formula for 100 years before the series even began. The Walls 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...
    • The first real game changer is at the very start of the series. The Walls have protected humanity for a century. And then a Titan comes along that's easily three times larger than anything up to that point and kicks a hole in one of them.
    • The basement reveal changes everything. All along we'd been led to believe Humanity was on the verge of extinction. In truth Humanity was never at that point and the true enemy is the entire World.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, the 3 superpowers are handed 30 tau drives and 30 GN-X mobile suits by dissidents from Celestial Being. This allow them to close the gap in the technological disadvantage and fight Celestial Being on equal footing.
  • In Code Geass, Lelouch and his Geass is the game-changer that sets the plot in motion in the first place. Being an opponent of the Britannian Empire and capable of giving commands that must be obeyed, Lelouch in his "Zero" persona is the first real chance La Résistance has of dealing significant damage to the Briannian occupation of Japan.
    • The knightmares were this in the backstory, being the weapon that allowed Britannia to conquer Japan and break the long stalemate between the three major power blocks. The Lancelot, which is created in the beginning of season one, and later the Gawain, introduced late in the first season, are other examples and the ones that truly sets off the Lensman Arms Race of the series: The Lancelot is a One-Man Army that allows its wearer to dominate earlier-model knightmares as though they were mooks, and the Gawain is the first knightmare frame capable of flight and also has a giant Wave-Motion Gun capable of devastating an entire battlefield in one go.
  • Obsolete: The Exoframes are Mini-Mecha provided to humanity by a race of anonymous merchant-aliens, who will sell them to anyone, no questions asked, for the price of a thousand kilos of limestone each. While the Exoframes are unarmed, the ubiquity of limestone means practically anyone can get their own mech for cheap (less than 100 USD in 2015 prices) if they have access to a limestone quarry, which ends up collapsing large portions of the heavy industries market (producers of tractors, forklifts, etc) and opens up a new world for guerilla fighters and non-established militaries, who suddenly have access to a highly mobile, easily concealable weapons platform capable of carrying an infantry support weapon or a small vehicle weapon like a machine gun, mortar or reasonably sized bomb. Exoframes end up changing the Obsolete world in a way similar to how drone warfare changed the real world, with the caveat that the rich, established powers were the last ones to begin implementing them due to pressure from their own manufacturing industries.

    Comic Books 
  • In most continuity reboots of Marvel and DC, the dawn of superhumans is treated this way.
  • In the Tintin story Red Rackham's Treasure, Captain Haddock finds out from documents left by his forefather Sir Francis Haddock that the estate of Marlinspike Hall was willed to his family. So henceforth, he and Professor Calculus (who helped buy the deed on auction) live a life of luxury in Marlinspike, with most stories beginning or at least taking place partially there. Although Tintin himself doesn't move into Marlinspike Hall, we almost never see his old apartment in any of the following adventures.

    Comic Strips 
  • 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.

    Fan Works 
  • The Night Unfurls: A villainous example appears in the form of the Evil Sorceror, Shamuhaza. His appearance during the war against the Black Dogs not only gives the Black Dogs an advantage in the war, but also results in the good guys' receiving their Pyrrhic Victory of all Pyrrhic Victories in the story, with Rad, the fortress city they are supposed to reclaim, suffering an Apocalypse How. Due to his presence, many later chapters would have the good guys' trying to blindside the enemy, rather than fending off an All Your Base Are Belong to Us situation.
  • 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.
  • While the Grand Finale of Danny Phantom was already this, the Facing the Future Series takes the ball and runs with it by continuing the trend with Sam becoming Danny's new ghost fighting partner while they develop a mental link and Danny gaining a powerful and dangerous Super Mode, Danielle being adopted into the Fenton family, Skulker getting his armor upgraded to his future self's version, a Mysterious Watcher appearing, and Desiree pulling a Heel–Face Turn and becoming an Official Couple with Sidney Poindexter.
