Players tries to skewer esports with an awkward mix of humor and drama - The Verge
Players is a new Paramount Plus series chronicling a fictional League of Legends professional esports team. It debuts June 16th, and three episodes will be available to start.
The entire time I watched Players, a new Paramount Plus show about competitive League of Legends, I kept feeling like something was just a little off.
Players is a mockumentary about Fugitive Gaming, a fictional team that’s a member of the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS), the North American wing of professional 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 best-ever players. (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 I 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 can feel less exciting than what already happens in the league.
Players frequently relies on crass humor, and I wish it hadn’t. Creamcheese often makes rude or insensitive jokes with a mischievous grin on his face, but they usually fall flat. There’s an extended bit about a player peeing in bottles so they could play more League of Legends. I get that the show focuses on socially awkward people, but the juvenile humor seems antiquated in a show that also celebrates what’s actually cool about esports. By contrast, many dramatic moments land, especially later on — I found myself pulling for Creamcheese through some difficult times — and I wish the writers had leaned into that angle more.
While Fugitive Gaming is a fictional team, they compete in a world that has many of the hallmarks of the real LCS — and that never stopped feeling weird to me. Actual LCS casters (basically sports announcers but for esports) call matches in the show and are interviewed for the “documentary” about Fugitive Gaming. Longtime League of Legends fans will recognize cameos from Scarra, LilyPichu, and a few other well-known figures in the broader LCS community, and they all act as if Fugitive does, in fact, exist.