If you haven’t heard of Gamers of the Show, a parody of the creators of American Vandal, it’s not your fault: it’s a Paramount+ exclusive. I only signed up to watch Halo out of frustration, but I’ve been waiting for it for the past 10 weeks because the players are starting to get really good.
Gamers is something that hasn’t really existed before: a show about a virtual esports team that uses real leagues and gameplay. At times it seems like an expensive advertisement for League of Legends—the show’s partnership with Riot allows it to use real League of Legends footage and Riot facilities—but it doesn’t shy away from the darkest and most troubling parts of its culture and business. Old age (28 years) support available; A millionaire basketball team owner whose ego only exceeds his fear of failure and his obnoxious ex-professor quit and become a full-time streamer.
This is arguably the most mainstream media focused around sports to date, and its creators clearly know that. The first episode spends as much time explaining what shipping is as establishing its main characters. It gets off to a much slower start than the instantly familiar world of American Vandal.
After part one, players will pick up the training wheels. In an interview scene, the characters will constantly drop real MOBA terms that won’t be explained unless a character mentions it. As a MOBA player, I’ve been scratching my head for about 20 minutes wondering what the hell an ADC is before someone, probably one of the most accurate LCS commentators on the show, says this is an attack carry. A person whose work causes more harm. That helped change my perception of the Fugitive team a bit, but it didn’t make it any easier to analyze what was going on during play.
I appreciate that League is a fast-paced game with no single focal point, but sports movies have gotten good at portraying action that anyone can relate to and I think the same could be true here. However, I have to thank the players for the accuracy. Every in-game ‘action’ scene is captured entirely within League of Legends itself using cinematic camera sweeps. I love this list in front of countless other TV shows that will soon make the green screen of a horror fake video game on the console.
In a style instantly familiar to American Vandal fans, the cast seamlessly weaves between the pro characters and the heartfelt storytelling.
In which Vandal explores the tropes of high school known for its humor, the players spill the rich, unspoiled vein of eSports.
The jokes in the early episodes tend to export completely familiar things to fans who are inherently funny, such as the online gripes the main characters go through. When I showed the first episode to my friend (a football fan) about the fourth time, the main character almost bailed on the face called “Cream Cheese”. He thought names like that and “Fruger” were over the top, but he didn’t know there were real send-ups called Dr. Pipe, Balls, and Jesusstick. (Opens in a new tab). Perhaps to pay homage to these legends, the novel ice cream used to be called “Nutmilk” before its addiction in Riot, but to a less suggestive, but similar dairy product.
If you get in by sending it in advance, these early gags may be low-effort or unfunny. It’s hard not to laugh at the ingenuity of obnoxious leaguers filming TikToks in expensive cars or drinking Red Bull in $50 million mansions when it parallels real life. I caught myself nervously and hysterically laughing as I thought the show was looking for a real screamer. The players are faithful to a slightly exaggerated snapshot of esports culture, including all the things I don’t like: egos, immaturity, manufactured drama, and brand logos plastered all over the place.
For the first five episodes, story takes a back seat to the mind-blowing construction. Interviews with Cherimchis as he struggles to check his ego and reintegrate into the group recall the tales associated with the Golden Years of Escape. (crack-packed) keyboard.
The rubber won’t really hit the road until the crimsons and the organism stop irritating each other enough to work together. When gamers finally show the people behind the branded facades, gamers will be surprisingly cool.
I expected players to show us why it’s fun to laugh at sports, but I didn’t expect the latter half to delve into bigger themes that are more relevant than high-level professionals. In Episode 10, a character explores whether or not being the best makes them happy, or if they’re simply fulfilling a need to compete. “Maybe most people are designed to be happy, but I don’t think so.”
It was a sobering moment in an otherwise heartless scene, and a reminder that sports (like traditional sports) are designed to squeeze the best performance out of competitors until there’s no room left for fun in the video games we play. I saw that interview and was transported back to nights playing Rainbow Six Siege Rek, not because I was excited to try to win, but because I was afraid of how I would feel if I lost.
While watching these fictional and real League players talk about Riot’s history and the characters that make up the bloodline of the sport, the game is more than just a transition to competition. Players can be about any game and nothing will change. It’s a testament to the show’s success that I’m more invested in this fantasy comedy esports team than the guy doing the real thing. I’m still not really into esports, but I do follow Fugitive Gaming.