  • Happens for both series crossed in Kings of Revolution. For Code Geass, Lelouch has a Device instead of Geass and Quattro to back him up, which makes significant changes to the decisions he makes. As for Lyrical Nanoha, an international terrorist organization puts the TSAB on edge with Loophole Abuse in their laws, Pragmatic Villainy and weapons that slaughter Mages by the thousands.
  • In Intercom, the first game changer is when the intercom is broken, beginning the fic by establishing the new dynamic between Riley and her emotions.
    • Second was when Riley touches the emotion console, creating white memories, and a white CORE memory, which would become an essential part of the fic afterwards.
    • Third was when the emotions told Riley the truth about what REALLY was going on in her mind during the movie. While Riley decides not to hate or banish them for this, it does create a change in their relation to each other, and marks the beginning of Riley going behind their backs for two secret plans.
  • In Playing With Legos, Taylor finally completes a T1 Engineer in part 76, which goes on to obsolete everything she's done up to that point. What follows afterwards quickly pushes her from playing at street level with the riffraff to becoming the planetary-level superpower a Supreme Commander faction is supposed to be. Also applies in the meta sense as this also made the fic the first Supreme Commander/Worm crossover where Taylor actually operates at strategic level.
  • The New Adventures of Invader Zim takes a massive blow to its status quo in Episode 17, when the Tallest tell Zim the truth about his mission; after a brief Villainous BSoD, he decides to go rogue and rebel against them.
  • Shinobu's alter-ego Jade completely changes the status quo in The Beast That I Am. Not only does Keitaro now have someone both willing and very able to protect him from the actions of the other tenants at Hinata Inn, but Haruka makes it clear that Keitaro either has to stop being an Extreme Doormat and put the girls in their place or evict them. While Keitaro worries about negating all the work he's done so far, Haruka explains that if he doesn't change with the status quo, things will only escalate and likely result in Jade maiming and/or killing one of the others in her rage.
  • Cinders and Ashes: the Chronicles of Kamen Rider Dante started off as a simple "Re:CREATORS with a Kamen Rider inserted into it" fanfic, even with the added caveat of said Rider being a friend of Setsuna. That is until the arrival of Re:Shocker, Dante's enemy. After that, the pace and overall tone shifts as the heroes try to defeat Re:Shocker before their destruction causes the Great Destruction.
  • The very title character is this for The Warcrafter, as his presence and actions cause quite a few changes from the original story. Tellingly, organizations eventually start pushing back once things end up radically changing and the Slaughterhouse Nine are taken out of the picture.

    Film — Animated 
  • Anastasia: When conman Dmitri brings orphan Anya before Duchess Sophie, he thought he'd drilled Anya on every fact about the titular lost Princess. But when Sophie asks how she'd escaped the palace during the uprising, Anya replies with something only the actual Princess Anastasia could know. It is at this point does Dmitri realizes that Anya really is the missing Romanov princess.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • At first, Nick Wilde of Disney's Zootopia teased and tormented rookie Officer Hopps during her investigation of the Emmett Otterton case. In fairness, Hopps was holding a Sword of Damocles over Wilde in the form of undeclared taxable income. The game changed significantly when key witness Renato Manchas came up missing, and Chief Bogo demanded that Hopps resign from the police force. Seeing a painful similarity with his own rejection by the Junior Rangers, Wilde intervened on Hopps' behalf. Rather than being The Load in the investigation, Wilde became an active participant, rising to heroic lengths to assist in cracking the case. Goodbye, Troll; hello, Fire-Forged Friends.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Captain America: The Winter Soldier: The mid-film twist changes everything not only for Steve Rogers, but for the entire MCU. 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 it 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.
