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Left: Cairo (Canlas); Right: Gavreel (De Santos)

Gameboys is a 2020 computer screen romantic BL drama by The IdeaFirst Company from the Philipines. It is directed by Ivan Andrew Payawan, written by Ash M. Malanum, with Perci Intalan and Jun Lana serving as executive producers.

Considered the first Filipino BL drama, it follows the relationship of Cairo Lazaro (Elijah Canlas), a livestream gamer, and Gavreel Alarcon (Kokoy De Santos) amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic situation in the country's largest island.

Filmed on a tight budget and minimal marketing, amidst local quarantine restrictions, the series exploded in popularity in both local & international scene via the BL community. The surging popularity pushed multiple extensions of the story from 4 to 13 episodes, with a GL spinoff (Pearl Next Door), second season, and movie announced for the future.

There is also a Netflix Philippines produced "Level-Up Edition", reshot and with additional footage, correspondence, and "Vidgram" stories added for longer episodes.

Notable for defying many stereotypical BL tropes (e.g. Gavreel is a tease but for the most part honors consent, None of the gay couple has to be "the wife", the main female character is actually supportive, etc.), as well as touching upon timely health & societal issues within its narrative.

Not to be confused with the Nintendo handheld console.

Available to watch with subtitles (in A LOT of languages, English included) in The IdeaFirst Company's Youtube Page.

Gameboys contains examples of:

  • Affectionate Nickname:
    • Gav calls Cai "Baby". Cai calls Gav "baby" back eventually.
    • Pearl calls her ex Gav "Babe". This naturally causes problems for Gav's current pursuits. She eventually extends this to include Cairo too.
    • Pearl also calls Cairo "Boylet" & "Baby Boy"
    • Terrence and Gav apparently used to call each other "Love"

  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: Episode 13.5 does not follow Cairo or Gavreel.

  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: Comical non-violent example. Pearl when recalling how panicked Gavreel looked when she tried to kiss him.
    (translated subtitles)Pearl: Screw that! You can respect me, but you can ravish me too!
    (original)Pearl: Ay! Leche! Di ko kailangan ang respeto mo! Bastusin mo ko! Bastusin mo ko NOW! (Screw that! I don't need you to be a gentleman! Ravish me! Ravish me NOW!)

  • Amicable Exes:
    • Gavreel with Pearl.
    • Gav also tries to be this with Terrence at his request, until he tries to sabotage his current relationship with Cairo.

  • Audience Surrogate: Pearl. You'll often find yourself gushing with her when something romantic or exciting is happening.

  • Bearer of Bad News: Mommy Leila. As great & supportive of a mom she is, every other line coming from her is often a hurdle for the protagonists to overcome.

  • Beneath the Mask: Discussed by Terrence & an acquaintance in a dating app.

  • Berserk Button: Gavreel is really sensitive about his grandmother Cora.

  • Best Friend: Pearl to the two leads. Cairo & Gavreel will often consult her first for any problems in their relationship.

  • Better as Friends: Pearl & Gavreel.

  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • See Aren't You Going to Ravish Me? above.
    • Sanaol / Sana-all = (lit. wishing that of everyone). Most common context is to say it sadly because you specifically don't have it. You'll find Cairo's subscribers commenting it when Gavreel is being cheesy. Thus you may not pick up that Cairo's viewers are picking up on the romance.
    • When Gavreel, while en route to him, was telling Cairo to take a shower:
      (translated subtitles)Gavreel: I even scrubbed my body for you.
      (original)Gavreel: Ako nga naghilod, pati singit eh. (I scrubbed my body real good, even my groin!)
    • Cairo's ending response when asked by Gavreel what he wants to do while lying down in bed with him at the end is translated in english subtitles as "It's up to you, baby". While a valid translation of "Ikaw, baby", the line can also be translated as the more direct "You, baby".

  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Terrence. At first he projects this scorned but concerned ex of Gavreel to Cairo by sowing doubt about Gav's advances. He is also concurrently trying to rekindle his relationship with Gav behind Cairo's back. He grows out of it in later episodes though.

  • Bland-Name Product:
    • ScreenTime for Facebook in general.
    • Vidgram for Instagram
    • Gee-mail for Gmail (Ep 2 onwards)
    • Playflix for Netflix and other similar services
    • Session for Zoom
    • Chatter for Tinder, Grindr and other similar services

  • Blatant Lies: Terrence in his story asking if he ever cheated on someone. He cheated on Gavreel with a girl when he was grieving his recently deceased grandmother. Pearl chews him out on this.

  • Bookends: Cairo & Gavreel's relationship starts with the latter asking "Pass or Play" ? Reversed in Episode 10, which was supposed to be the end of an already extended run.

