...shining light on the media, one review at a time
What if life were like a video game? Suddenly every choice a person makes would have immediate consequences, like the moves chosen in a game—they could lead to a prosperous, happy life or to sudden death. Sound too scary? Or does it sound like a true description of life?
Game of Your Life takes a fresh new approach to choices and consequences, making this lesson both memorable and entertaining for viewers of all ages. This game of life may be like a video game of right and wrong, good and evil, but the stakes are higher and the consequences more serious because this “game” is real and you only get one try to do it right.
All his life, Zach Taylor has been obsessed with video games. One might even say that he lives much of his life through them, seeing everything through the lens of a screen with a controller. If only real life had a controller, he might be able to handle it better.
But not having a console in his hands means unexpected things happen to Zach. There are unwanted difficulties, like his mother dying or his father’s financial problems that mean the family-owned garage and even their home could be lost.
This game of life heads a more positive direction when Zach gets a scholarship to the exclusive Digital Institute of Game Design. Leaving his home and trying to leave his worries behind, Zach heads off to his new life, where he soon makes interesting friends—his two goofy, talented roommates and a beautiful, smart classmate, Sara.
At this school, getting in is only like making it to the first level. The game ends quickly for students who do not do well on the first big project they are assigned. Grouped into teams of four, the students enter into competition to create the best new game from scratch. Zach’s team of his roommates and Sara are obviously front-runners from the get-go, but there’s someone who wants to make sure Zach does more than lose the competition—he wants to get Zach kicked out of the school.
When the financial collapse at home gets worse, Zach is tempted to break the rules and take in some secret work to earn the cash that will save his home. Game imitates life as Zach is faced with a choice and consequences, while he works to create a video game that deals with the same issues. But in the real thing, there’s no second life after making the wrong choice. Can he go back and make the right decision, or is it game over?
The Walmart-P&G production team does not have to ask themselves that question with this film—Game of Your Life is another winner, providing fun entertainment for the whole family while teaching vital life lessons.
The entertainment stems from a well-written screenplay that balances humor with heartwarming moments. Good acting is also necessary to entertain, and, while there are no memorable game-changers among the cast’s leads, they play their parts skillfully, to the extent required to sell the charm of the film.
The two exceptions to this assessment are Nathan Kress and Adam Cagley as Zach’s roommates. They play a crucial role as the comedic relief, which they are expected to deliver in parts that involve physical and verbal comedy. Difficult to sell, Kress and, in particular, Cagley, manage to not only be funny, but to do so authentically—coming off as real guys who will remind most viewers of people they know, for better or worse.
Game of Your Life earns the highest scores with its jackpot of positive messages. The hubris of the young often seems to involve a sense that members of the older generation, specifically one’s parents, do not know what life is like now. They don’t understand what kids have to go through these days, they don’t understand the iPad until it’s explained to them, or they always bomb at the latest video games. Essentially, they might have been considered smart in their time, but they just cannot keep up with the new world and the youths that create it.
In a story about such smart, even genius young people, Game of Your Life offers a twist by showing that the greatest wisdom can come from unexpected sources. Zach is the “genius” of his family and the pride of the little town he comes from, but it’s his soft-spoken mechanic dad who ends up offering the truth and guidance that Zach, with his brilliant mind, cannot think of on his own. Zach’s father and memories of his deceased, but influential mother do more than keep Zach grounded—they point him in the way that he should go in life and become an increasing support to him as he takes his first steps into adulthood.
Through this example and other moments in the film, parents are shown in an extremely positive light that is rare in mainstream films and TV. The young people in this story are crucially influenced by their parents and upbringing, and the direction of their lives is in great part a result of their family experiences. From this film that respects and values the relationship between parents and their grown children, more would not be expected, but Game of Your Life goes a step farther by emphasizing that home and family exist not in a place or blood ties, but in people connected by their love for each other.
The positive messages about parents and family are just two of the many good moves made by this story. Through Zach’s experiences, viewers also learn about honesty, forgiveness, temptation, and the negative consequences that always come with wrong choices. What is true friendship? What is a healthy basis for romance? Where do humanity’s best ideas come from? All these topics and more are explored in this deceptively simple story. (And yes, the answer the film gives to the last question is surprisingly honest—it’s God.)
One use of “darn” and a couple references to “puke” are the only missteps in this otherwise wholesome movie, but they are not enough to blight the story’s extensive positive elements. Modern and appealing, Game of Your Life is not a Christian film, but it jumps over common secular pitfalls to communicate ethical principles and wisdom that come straight from the Bible. Game of Your Life shows that being armed with these truths will get you to the end without wasting even one life and, maybe, help you earn some bonus points along the way.