    • Avengers: Endgame is the Grand Finale of the first major Myth Arc, and permanently changes the status quo of the MCU. By the time it's done, Tony Stark, Natasha Romanov, and Thanos are all dead; Steve Rogers, having become voluntarily Trapped in the Past after returning the displaced Infinity Stones, is now an old man who retires from the Captain America mantle and passes it on to Sam Wilson; Gamora and Vision are still dead from the previous film, circumstances preventing them from being brought back with everyone else (though a younger version of Gamora from 2014 is now stuck in the present); Thor leaves Earth seemingly permanently to travel the universe; and the Infinity Stones, the MacGuffins which drove the Myth Arc, are destroyed for good.
  • The Nerdlucks from Space Jam are challenged to a basketball game by the Looney Tunes. The Nerdlucks seem badly overmatched, until they steal the talent of NBA players, and turn One-Winged Angel on the practice court. Now, it's the Looney Tunes that are horribly outmatched, prompting Bugs Bunny to recruit Michael Jordan to their cause.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • A Certain Magical Index:
    • The events of World War III. Due to some extremely conspicuous uses of magic (a 40 kilometre long fortress being raised into the sky, an archangel being summoned), people everywhere have at least some suspicion that magic exists. The war significantly shifts the Balance of Power, with Academy City and the Anglican Church in a stronger position and the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches weakened. Aleister Crowley is forced to take action personally, revealing that he's still alive. The (perceived) victory of science over magic eventually leads to the formation of the anti-science magical cabal Gremlin.
    • Othinus gaining her full power as a Magic God, only to be talked into a Heel–Face Turn and losing it. Her actions cause the other Magic Gods to begin taking an interest in the world. Aleister manages to find the Magic Gods and break into their sanctuary. The subconscious will of the Magic Gods inadvertently leads to the awakening of World Rejector, a power capable of instantly defeating them.
  • 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.
  • 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 main conceit at the start of Heavy Object is the only thing that can counter a Humongous Mecha is another mecha. The first arc then features a pair of soldiers and their mecha pilot destroying an enemy Object with an Indy Ploy that triggers its self-destruct. From there the plot has them made an official team, at which point they continue doing that kind of thing.
  • 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. It was a key factor in his rescue of the dwarves from the Mirkwood spiders and from the clutches of the Wood Elves.
  • 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 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.
  • Mistborn: In Bands of Mourning (third book of the Wax and Wayne sub-series), contact between the northern and southern continents of the world is established, allowing for the sharing of technology and research between the two. The southern continent is revealed to be using Magitek, which includes knowledge of the allomantic and ferromantic properties of nicrosil, which has long been included in the metal charts but never explained. It allows for the creation of devices that provide access to the Metallic Arts by anyone without using hemalurgy (stealing powers with a spike, usually killing the original owner in the process), not just those born with the ability to use allomancy (expending metal to gain certain powers) or feruchemy (storing traits in metal for later use).
  • 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.
  • Safehold
    • This is the main role of Merlin Athrawes. 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.
  • 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
  • The Wheel of Time:
    • Early in the series, the continent the story takes place on is suddenly invaded by an empire from across the ocean, the Seanchan. The Seanchan claim to be descendants of the armies of Arthur Hawkwing, a king who established an empire a thousand years earlier and sent armies across the ocean to conquer whatever they found. Their arrival turns the situation from a conceptually simple effort to unite the countries of the continent against the Shadow by the heroes into a messy cold war that needs to be resolved before the prophecied Final Battle occurs.
    • The rediscovery of Traveling, which catches on around the midpoint of the series. The ability of powerful channelers to make holes in the air to any desired location not only shortens transportation and trade, but also potentially renders all fortifications obsolete.
    • The redevelopment of gunpowder-based weapons. These don't see real use until the final book, but Mat Cauthon, who has inherited the battle expertise of countless past incarnations, is well aware of how significantly these will change the world.

    Live-Action TV 
  • "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.
  • 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 snake person cycle of wars orchestrated by the Shadows and Vorlons, rather than the last of them.
  • 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." It's especially significant because after five and a half seasons of Will They or Won't They?, it was implied that they may have finally slept together, but was never outright confirmed until this line.
  • In Burn Notice, the game changer was Michael coming across a NOC list of the organization that burned him.
