For the second time in a year, the “League of Legends” IP has been used to create a streaming show designed to cater to an audience that doesn’t just consist of the LoL player base. First, in November 2021, the animated series “Arcane” premiered on Netflix, and now “Players,” a mockumentary about LoL esports, has come out on Paramount+.
With a 10-episode first season, “Players” has been fully available for streaming since July 28. Created by Dan Perrault and Tony Yacenda, who previously made the mockumentary “American Vandal,” “Players” is a fictional deep-dive into the very real North American League Championship Series. What normally is a 10-team league is changed to an 11-team one, with the addition of protagonist Fugitive Gaming, an organization whose rise to the top the show follows.
The two main characters are Creamcheese (played by Misha Brooks), a veteran leader on Team Fugitive, and Organizm (played by Da’Jour Jones), a hotshot new talent who has been paired with Creamcheese for the new season. While the show mainly spends time on character building for these two, many others get a good amount of attention as well, such as their teammate Nightfall (played by Youngbin Chung).
Something that a lot of video game-based media fails to capture is relatability to the actual source material, and “Players” very skillfully sidesteps that dilemma by taking the spotlight off of the gameplay and placing it squarely on the human relationships that make up the team’s foundation, as well as the community as a whole. This is not a show that will teach you how to play the game, as the only times it takes to explain things are when they are absolutely necessary, but one can look past this easily by acknowledging that that’s not the point here.
While the show does try very hard to cater to a widespread audience, there are still many hidden easter eggs for the hardcore LoL esports fans to enjoy. From the fact that one of the supporting roles is played by Noh “Arrow” Dong-hyeon, who has been an actual professional LoL player since 2013, to the realization that certain characters in “Players” seem to be partially based on popular figures from the gaming scene, those looking for a trip down memory lane will certainly be rewarded, as there are many more cameos and references littered throughout.
Esports is a tough ecosystem to introduce to someone if they haven’t already been exposed to it, and “Players” does a fantastic job. The cast all play their roles in a very realistic way, and the writing makes the show seem as if it could totally happen in the real world of LoL esports. There’s comedy when there needs to be, but the show also explores some of the deeper sides of what it means to be a professional gamer. From start to finish, the show keeps viewers engaged, genuinely giving heartfelt reasons for them to want to root for Fugitive.
In conclusion, whether you’ve been playing LoL since 2009 or you’ve never heard of it, you should check this show out. While esports is the subject matter, it is really a mockumentary of sports documentaries in general, taking influence from shows like “The Last Dance,” a show about the 1990s Chicago Bulls. It’s a short peek through a window many people never look through, using a lens many are familiar with — and that makes it a lot more accessible than one might expect.