All the time that I watched Playersa new Paramount Plus show about the competition League of LegendsI kept feeling like something was wrong.
Players is a mockumentary about Fugitive Gaming, a fictional team member of the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS), the North American wing of the professionals League of Legends esports. Much of the show revolves around the relationship between Creamcheese (Misha Brooks), a brash veteran who has been a star of the team since its founding, and Organizm (Da’Jour Jones), an inscrutable rookie who promises to be one of the greatest players of all time. (american vandal creators Tony Yacenda and Dan Perrault are the minds behind Players.)
You may have watched a lot of sports stories exploring this type of dynamic, and Players faithfully hits many of the marks you might expect. I’ve been following the LCS for years and was excited to watch a sports show in an esports setting. But the show has a few issues that make it hard to tell who it was made for, and the fictional events may seem less exciting than what’s already happening in the league.
Players often relies on crude humor, and I wish it didn’t. Creamcheese often makes rude or insensitive jokes with a mischievous smile on his face, but they usually fall flat. There’s a long passage about a player peeing in bottles so he can play more League of Legends. I get that the show focuses on socially awkward people, but the juvenile humor feels antiquated in a show that also celebrates what’s really cool about esports. On the downside, there are plenty of dramatic moments that land, especially later on – I found myself shooting for Creamcheese through some rough patches – and I wish the writers had leaned into that angle more.
Although Fugitive Gaming is a fictional team, they compete in a world that has many hallmarks of the real LCS – and which never ceased to feel weird to me. Real LCS cast members (essentially sports announcers but for esports) call matches on the show and are interviewed for the “documentary” on Fugitive Gaming. Long duration League of Legends fans will recognize cameos from Scarra, LilyPichu, and a few other well-known figures in the wider LCS community, and they all act as if Fugitive actually exists.
The weirdest part was watching Fugitive take on real LCS teams that have made-up players. Without the real rosters, each with their own stories and storylines, much like what Fugitive goes through on the show, most games just didn’t have the stakes I feel watching even the worst LCS teams go against each other.
I also think the show could have used a different format than a mockumentary. It’s not hard to find documentary-style shows made by LCS teams on YouTube right now. Some of these shows are released on a weekly basis, meaning they offer an in-depth (albeit biased) look at a team’s successes and struggles in a way that feels more immediate than Players’ scripted drama.
Frankly, the events of Players don’t go near some of the really crazy stuff that’s already happened in the LCS this year. At the recent mid-year international tournament, the European representative had a superb winning streak but lost in the semi-finals. In the United States, one of the most prestigious teams in the LCS, TSM, has just announced the results of an investigation into its founder, owner and CEO. And because many LCS players, personalities, and fans are extremely online, the drama can quickly take on a life of its own in the form of memes, chat videos, and massive Reddit threads.
Even still, I found myself enjoying Players at the end, and I invested myself in the destiny of Fugitive. Despite my criticisms of the attempt to immerse the team in the real world, much of the series still felt true to life. I particularly enjoyed the depiction of a larger-than-life streamer character, which was basically a boring YouTube clickbait thumbnail that came to life.
If you want to know more about esports, Players is a good way to get an idea of the League of Legends community. But, in his attempt to muddy the scene with goofy humor, he becomes an awkward hybrid himself, never leaning far enough into drama or jokes.
Players debuts today, June 16, on Paramount Plus. The first three episodes will be available to start with, and future episodes will air weekly. The season has 10 episodes.
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