  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Gavreel's potential replies to Cairo's comment about him being jealous of Wesley.
    Gavreel: Why would I get jealous of that alien... turtle... alien-looking turtle?

  • Call-Back: Episode 13 in spades.
    • See Bookends
    • The polo Cairo is wearing in Episode 10 is the same one he wore the first time he and Gav were supposed to meet in Episode 3&4.
    • Pearl waking up Gavreel to meet Cairo at the airport before he leaves in the finale parallels her egging Cairo to get ready to meet Gav in Episode 3, right down to almost walking out the door with no shirt.
    • Likewise, Pearl reassuring a discouraged Gavreel to meet Cairo, only for Cairo to appear right behind him parallels practically the same event happening earlier in Episode 10, but with roles reversed..

  • Cannot Spit It Out:
    • Episode 5: Cairo on his doubts about Gavreel's intentions, or who even about who fed him the information.
    • Episode 11-13: Gavreel on his whole feelings about Cairo moving away to Bukidnon.

  • Catchphrase: Pearl is the queen of these.
    • The iconic "Byeiieeee"
    • Shunga, Shuta, and various other Filipino expletives

  • Change the Uncomfortable Subject: Gavreel, unsuccessfully. Look at Gav's increasing panic when Cairo asks about Pearl's most recent Ex. Pearl & Cairo shut him up and continue to discuss how the guy was really sweet when they had a virtual relationship, but the sparks died out when they actually met, furthering Cairo's insecurities.

  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Early in Episode 2, Gavreel mentions that he only has a roommate. Later that same episode, we find out that this is his ex-girlfriend and best friend, Pearl. Used again in Episode 13, when Pearl enters the house to join the couple without issue.
      Gavreel: How did you get in?!
      Pearl: Rolls eyes. Shows keys. Duh! I used to live here, remember?
    • Pearl offhand mentioning that both she & Gavreel just had a swab test earlier in Episode 13. The results lead to The Big Damn Kiss and the Power Trio reuniting in person.

  • Cliffhanger: Nearly every episode, to the point where nearly every Youtube reactor has jokingly cursed the director's name at least once.

  • Creator Cameo: Director Ivan Payawal drives the brown Innova fake-out in Episode 4. You can also see the names of various people involved in production sprinkled around as social media accounts.

  • Darker and Edgier: Episode 13.5, if Terrence using a "Dark Mode" theme on his Screentime didn't clue it in.

  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Cairo. He starts the series grumpy & annoyed at Gavreel's advances. Through the episodes you can see him slowly warm up to Gav, culminating in fully accepting Gav's Baby and even comfortably using the nickname back.

  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: As early as Episode 2, when Gavreel calls Cairo while working out. Gavreel's doing pushups. Cairo is just lying in bed counting his reps. If the inital shot composition with Gav's screen on top and Cai's screen at the bottom didn't clue it in...
    Cairo: ... Four... Five... SexSIX. Six...

  • Double Entendre: Half the things Gavreel says or initially says, to Cairo's irritation or embarrassment. Downplayed when things in the story get serious. In one of their first chat conversations:
    Gavreel: Anyway, good morning!
    Gavreel: Let me eat you.
    Gavreel: I mean let's eat.

  • Dutch Angle: Pay attention to Cai's screen in the aftermath of his and Gavreel's fight.

  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Early on, characters don't read aloud messages that they don't ultimately send, which is unfortunate because this gives us a good window into Cairo's & Gavreel's thoughts before they send their polite answers. Cairo also uses a Gmail account instead of a GeeMail when logging in to ScreenTime in the first episode.

  • Eating the Eye Candy: Cairo. In nearly every time it's served to him. You can visibly see him struggle to appear otherwise.

  • Education Mama: Wesley's mom according to him. This makes Wesley hesitant to tell her that he wants to shift courses.

  • Establishing Character Moment: Gavreel nearly responds in Cairo's livestream chat with a flirtatious "Hey I'm no cheater. I'm faithful to you" shortly after beating him.

  • Family Theme Naming: Cairo and his siblings, London & Paris, are named after places their parents wished to travel to.

  • Forced Out of the Closet: Cairo, courtesy of his former best friend Risa.

  • Foreshadowing:
    • Terrence can be seen liking Pearl's posts, and in Gavreel's Vidgram photos before he is properly introduced in the story.
    • Cairo's Childhood Friend, Wesley, seems a little too enthusiastic about Snape's childhood crush on Lily Potter. If you were also paying attention amidst Gavreel roasting him, he talks about Cairo extensively as the inspiration for one of his paintings.
    • If there was any doubt, there a Freeze-Frame Bonus in Episode 12 where you can read "Be With Me" on his shirt while on a call with Cairo.
    • The references to magic & the number seven in the acquaintance Terrence meets in the dating app might clue you in that the person he's speaking to is actually Wesley.

