In its first season, Players gives fans a behind-the-scenes look at the League of Legends and esports scene in a real way, grounded by complex and rich characters.
When I first set my eyes upon the trailer for Players back in May, I was quite worried. Billed as a “comedic documentary-style series that follows a fictional pro League of Legends esports team” the trailer seemed to lean heavy on esports and League of Legends terminology.
There was a concern that viewers who didn’t know terms like “wombo combo” or know why insta-locking Heimerdinger would be left out of the loop.
Thankfully, having watched the first season, I can happily say that those fears were misplaced.
Players Season 1: A gaming show for non-gamers
Players does an excellent job of introducing even non-gamers to the world of competitive LoL. This is mainly due to the excellent use of the mockumentary format, which allows talking heads (real-life professional League of Legends commentators like Jatt and LeTigress) to explain the significance of anything game-related.
While there are lots of in-game clips and gameplay sprinkled in the show, it’s never the focal point; never is there a moment where you not understanding what’s happening in game means you don’t understand the story.
Anyone who has watched a sports movie in their life will be able to understand Players.
On the one side, you have the cocky veteran who is being upstaged by a rookie with incredible skill. The two clash because each wants to do things their own way, but the vet has to learn to let go of the past, while the rookie needs to humble himself to learn how to become even better.
Players Season 1: Creamcheese is the villain you grow to love
In the early part of Season 1, Creamcheese (Misha Brooks) is that veteran support. He’s been with the fictional LCS organization Fugitive Gaming since its inception, but is still looking for his first championship victory almost a decade after joining the league.
Creamcheese is initially billed as the series’ antagonist: a brash, cocky veteran who cares only for stroking his own ego and controlling the rest of his team.
To a degree, this is true and the viewer will spend the beginning of the series hating Creamcheese.
But as the series goes deeper, the writers begin to peel back the layers of his tough exterior, revealing that this ego was born largely as a protective shell from past betrayals by both his family and former teammates.
Brooks, for his part, does a fantastic job of believably balancing that outward arrogance with the internal vulnerability. This makes Cream a player that will irritate you one minute, but make you care deeply for him the next.
Players Season 1: Organizm is a perfect enigma
The young rookie player Organizm, begins the season as a complete mystery.
He barely speaks, we never get any sort of insight into his thought process or feelings about the situation, and truthfully it’s hard early on to understand the motivations behind his actions.
As the season progresses, Org begins to come out of his shell. Not only does he become more talkative to his teammates, but to his unsupportive family as well.
And when Organizm breaks out of his shell, we see the similarity to his rival Creamcheese. While Cream uses his ego to keep others at arm’s length, Org has thrown his entire lot in life into becoming the best LoL player ever, trying to forge his own identity and prove his own worth.
This is the brilliance of placing the two together as teammates, in different positions. Rather than the typical sports trope of having the rookie competing for a spot with the vet, Players forces them to work together, inadvertently forcing them to confront their own insecurities in the other.
Players Season 1: A mockumentary without mockery
If there was one point of complaint to be made about Players it’s that the show is a comedy…with very little actual comedy.
While there are a few funny moments in the show, most are merely chuckles rather than belly-splitters. And most of them are more geared towards humor for gamers, specifically League of Legends fans.
Unlike other mockumentary shows like The Office or Parks and Recreation, Players doesn’t fully utilize the reality television-style to get those moments of hilarity either through the talking heads or otherwise private moment.
Instead, most of the talking head segments are used either for exposition, or for emotional beats. That’s all fine and well, but it would be nice if, in Season 2, the show gives these characters (particularly the underdeveloped ones) a bit more comedic material to work with.
Players Season 1: A refreshing look at esports
Despite those faults, Players Season 1 was still an absolute pleasure to watch. The show took viewers through the different eras of League of Legends esports from the relegation/promotion series all the way to the current landscape of franchising and venture capitalists.
Fans can see a fictionalized version of the LCS (all 10 teams are in Players, but no actual players appear) that is still very much rooted in reality. We can see how what goes on after the players type “GG” can impact the team, all the inner workings of an esports org, and the pressures the industry creates.
Although Players is primarily designed for LoL esports fans, the characters are still complex and relatable enough that fans can gravitate to them and root for Fugitive in their quest to win an LCS title.