  • Doctor Who: 50th anniversary special "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 his homeworld.
  • 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 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, only for a new game changer to arrive: magic
  • Robot Wars: In early seasons, roboteers were firm believers that Armor Is Useless, and so preferred much lighter fibreglass, polycarbonate or thin sheet metal armour for their robots. Which wasn't unjustified, since most robots' weapons couldn't do more than scratch the paint job anyway... and then along came Hypnodisc and its giant flywheel, 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 the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II", the Mirror Universe's Archer arrives to a battle about to be lost by the Terran Empire against alien rebels with the future USS Defiant from TOS and proceeds to Curb-Stomp Battle the rebel ships. His plan is to then take the ship to Earth and demand that the Emperor abdicate the throne to him.
  • Game of Thrones has Daenerys Targaryen's three dragons, the first of their kind in over a century. Once grown to adulthood, the three give the Targaryen queen a practically insurmountable military advantage; between their flight, scales impervious to arrows and fire breath hot enough to reduce men to ashes in seconds, they can lay waste to armies and castles alike with near impunity.
  • Kamen Rider often has one or two things in their shows that changes up how the story progresses, such as a deadly game forcing doctors to try and clear it, a civil war breaking out, or a messenger from the future.
  • The Good Place does this twice:
    • The show starts as a zany Sitcom about Eleanor, a selfish, amoral person, accidentally getting sent to the Good Place and her attempts to get out of getting sent to the Bad Place. During the Season 1 finale however, she figures out that she's actually in the Bad Place and being subjected to a subtle form of torture along with a handful of others. After this event, Michael tries to hit the Reset Button in order to preserve the status quo, but early into season 2 he's hit the reset hundreds of times, and Eleanor still eventually manages to figure it out. Thus, wanting to get out of whatever punishment is in store for him for his failure, he teams up with the humans (and Janet) in order to figure out how to get them all into the real Good Place.
    • Midway through Season 3, the heroes learn that nobody's been good enough to get into the Good Place in over 500 years. With this revelation, the plot suddenly goes from a handful of humans trying to escape eternal torture in the Bad Place to that same handful of humans trying to figure out how to save all of humanity from that fate.

    Multiple Media 
  • 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.

  • Babe Ruth. In the early days of baseball, trying to hit home runs was seen as a sucker's game, and players were coached to drive the ball for a base hit. Since Ruth came up as a pitcher, no one bothered to correct his propensity for fly balls, and he developed into the first "power" hitter. Other players would follow suit in the 1920s, changing nearly every aspect of the game in a relatively short time.
  • Stephen Curry. There were sharpshooting point guards before him (like Steve Nash and John Stockton), but they tended to focus on passing and never averaged more than 5 threes a game in a season, while the most prolific 3 point shooters (like Ray Allen and Reggie Miller) played at the wing. Steph's mixture of shooting volume and efficiency, combined with Golden State Warriors offense emphasizing pace and space revolutionized the league. Now, with increased focus on analytics, more and more teams discourage midrange shooting, focusing on the most efficient shots (threes and at the basket) and field smaller, faster lineups where even traditional bigs are expected to have a passable jump shot.
  • Some examples from the National Football League:
    • Don Hutson basically invented the wide receiver position, including the entire concept of receivers running routes and team defenses dedicated more than one defender to a receiver. It took years for the NFL to fully digest and then implement the concepts he created.
    • More ignominiously, the Miracle at the Meadowlands in 1978 legitimized quarterback kneels to end a game, and created an entirely new formation called a "Victory Formation".
    • The Air Coryell offense in San Diego, emphasizing timing and rhythm in a much-expanded passing offense, started an offensive explosion in the 1980s that carried the NFL out of the defense-heavy 1970s and hasn't stopped since. It also started the process of de-emphasizing the run game, whose production had also peaked in the 1970s.