  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • Close observation of Gav's Gee-Mail shows he's been following Cairo for at least 5 months, showing that his attraction was definitely more than a passing fancy. In the same screen, you can see that the pizza he has delivered to Cairo was purchased via Pearl's Food delivery business.
    • After causing Cairo to panic with his username, Terrence sends a laughing emoji to Cairo's stream chat for good measure.
    • The aforementioned "Be With Me" on Wesley's shirt.

  • Freudian Slip: Cairo, frequently, to Gavreel's amusement.

  • Friendless Background: Prior to the story, it doesn't seem like Cairo has any other significant relations outside of his family. And even then you can feel that there's a thorn in his relationships with his mom & brother. Justified in that his prior relations were probably undermined by being Forced Out of the Closet by his former best friend Risa. Gives much more layers to...
    Cairo: I said I'm not jealous! I thought you could be my friend. It was stupid of me to expect anything from you. We're just strangers online.

  • Geeky Analogy: Used to heartbreaking effect when Cairo compares how motivated he is to master a game only to forget it when a new game comes along to Gavreel's advances.
    Cairo: You know, every time I discover a new game, I just want to master it in every way. I want to level up fast, especially if it's a difficult game. Once you've mastered a game and a more exciting game comes along, you forget about it.

  • Gilligan Cut: Cairo tells Gavreel that he's not really interested in travelling. Cue him searching for all the places Gav recommended like Real, Quezon & Matinloc Island.

  • Guilt Complex: One significant dimension to Cairo's hesitation of entertaining Gavreel's advances is that he feels being gay caused his dad contracting & dying due to COVID-19. See also My Greatest Failure. This is why he asks forgiveness for it from his mom later on.

  • Hates Being Alone:
    • Gavreel. Imagine losing both your parents, the grandmother who raised you, & getting cheated on by your boyfriend while you're grieving said grandmother.
    • Also Terrence being desperate to talk to ANYONE as revealed in Episode 13.5.

  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Cairo, in true Tsundere fashion, refuses to call Gav, "Baby" for much of the story. Pearl is ecstatic when she finally hears Cai call Gav "Baby" back.

  • Hidden Depths:
    • When they first meet in person, Gavreel admits that despite the boundless confidence he has always showed, he was also scared that Cairo might drive him away when they actually meet.
    • The effeminate Achilles is shown to be lifting weights.

  • I Never Said It Was Poison:
    • Pearl often blurts out things she shouldn't know about if not for her stalking... errr research skills.
    • Also lampshaded by Gavreel when Wes, for some reason, knows the meaning of his name.

  • Insane Troll Logic: Pearl, if given the choice on what to help her survive the pandemic, between facemasks & Filipino actor Alden Richards...
    Pearl: Alden, of course!
    Gavreel: Seriously?
    Pearl: Yes! For sure Alden would stock up on face masks. Would a face mask be able to give me an Alden? No.

  • Incurable Cough of Death: Averted with Gavreel after unsuccessfully trying to visit Cairo. He never displays symptoms again, and is confirmed negative via swab test for the finale. The scare due to cough being a symptom of COVID-19 Pandemic is real though.

  • Incompatible Orientation: Pearl jokingly reminisces with Gavreel how he refused to kiss her when they were together. Tragically, this is also the reason for Cairo turning down Risa, his long-time best friend who confessed to him.

  • Jerkass Has a Point: While it was underhanded of him to try to drive Gavreel & Cairo apart, Terrence asks important questions during their confrontation.
    Terrence: You'll fight for him? Will he also fight for you? And in the first place... does he even like you?

  • Lost in Translation:
    • Several quips flow better in the original Filipino language. For example, Pearl calling Gavreel a Potassium.
      (translated subtitles)Pearl: It's my word, meaning "assuming too much".
      (original)Pearl: Pota na, assuming pa. (Puta literally means whore, used contexually as a term of endearment among close friends.)

  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Gavreel. Deconstructed later by giving more focus to his fear of abandonment with Cairo moving away with his family to Bukidnon.

  • Meaningful Name: Discussed in-universe
    • Cairo - Aside from the Family Theme Naming, it also means "one who is victorious". Fitting for a live-stream gamer with a competitive streak in various aspects of life.
    • Gavreel - "the Angel of Peace". Subverted in that, according to Gav, it was just the name of the motel he was conceived at.

