Series: review of “Players

The best form of parody is the one that isn’t. In other words: if one does not need to add any ostensibly comic element to the portrait of a certain universe, he will surely achieve better results than leaving a tone of sarcasm and mockery in evidence all the time. PLAYERS it is exactly that and it is what makes it brilliant at times. Yes, it is a fake documentary. Yes, it is done with a comic tone from the beginning. But the line between the human and affectionate portrait with the joke is so fine that many will not even be able to detect it. To such an extent that at the end of the season one will really wonder if it was a parody.

It is that the secret of the series goes through there, for being at the same time a slight “teasing” to the world of esports competitions such as League of Legends but at the same time almost a covert advertisement of that world, one in which there ends up being more affection and respect for its participants than a full-fledged mockery. Ten episodes of constant “loading” and humiliation would not be bearable, of looking at the protagonists of this universe with an overcoming and sly tone in which they were treated like idiots. And what Yacenda and Perrault—the creators of the equally amusing AMERICAN VANDAL— achieve here is to recognize the passion and obsession of players, streamers and fans of this type of sports without losing sight of the slightly ridiculous side that everything has.

The world of esports competitions is a territory that, to those of us who do not participate in it or understand its logic well, seems from the outset between bizarre and somewhat ridiculous. Teams sponsored by brands and with millionaire contracts disputing competitions -each team with their computers headset and various controls – before stadiums full of fervent fans it is as incomprehensible to us as it can happen to others with, say, chess tournaments. While the more screeching, bombastic style used here (not too far removed from the NBA or other sports, at least as marketed in the United States) is hardly imaginable in a chess competition for teams, somewhere are not so different. Of course, it is not very likely that one of the stars of chess will be called “Creamcheese”.

Yacenda and Perrault parody the genre of sports documentaries THE LAST DANCE or many of those who reveal secret stories behind some important episode or character in the history of a certain sport, as they had already done in some shorts which uses the format 30X30 from ESPN. It is that the object of sarcasm is more the genre than the world it describes. And, yes, let’s agree that the characters (fictional, but with cameos, presences and names of real teams and competitions) help make the effect very funny from the first minute.

PLAYERS follows all the conventions of the subgenre, with interviews with e-athletes (will it be said like that?), their managers, relatives, girlfriends and ex-girlfriends, rivals, friends, “live” recordings of intimate moments in the locker room as well as the competitions, and a very precise historical journey that comes and goes in time to tell the story of its protagonists. Everything has the intense and excessively brutal tone that these documentaries usually present, but he does it to deal with a group of teenagers who play League of Legends. Which, let’s agree, gives it a very funny side.

It is the story of Creamcheese (formerly NutMilk, formerly Trevor, played by Misha Brooks), a very talented League of Legends player who never lived up to his promising start. For reasons that you will see throughout its ten episodes, personal problems and silly mistakes were making that Creamcheese can never win the LCS (Legends Championship Series). The guy is already a veteran in this world (he is 27) and is more famous for his statements and his intense personality (he can be funny but also an unbearable egocentric bore) than for his triumphs.

In 2021, the guy is presented with one apparent last chance (a “last dance,” shall we say) when the owner of his Fugitive Gaming team hires a 17-year-old named Organizm (Da’Jour Jones) to add to his team. The boy is the opposite of Creamcheese: serious, quiet, focused, he only thinks about playing and doesn’t like to go out, drink or make videos for social networks like his more outgoing partner. And it is, from what everyone says (it is a very difficult sport to decipher for non-experts and the series never takes the trouble to explain it, which makes its precise language sound almost absurd), one of those great appearances that shock to any sport.

Of course this is a double-edged sword for Creamcheese, since he knows that with him on the team he has more chances of winning the title, but at the same time jealousy appears with everything, since the owner of Fugitive wants to transform Organizm into the visible face of the team when “Cheese” still needs to continue training for a while longer. This current campaign will be the one that will serve PLAYERS to tell the story of both and the peculiar group that surrounds them, especially former members of the Fugitive team who were leaving the team due to their inability to deal with “Cream”.

AMERICAN VANDAL did something similar by taking the format of the documentary «true crime» to a high school where the crime in question was discovering who was drawing sexual organs on teachers’ cars. Here the system is similar and the gender is the victim of the jokes more than the characters themselves. It is that although many of their customs, activities, sayings and experiences are somewhat absurd, throughout the episodes one manages to become fond of them and understand their drives, fears and needs.

In both series Yacenda and Perrault manage to combine humor and affection. Yes, they “laugh at” but they also “laugh with”, which also explains the full support of the LCS and many brands and people associated with the competitive world of League of Legends. Those who follow this world closely will notice the loads, the taunts and the jokes but also the affection and understanding that there is in a series that, finally, understands who the characters are with whom it deals and what mobilizes them. And those of us who look at it from the outside, in addition, will add the strangeness, the fascination and, yes, the humor that makes us see this bizarre sports world in which terms like «wombo combo”, “bot lane”, “ADC”, “lane swap”, “jungler”, “Yuumi” and the basic «nexus» they are used in the most serious and even violent discussions. And at the end of the season one ends up appreciating more than imaginable many of the characters that inhabit this particular world.

Series: review of “Players – Season 1”, by Tom Yacenda and Dan Perrault (Paramount +) – Micropsia