    • The West Coast offense, which came to prominence around the same time, was also a game-changer, with its emphasis on accuracy and quick passing to set up downfield passes or running plays. Notably, just about every modern NFL offense is derived from one of the two systems above, with a heft dose of college spread concepts.
  • The NHL has had loads of them, but it could be stated that most of the ones that created the modern North American Ice hockey experience came when the NHL ran exhibition games against the Soviet Union in the 70's:
    • Firstly, it highlighted fitness as a major contributor to performance in games, as the Soviet players trained year round while the North Americans trained before the season and during...and then took time off in the summer. This led to more stringent standards for NHL strength and conditioning.
    • Second, it reintroduced the butterfly style of goaltending as Vlad Tretiak showed it's viability, which led to many goaltenders such as Dominik Hasek and Patrick Roy dominating the 90's with it after improving on the style.
    • Third, it effectively broke years of stereotyping that european players were inherently inferior to north americans, leading to many european players becoming stars for NHL teams.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Battletech, being a Real Robot series, has several examples of military developments that rapidly and temporarily upended the balance of power before equilibrium inevitably set in.
    • The BattleMech itself was an example of this. Before the BattleMech, the logistics issues of FTL travel in Battletech meant most offensive wars in the setting inevitably devolved into a Mutually Assured Destruction situation where an attacking force would be dumped on the planet and then backed up by megatons worth of Orbital Bombardment via WarShip, while the defender would nuke their own planet in the process of dislodging them. Following the Ares Conventions this method of warfare was essentially banned and battles took on a small-scale, skirmish aspect to them where raiding and surgical strikes became the order of the day: Enter the BattleMech, a sealed, all-terrain vehicle capable of setting down anywhere on a planet, operate behind enemy lines for weeks at a time and strike anywhere, anytime, with overwhelming firepower for its tonnage. Being followed by drastic advances in vehicle armour and weaponry allowed by the weight tolerance of myomer, the BattleMech drastically changed warfare in the Inner Sphere and turned it into feudal-era-style battles between noblemen riding their 'mechs as heavy cavalry and challenging each other to duels, out of reach of the tanks, artillery and infantry. Ultimately, BattleMech technology would disseminate from the Terran Hegemony to every Inner Sphere power within a decade and never changed power dynamics as long as both sides possessed them.
    • The destruction of the last WarShip shipyard during the Second Succession War meant Orbital Bombardment and large-scale space combat was now permanently off the table: Any WarShip damaged or destroyed in battle was now Lost Forever, and meant a rapid de-escalation of how hostilities were done and the creation of the Honours of War system, which would paint warfare in the two last Succession Wars and in the 'classic' Battletech era. Even after the Clans invaded and were revealed to still have much of the SLDF's old WarShip fleet, their honour culture demanded they never use it to their advantage as their opponents literally had no answer to it.
    • The Helm Memory Core was this to the Inner Sphere. After a literal century of technological regression that had reduced Inner Sphere warfare to a near Scavenger World setting and turned almost every BattleMech into an Ancestral Weapon used by generations of mechwarriors, the release of an intact Star League library, and a lull in mass destruction caused by the end of the Fourth Succession War, led to the first large-scale advancement in Inner Sphere technology base in a long time and the creation (and re-creation) of multiple new and long-dead designs both in civilian and military technology. This particularly became vital when The Clans came knocking, as the Inner Sphere powers bordering Clan Space found themselves in dire need of post-Helm technology to give their 'mechs field refits in order to stand up to Clan technological superiority. This, in turn, ended up turning the Free Worlds League (temporarily) into the economic superpower of the Inner Sphere, churning out update kits for the Draconis Combine and the Federated Commonwealth.
  • Warhammer 40,000: The Tau were just another species scheduled for extermination by the ever-expanding Imperium, when a Warp storm cut them off from outside influence (that and the Imperium had other things to worry about). The Tau developed into a planetwide race with distinct cultures, at peace once the Ethereals arrived to spread their Greater Good philosophy, but no way to get anywhere in the galaxy. Then they found a crashed starship and managed to reverse-engineer it, and now the Tau have FTL that doesn't involve going through the Warp (at the cost of being much, much slower that the other options).