  • The Moving Experience: Impoverishment as a result of disease, pushes Cairo's mom, Leila, to decide to move the family to her home province of Bukidnon.
  • My Greatest Failure: Cairo, when he ran away in fear when he was outed to his family. His father got sick of COVID-19 while looking for him, and eventually passes away. His older brother London is upset with him over this. The two siblings get better, though.

  • Not Good with Rejection:
    • Gavreel. During big confrontations he'd rather end conversations abruptly than get rejected.
    • Also Cairo's best friend Risa outs him to his parents, and publicly by posting.
    • Averted with Achilles.

  • "Not So Different" Remark:
    • Invoked by Terrence on Pearl. She vehemently refuses as she's long moved on from Gavreel.
    • Also invoked by Terrence on Gavreel when he was pleading with him to take him back. Terrence then later forces Cairo to admit his true feelings for Gavreel. Later in Episode 13, we witness Gavreel forcing Wesley to admit his feelings for Cairo in much the same way.

  • Opposites Attract: Cairo & Gavreel, obviously. Emphasized in their social media posts, their rooms, their eating habits... You get it.

  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: You know it's his lowest point when Cairo, who has not taken a swig of alcohol the entire time, ends up drinking in the car with several bottles in the backseat.

  • Parental Abandonment: Gavreel. Twice over because the grandmother who raised him died just one year prior to the events of the story.

  • Parental Favoritism: Part of the reason London is upset with Cairo could be read as this.
    London: You're probably his favorite. That's why even though it would compromise his health, he went looking for you. You didn't have to run away. He'd understand.

  • Parents as People: Mommy Leila asking for support from Cairo for the family to stick together in moving to Bukidnon can appear overbearing for western cultures. It also doesn't help that she kind of guilt trips Cairo into it. But then again, she did just lose her husband, and her family's financial situation isn't looking great.

  • Parental Obliviousness: Averted with Mommy Leila. She mentions knowing all along about Cairo's sexuality when apologizing to him. She's also not fooled when he says his t-shirt & pillowcase were from his "fan".

  • Pair the Spares: Terrence & Wesley. Reinforced by Episode 13.5

  • Period Piece: For the COVID-19 Pandemic Response in the Philippines

  • Power Trio: Cairo, Gavreel, & Pearl.

  • Raised by Grandparents: Gavreel with his Lola Cora.

  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Being shot & set amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Philippines, the virus and it's effects permeate the story.
    • Various social media posts on characters' walls reference COVID-19 case numbers, health and safety reminders, or posts people would make in response to the pandemic.
    • The constant acknowledgement of travel restrictions (e.g. Gavreel is only able to deliver food to limited places because food delivery is one of the essential industries, and having the necessary permits to do so).
    • You can feel the general anxiety of being separated from loved ones & fear of infection from practically anywhere in almost all episodes.
    • Cairo mentions being the only one in his household allowed to get groceries. Part of Enhanced Community Quarantine measures is only allowing one member of each household to go out for critical errands.
    • We see Pearl disinfecting her groceries outside while talking with Gavreel, even asking him sarcastically if the (epidemiological) curve has been flattened.
    • Mommy Leila is cleaning a family condo unit in case Cairo's father gets discharged, as well as isolating in it when she gets exposed to a lot of people while getting his ashes later.
    • Gavreel mentioning the possibility of localized stricter quarantine measures if a COVID-19 positive case was discovered in your area.
    • Part of what makes the both of the Big Damn Kiss scenes iconic is how they take precautions against the virus to do it (a disinfected plastic barrier for the first one, and both parties being swab test negative for the second one).

  • Repeated for Emphasis: Pearl? Pearl?! Pearl.
    Pearl: (after being accused of something) Me? Me!? Me again??!!
    Pearl: (after waiting for someone's tirade to end) Are you done? Are you done? (continues talking)
    Pearl: (moments when the pair are meeting) OH MY GOD!! That's him! That's him!! That's HIIIIIIIIM!

  • Relationship Sabotage: Terrence's plan to win Gavreel back. There's also something not quite platonic about how he 'advises' Cairo about Gavreel.

  • Relationship Upgrade: Arguably occurs at the end of Episodes 8 and/or Episode 10. Visual confirmation is in Episode 12, where Gavreel's & Cairo's statuses no longer say that they are single.

  • Saying Too Much: Gavreel frequently hounds Pearl over doing this too much, particularly when it causes distress to Cairo. Downplayed in that she usually knows her boundaries. Just don't get her talking while drunk.
    Pearl: I may be a gossip but I don't meddle in your affairs. I wanted Cai to tell you himself.

  • Seme: Gavreel is the more confident & persistent & more forward of the leads. He sends flowers & food to Cairo, and is usually the first to initiate anything.

