The Simpsons aired an episode featuring the popular game League of Legends last Sunday, which was a strange combination of two groups that don’t often collide — esports fanatics and sitcom cartoons. The production team consulted with Riot Games, which develops League, but ultimately crafted a satirical take on League of Legends without giving Riot a final vote.
Nevertheless, Riot Games’ co-head of e-sports Whalen Rozelle seems comfortable with the result, telling The Verge after watching the episode, “As the show is a satirical comedy, we knew they would present their own take. While we were heavily involved as consultants, we were comfortable giving The Simpsons team full control over how they wanted to present e-sports in the show, given their tradition of excellence.”
The episode ultimately showed how Homer Simpson wants to be a better father to Bart and to spend more time with him by coaching him on e-sports. We’re given a slight glimpse into the world of gaming, by way of seeing Bart game into the night, and even during a shower.
The Simpsons co-executive producer Rob LaZebnik says he first got the idea to reach out to Riot Games as he kept driving by the e-sports stadium on the way to work and as he read more articles on e-sports’ growing popularity. “I remember reading that something like eighty million people viewed the 2017 Season League of Legends World Championship, which is more than the NBA finals. I also watched the Free to Play documentary, and it all felt ripe for Simpsonification,” LaZebnik tells The Verge.
LaZebnik says he got Rozelle and fellow co-head of e-sports Jarred Kennedy to consult on the script for the episode, so that the language and visuals could feel “authentic.” But at the same time, the Simpsons also took artistic liberties “to poke a bit of fun at some of the stereotypes people have about gamers.” (One of these lines is present in the teaser clip of the episode — “Bart Simpson has not given the GG.” In games of League, players typically quickly type “gg” at the end of the game, meaning “good game,” just before one party’s nexus explodes in defeat, and they definitely can’t withhold victory by refusing to “give the GG.”)
The episode “E My Sports” sometimes transcends its weird crossover status and begins to serve as commentary on the gaming industry as a whole. At one self-aware moment in the episode that remarks on how outnumbered women are in e-sports, Sophie Krustofsky says, “If I win, I’ll be the most famous girl gamer of all time. Also, if I lose.” LaZebnik says the Simpsons team included the line because “we liked the joke a lot, and it was our way of being culturally authentic in a satirical way.”