Game of Your Life
By Emily Ashby,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Feel-good family drama is set in online gaming culture.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
The movie takes viewers behind the scenes of the gaming industry, offering insight into how concepts are developed, produced, and marketed. It also touches on the sometimes-cutthroat business world and how the people in it must balance their personal value system with the demand to stay ahead of the competition.
Messages about loyalty, reliability, responsibility, and trust are central to the story. Zach faces difficult choices that put his values to the test, and he learns that his decisions impact those around him as well. The movie alludes to his mother's death, which still causes him sadness, and Zach's coming-of-age story cuts to the emotional quick, too. The story centers on a cohesive African-American family and a multicultural extended family that includes friends.
Positive Role Models
Zach is surrounded by positive role models, from his hardworking father, who's always ready with sage advice on life, to his mentors at school, who recognize his talents and guide him on a path that puts them to the best use. His peers model friendship, respect, and forgiveness, and even a former adversary takes the high road when he realizes that his actions jeopardize Zach's potential.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
A sweet relationship develops between teens, but hand-holding and hugging is as far as it goes. Affection between a married couple is similarly mild.
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Products & Purchases
Movie sponsor Walmart gets some screen time by way of a logo on a shopping bag in one scene, and Xbox is mentioned once as well. The characters reference Facebook as it relates to their project, and there's a Pac-Man video game in their apartment.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this worthwhile movie (part of Walmart and Procter & Gamble's joint Family Movie Night initiative) centers on a level-headed teen who, when faced with difficult decisions, sticks to the values instilled in him by his hardworking father and his supportive mentors. The story's messages about loyalty, perseverance, and trust will be obvious even to kids, but tweens and teens will get the most out of it because they can better understand Zach's inner struggles about leaving home and taking responsibility for the course of his life. Because the story is rooted in video and online gaming culture, there are some references ("MMO" and other game jargon) that parents might not understand but that teens probably will. Expect a few emotional moments that reference a prior death in the family. There's a sweet teen relationship that models mutual respect and friendships that are equally likable, and Zach is surrounded by positive and supportive adults who guide his steps in a positive way and help him cope with the consequences of his actions.
Where to Watch
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What's the Story?
GAME OF YOUR LIFE stars Glee's Titus Makin Jr. as online gaming whiz Zach Taylor, the recipient of a prestigious scholarship to the Digital Institute of Game Design (DIGD). It's the opportunity of a lifetime to learn under industry legend Marcus Bentton (Tom Nowicki) and to match his talents and vision with those of his most accomplished peers, including his new roomies, Phillip (Nathan Kress) and Donald (Adam Cagley), and his longtime "virtual" friend, Sara (Dana De La Garza). When the four geniuses team up on a challenging class project and break ground with a quirky networking game that wins over the entire campus, it seems that they're a shoe-in for the top prize, but family worries sway Zach's loyalty and cause him to accept a lucrative consulting offer that dominates his time and threatens his group's success. Suddenly everything Zach worked so hard to achieve is at risk, and a shocking revelation about Bentton's motivations just adds fuel to the fire. When all else is lost, Zach turns to his father and his mentor, Abbie (Lea Thompson), to help him make a choice that will affect the course of the rest of his life.
Is It Any Good?
Walmart and Procter & Gamble's Family Movie Night initiative talks a good game, promising "great entertainment for the whole family," but as both media producers and parents know all too well, that's a hard standard to uphold. Something about this partnership strikes gold, though, and they just keep turning out films that live up to the sponsors' promise. Game of Your Life is a coming-of-age story that's relevant to viewers' lives and is situated within the gaming culture, which means there are lots of references to technology that probably will be familiar to kids. What's more, the movie manages to pull this off without chronic name-dropping of specific games or gaming systems (in fact, Xbox is mentioned just once), which says a lot for the sponsors' family-friendly intentions.
Of course, the real story lies in Zach's emotional journey away from home and toward his future, and it raises a host of topics that are worthy discussion points. He wrestles with tough decisions that define him as a person, a friend, a teammate, and a son, and he faces multiple turning points that help shape the course of his life. His experiences are good teaching tools for tweens and teens who can best relate to Zach's inner struggle with finding himself independently from his family. While you're at it, don't miss the chance to relate the movie's positive messages about responsibility and trust to your kids' own experiences, too.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about making tough decisions. Have you ever faced a life-changing decision? Are you happy with the choice you made? How did your values influence your actions? Is it possible to undo a decision you regret? How do your decisions affect other people?
How much of your time do you spend online? Do you play games or visit social networking sites? How has the Internet changed our relationships with people? What positive changes has it had? What are the dangers?
How do you define personal fulfillment? Does money play a role in your ambition? Why or why not? Could you sacrifice your values for a paycheck?
How do you think this movie's commercial producers impacted its development? Do you see products or messages that might be beneficial for Walmart or Procter & Gamble to promote?
- Premiere date: December 2, 2011
- Cast: Lea Thompson, Nathan Kress, Titus Makin Jr.
- Network: NBC
- Genre: Drama
- Character Strengths: Communication, Integrity
- TV rating: NR
- Last updated: February 25, 2022
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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