  • Shipper on Deck: Pearl "President of all Third Wheels" Gatdula, for her best friends.

  • Single Tear: Cairo
    • Almost when at first he thinks that Gavreel might not accept his rap apology.
    • When he see Gavreel cry due to uncertainty of Cairo moving to Bukidnon.
    • Part of the buildup to the last Big Damn Kiss.

  • Shout-Out:
    • The game sounds, comments, and Cairo's mentioning of skins & diamonds seem to indicate that the game Cairo & Gavreel play primarily is some sort of MOBA, possibly Mobile Legends: Bang Bang.
    • Ariana Grande: when Gavreel was trying to soothe Cairo's insecurities
    Gavreel: Stop worrying. "I'm so into you", as Ariana would say.
    Cairo: But you also end up saying "thank you, next." Right?

  • Showdown at High Noon: Invoked by the score when Gavreel enters Cairo & Wesley's video call a second time.

  • Straight Gay: None of the gay males in the cast are particularly effeminate. Averted with Achilles in Episode 13.5.

  • The Big Damn Kiss: The Stingers of Episode 10 & especially Episode 13 gives us two amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic, complete with lampshaded safety protocols.
    • In Cairo & Gavreel's first meeting in person, Gav prepares a disinfected plastic barrier with arm slots for both of them so they can finally hug. The look of genuine joy in their eyes to experience something discouraged even for household contacts was priceless. After much buildup, the couple take off their facemasks and kiss through the barrier.
    • After a surprising reunion, and talking through the issues that caused their biggest fight yet, Gavreel receives the result of his swab test. Cairo lampshades that they are both negative as he was supposed to fly with his family to Bukidnon. Cue an epic 3-minute sequence of Gav taking off their facemasks, and a passionate 52-second around-the-world skin-to-skin kiss to end the season.

  • The Beard: Michelle was this for Terrence.

  • The Charmer: Gavreel, in spades.
    Pearl: You really can't a moment pass without flirting, no?
    Gavreel: Of course. Because flirting is a blessing.

  • The Ghost: Cairo's younger brother, Paris is often mentioned as sleeping and is never seen offscreen. Although one passing story post from Cairo in Episode 1 sees him teasing someone about being single in the next 5 years. The unseen voice belongs to Elijah Canlas' real life younger brother, JM Canlas.

  • The Grovel: Terrence.

  • The Mentally Disturbed: Invoked by Terrence on Pearl for sympathy points. She's having none of it.
    Pearl: HOY TERRENCE! I know this crisis is affecting everyone's mental health. But if you did something stupid, don't use mental health as an excuse! Own up to your mistakes, make up for it, and don't do it again!

  • The Social Expert: Pearl. She seems to capitalize on this later on by starting a career as an influencer & giving advice online.

  • Thicker Than Water: Proven true for Cairo. Seems to be false for Terrence.

  • True Companions: Cairo, Gavreel, & Pearl again.

  • Tsundere: Cairo, all the way. He may reply angrily, but never outright disagrees with anything suggestive that Gav proposes.

  • Uke: Cairo is the emotionally-withdrawn Tsundere of the leads. Justified in this being his first relationship, and his father being sick with COVID-19 & his overwhelming guilt for having caused such. He gets better & more proactive in the relationship when the latter is resolved.

  • Unrequited Love Lasts Forever: Terrence for Gavreel. Also, Achilles for Terrence, though he tries to deny it jokingly.

  • Uptown Girl: Genderflipped, inverted & notably downplayed (especially for Philippine Media) with Gavreel. Gav, who can be inferred to be more well-off, is the one pursuing Cairo, but it doesn't play a huge part in the story.

  • Valley Girl: Pearl may come across as a realistic Filipina version of this, but she's also The Social Expert & a loyal friend.

  • Western Zodiac: Pearl at one point uses a horoscope app to calculate Cairo & Gavreel's compatibility. They also line up well with typical descriptions of their sign though.
    • Cairo is a Cancer, which is described as family-oriented, sensitive, cranky, tenacious.
    • Gavreel is a Scorpio, which is described as loyal & passionate.

  • Wham Line: Translated:
    • Episode 2: "Wait, I'll call him. Gav. Gav! Babe!" Cue visible heartbreak & anger from Cairo.
    • Episode 4: Cairo to a viewer: "Welcome! What's your username so we can play? ... GavreelsOnlyLove...??"
    • Episode 8:
    Gavreel: "Baby, did you change your username?"
    Cairo: "Ah, yes. It's now 'Gav'sBaby' ", doubles as the first time Cairo openly reciprocates Gavreel's affections.