    Video Games 
  • Halo:
    • 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. That said, the game also has a straight example regarding the entire original trilogy: The commencement of the Covenant civil war gives humanity its first real hope of actually winning its war against the Covenant.
    • 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.
    • Halo 5: Guardians: Someone is reactivating an army of ancient Forerunner mecha. Said someone turns out to be a revived Cortana, who is not just planning to conquer the galaxy, but manages to convince an army of AIs to suddenly betray humanity and join her.
    • 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.
    • Backstory-wise, the Covenant filled this role toward UNSC and the Insurrection - the impending War Of Earthly Aggression was effectively snuffed out when an coalition of aliens showed up and declared war on all mankind, then proceeded to wipe out every human they could find.
  • 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 Metroid Prime Trilogy 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.
  • In Hometown Story, some of the main villagers already live in town when the game starts, but nothing really happens with them until one of the notable newcomers moves in:
    • Philip's story arc starts when he finds a foreign woman passed out on the local beach and takes her in.
    • Yumi, a young orphan girl who only leaves her home one rainy days, will stop opening up after Peter, a boy who happens to share her interest in flowers, moves into town.
    • Bobby, a Grumpy Old Man who seem to despise everyone else in the village, will show his Hidden Heart of Gold when Dexter gets shunned by some of the villagers due to a Failure-to-Save Murder.

    Visual Novels 
  • Hanyuu in Higurashi: When They Cry.
    "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."

  • The reveal of what the Gates are for in The Order of the Stick changes the comic from a goofy story about a group of adventurers trying to kill a Lich to a story about trying to save the universe from a god killing abomination and the people who wish to control it.
  • The Take-Five-Bomb in Girl Genius throws the story into chaos. Agatha, Tweedle, Krosp, and Violetta are thrown two and a half years into the future where Klaus has trapped Mechanicsburg in a time stasis and his empire fell apart under his son's (who went through some serious Sanity Slippage) leadership, Tarvek is trapped in the city with only the stasis keeping him safe from the poison Tweedle gave him and his family abandoned their claim to the throne of the Storm King. And that's without mentioning later plot revelations.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • The first two seasons of Code Lyoko revolve around the Lyoko Warriors trying to find a way to shut down the supercomputer (and XANA) without having to sacrifice Aelita (in Season 1 because she's stuck on Lyoko, in Season 2 because she's still linked to the supercomputer). At the end of Season 2, Aelita is finally delinked from the supercomputer, but only after XANA has already escaped into the internet. Not only does this force the Lyoko Warriors to find a way to chase XANA and find another way to destroy him, but it also forces them to protect the supercomputer and Lyoko, since XANA has no more need to preserve it, and it's the only means the Lyoko Warriors have of fighting back.
  • In Dinotrux our dinosaur/construction vehicle hybrid characters work together to build things with a distinct Stone Punk aesthetic. This all changes when they work together to stop a volcano. Realizing that access to a lava pool means they can melt down scrap metal and forge it into new parts, they quickly expand the reach of what they can do, with their first major metal forge build achieving flight.
  • 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.

    Real Life 
  • The atomic bomb was a game changer for not just World War II, but warfare in general. Due to its potential for mass destruction and the fact that most great power nations possess it, the price of open war (potential nuclear armageddon) finally outstripped any potential benefits. Any conflicts between great powers since then have been cold wars, proxy wars, or narrowly averted because nobody wanted to start a nuclear war, and most open conflicts today are either between nations that don't have nukes to begin with, or civil wars.
    Japanese emperor Hirohito: 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.
  • 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.
  • Rail Transport. For the first time in history, there was a form of transportation that didn't rely on nature or muscle (human or animal); everything from time zones to the practice of wearing watches to commuting resulted from rail transport. For the first time, it was possible to eat and drink things not produced locally; people in inland cities could now eat fish, and drinks like whisky went from being local specialties to being consumed worldwide.
