Paramount+ ‘Players’ review: An esports drama with heart

Players didn’t make me cringe at the time. It would have been so effortless for the fake documentary esports collection on Paramount+ to lean into a satire of offensive stereotypes. But Players chooses peace around violence, and the outcome is just one of the strongest originals from the streaming services so far.

It will help that the new series arrives from American Vandal co-creators Dan Perrault and Tony Yacenda. As fans of the Netflix mockumentary would assume, there are lots of laughs listed here. But wherever Vandal took a really serious-minded large faculty incident and manufactured it a silly tale, Gamers does the opposite: It truly is a smart and heartfelt character piece that drapes alone in the inherent silliness of adolescent players who bought too significantly money and fame at too young an age.

Creamcheese (Misha Brooks) to begin with arrives off like a juvenile douche. He is an arrogant and boastful League of Legends pro who, we immediately discover, hasn’t at any time managed to essentially bring a championship property with his workforce, Fugitive Gaming. But he’s also lived that familiar authentic-entire world esports success story of getting his staff acquired by a main company figure in legacy pro sports.

So though Creamcheese may perhaps not be an real winner, he talks and carries himself like one. That unearned chutzpah is challenged when Nathan Resnick (Stephen Schneider), the NBA group proprietor who also pays Fugitive’s bills, privately courts an emerging League phenom who calls himself Organizm (Da’Jour Jones).

A still from the Paramount+ series

Da’Jour Jones’ understated performance as Organizm is an important piece of his arc throughout the 10-episode time.
Credit: Lara Solanki / Paramount+

The tranquil and withdrawn 17-calendar year-outdated from Philadelphia is speedily signed to Fugitive’s roster, and Nathan forces team mentor and co-founder Kyle Braxton (Ely Henry) into forgoing education and creating Org an rapid starter on the group. Cream is incensed by the transfer, which sets up an early conflict among the two pros that twists and evolves as Players‘ 10 episodes unfurl.

In the earliest episodes, it does really feel like Perrault and Yacenda are serving viewers a video activity-themed consider on “Who did the dicks?” When we hear about how Org applied to pee in jars at house so he could continue to keep playing, or the time when Cream stole his fortunate keyboard back again from his unsupportive parents’ house, the producing sprints suitable up to the razor’s edge of hyperbolic stereotyping.

It truly is all portion of a larger sized plan, even though. The tale even shows its hand briefly in the to start with episode, when Product receives emotional as he talks about how his mother and father filed a police report in excess of the lacking keyboard. When we return to that scene afterwards with more know-how of the people, it just hits unique. Players understands how avid gamers as a team are likely to get pigeonholed as “losers,” and it can be not taking any of that shit.

Yet again and again, the collection undermines its very own large chortle times by feeding us historic context that re-frames all those times in a new light-weight. We understand early on that Cream’s initial in-activity handle was “Nutmilk,” and we right away leap to crude conclusions about its which means. But the real truth is a great deal extra innocent, as a later episode reveals.

‘Players’ chooses peace in excess of violence, and the end result is a person of the strongest originals from Paramount+ so considerably.

It is really a intelligent little bit of plotting exactly where the delayed torpedoing of expectations maximizes the follow-up moment’s psychological impact. Gamers repeats alone frequently, with that repetition incorporating pertinent aspects to just about every subplot together the way. The show’s writers know how funny gamer antics are in a vacuum, and they permit all those times dwell on the display screen for laughs. But the writers also weaponize added context pretty efficiently to get us pondering about what, accurately, we believed was so humorous.

That is not to say Gamers is its possess buzzkill. The comedy moments are truly funny and the specifics that deliver extra depth are offered in a fully nonjudgmental way. You happen to be not intended to sense poor about laughing. It is some form of comedy that a committed participant would opt for jars above a bathroom bathroom just to squeeze a couple of extra minutes of gaming into the working day.

What the present does do is remind us that all of these people today are just that: elaborate human beings, with views, inner thoughts, needs, and histories that built them what they are. It is properly understandable to chortle at the hyperbolic soundbites or juvenile behavior, but Gamers contends — rightly, I believe — that it is similarly important to figure out that even the most committed and seemingly ridiculous stereotypical gamer has things they have around.

Loved ones strife. Intimate upheavals. Even wellness fears. Relatable struggles all around. Product, Org, and the rest of Fugitive have known these trials themselves in their own highly own strategies. Cream could occur off like an extremely arrogant perennial loser up entrance, but that whole shtick commences to make additional feeling as Gamers fills out his history.

A still from the Paramount+ series

Misha Brooks and Ely Henry make Cream’s enduring friendship with Brax sense genuine, sophisticated, and deeply loving.
Credit history: Lara Solanki / Paramount+

None of it would perform if not for the solid. Brooks and Jones both of those inhabit their roles exceptionally properly, but they’re hardly on your own. Henry’s flip as Kyle, aka Brax, is a apparent standout. Brax is one particular of Cream’s oldest buddies, but he is also a married dad who is substantially more developed up and tuned into the methods of the entire world. Cream’s angry outbursts examination Brax routinely, but the adore Brax has for his mate carries via obviously in Henry’s marvelous efficiency.

The documentary-like composition and blending of fact and fiction also get the job done in the series’ favor. Recurring conversing head-model interviews produce an organic and natural entry position into just about every main character’s worldview and attitude. And by grounding almost everything in the common visuals of Riot Games’ esports strike and the League of Legends Championship Sequence — neither of which you require to know inside of-out Players explains as it goes — the present feels like an authentic representation of modern-day gaming lifestyle.


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The lengthy arc of the time develops into an underdog tale characterized by the kinds of twists and turns you’d anticipate to come across in a extra standard sporting activities drama like Rocky or Rudy. But recognizing these men are destined to get 1 day in some manner would not detract from the journey they just take to get there, or the numerous ways that journey impacts their interactions.

Gamers wins since of the individuals. For all their juvenile behavior and youthful vigor-fueled acts of self-sabotage, Fugitive Gaming is an easy crew to root for. The twist is that none of it is a deliver-up. It is really earnest and heartfelt. You happen to be intended to adore these guys. Gamers‘ subversion of expectations successfully peels absent our surface understandings of game titles, avid gamers, and gaming culture to provide a story that, refreshingly, does proper by all 3.

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