Over the last eight years or so, the abstract concept of nostalgia has become a commodity. Film, television, and videogames have been adjusting their aesthetic to incorporate stylistic visuals that are intended to draw in what seems to be a relatively specific demographic: “80’s kids.” Whether it be Stranger Things, Kung Fury, or Turbo Kid, these films have succeeded (and failed) to create a new style out of this “nostalgia aesthetic.” However, being a child of the 90’s, I have noticed that these “nostalgia aesthetics” have shifted toward my decade. I have seen this shift typically in contemporary music videos (see Swang, directed by Max Hilva), but Game Changers most certainly fits into this category, as the lead characters are my age and occupy their time with everything I have ever done for fun.
The film introduces us to Bryan and Scott. They have always been best friends since middle school, playing games such as Magic the Gathering, or hosting big LAN parties of Halo with friends. Eventually, Bryan learns that he can make money by playing video games professionally. Naturally, he takes Scott, and the two succeed beyond their wildest dreams. Now, about twelve years later, they both work in the IT department of the company owned by Bryan’s father. Scott enjoys the structure of the 9-5 work day, whereas Bryan yearns for the days of glory as a professional gamer. After a lot of coercion, Bryan convinces a reluctant Scott to join his new team of elite gamers. Soon after, their personalities begin to clash.
The film’s primary strength is that it draws upon the nostalgia experienced by people my age (teenagers circa 2003), through showing and telling. When 80’s nostalgia I spoke about previously is done right, it typically envelops the entire medium: either the film or video looks as if it is “from the 80’s.” On the other hand, Game Changers looks like a typical dramatic indie flick (realistic), yet it consistently alludes to all of our pastimes of yesteryear (Magic the Gathering, Halo, WoW, etc.). This combination of realism and nostalgia paints a very sad atmosphere in which the main characters interact. It is sad because many people my age can directly identify with Brian: we all want nothing more than to drop our day jobs and just play the games that we held so dear to us growing up.
Now, for me, when it comes to watching a film, sentimental affect (or any affect for that matter) is only a part of the whole. The editing, sound, and cinematography don’t draw attention to themselves; however, the writing of conflict garnered some negative attention. Many of the conflicts in the film are rather convenient or cliché. For example, the guy Bryan loses to in poker just so happens to be the “new boss” at work the next day. Or when one character can’t show up for a gaming practice, he leaves his phone on the counter, allowing the remaining gamers to sabotage his life. Basically, it feels as if the crucial conflicts are glued on, rather than woven in.
Overall, the film would find the most success with viewers aged 26-30. Outside of that age range, any of the intended affect would be lost on an audience. The film is channeling a very specific nostalgia, which I’d imagine will work against its success. However, if you are a cinephile within that targeted demographic, the aforementioned affect is most certainly worth watching at least once.