  • 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.
    • Within aviation itself you have the helicopter. Fixed-wing aircraft require a lengthy runway to takeoff and land on, meaning that tight spaces like cities were practically a non-option. Helicopters can takeoff and land in any space that can accommodate its rotors, allowing it to go in places a pilot couldn't even consider before.
  • 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 it, you would not be reading this page.
  • The period between 1850 and 1950 is basically this for mankind. With innovations like interchangeable parts (which allows for mass production), electricity, radio broadcasting, etc. There has probably been only a handful of game changers after this period.
    • To best comprehend this, note that John F. Kennedy was elected almost exactly a century after Abraham Lincoln, yet Kennedy's time is still considered completely modern and fundamentally the same as the present (likely because many Americans of his time are still living) but Lincoln's is remembered as totally different, when society was abominable and technology was laughably primitive with none of what we now take for granted. It just doesn't seem right that a very old man who was born during the Lincoln Administration could live to see Kennedy's assassination— on television. For that matter, Theodore Roosevelt, who started the path of America becoming a world power, took office a century after Thomas Jefferson, making his presidency closer in time to the Founding Fathers than the modern day.
  • The Internet. Before it was created, computers were glorified adding machines. Without it, you would not be reading this page.
  • HMS Dreadnought. Launched in 1906, her combination of firepower, armor and speed rendered all other battleships then in service obsolete in one fell swoop, leading to a massive worldwide arms race to replace the now-useless pre-dreadnought ships with ever more powerful dreadnought-type vessels. The Dreadnought Arms Race between the UK and Germany in particular is thought to have been one of the major causes of World War I.
  • Aircraft carriers were this, specifically American ones (since they had MUCH better fire suppression than the Japanese variety, and had better aircraft complement than the British ones). It wasn't obvious at first, but the use of aircraft carriers would rapidly make battleships and destroyers obsolete. While it took A LOT of planes to take down the mighty Yamato, the biggest battleship in history couldn't even make it to its intended target, let alone change the course of the war. Modern supercarriers are more or less completely untouchable in today's world by everything besides other Supercarriers and the biggest of submarines.
  • The M1 Abrams battle tank is also this. With some of the most powerful weapons strapped on one of the fastest and most armored and technologically advanced tanks of all time, the M1 Abrams is basically impervious to all weaponry including wide varieties of tanks (basically ALL of them), IED's, and anti-tank rockets and missiles. In at least one top ten tanks list, the Abrams only fell at second place.note  Why? It's because it's so advanced that it will never really be put through its paces as it will have NO competition through its entire length of service.
  • Stealth plane technology is a very good example. Planes, while being able to strike any where and being very advanced, are subject to one major flaw: they are easily tracked by radar. This makes them very susceptible to "nets" of radar and missile networks that can make enemy borders impenetrable. Stealth completely changes that. From the B1 Bomber to the F117 Stealth Fighter/Bomber to the F21 and F35, the skies can be completely cleared out before the enemy even knows where they are being hit from and ground targets are completely vulnerable to strategic strikes.
  • Agriculture. Before it became widespread, humans were hunter-gatherers who spent the vast majority of their time looking for food. Afterward, the ability for a small segment of a population to produce and store enough food to feed the whole group allowed human creativity and energy to be harnessed toward other pursuits, including most of the things already on this page. Without it, you would not be reading this page.
  • The printing press. Prior to the late 14th century, books and writing were considered a luxury for only the nobility and clergy, with manuscripts having to be meticulously copied by hand over a period of months or years. With the printing press, you could make dozens of books for cheap over a couple of weeks (and with movable type, one printing press could make dozens of different books to match demand), and with cheap reading material around, books were no longer a luxury but could be enjoyed by anyone who wanted them. Education systems took off with more people looking to read, leading to exchanges of ideas and philosophies that would have otherwise been relegated to a small portion of the population. Without it, you would not be reading this page.