An eSports Case Study: Counterstrike: Global Offensive

Posted on August 28, 2017

Some people are surprised that eSports is a thing, but we’ve written before about big competitive gaming events in Australia and elsewhere. Recently it was reported that eSports are in consideration for inclusion in the Olympics as a medal sport for 2024 in Paris. While this may sound surprising to some people, the traction eSports has with younger demographics makes it quite likely. I’d like to use this article as a way of introducing those who may not be familiar with the concept, or who have never watched video games at a competitive level, to the world of eSports through the lens of one of the most popular games right now, Counter Strike: Global Offensive. It must be said that it’s not generally considered a game for younger players to either play or watch, but it’s a good case study to look at the rise of eSports.

Counter Strike: Global Offensive (or CS:GO) is an immensely popular team-based shooter a little bit like Star Wars: Battlefront. It is a game I am guilty of spending much of my free time in, and often has over 500,000 people playing concurrently, with the current player peak at 624,785 players online at the same time. While these numbers are very impressive they are dwarfed by the number of people who watch Counter Strike played at a high level. The most recent major tournament for Counter Strike ran from the 16th of July to the 23rd of July 2017, and the event itself was in the Tauron Arena in Krakow, Poland. While not every person is going to be able to hop on a flight to see these players in person, many people tune into livestreams on web platforms such as Twitch (we’ve talked about livestreaming before) to watch all the action as it unfolds. At its peak, 1.7 million people from all around the world were tuned in watching as Astralis (my favourite team) took on SK Gaming.

What makes Counter Strike such a fantastic first step to enjoying eSports is that it has a very low barrier for entry to watch and understand. Unlike other large games in the eSports realm, it is very straightforward. One team of five competes against another team of five, on either a single map or a best of 3 maps. Each map is played until a team wins 16 rounds, unless the score is tied at 15-15 in which case the game goes into overtime. This means that it is very accessible, and often the commentators explain what is happening, just as in physical sports. It also helps that rounds are only two minutes long, making them easily digestible and ensuring that you stay right there in the action.

A common question may be “why would I bother watching esports if I don’t play videogames?” The answer is twofold. The first is that even if you personally don’t enjoy playing videogames the tournaments are still exciting to watch. All the heart and drama that occurs in a football match is also present in a game of Counter Strike. You have the underdog team, you have the ‘villains’, you have those last-second plays that turn the entire game on its head while you’re on the edge of your seat. The second reason is that while you may not enjoy them, somebody close to you may. Be it a partner, or a child, or a friend, watching a tournament with them would go a long way in showing them that you have an interest in the things that they like. And hey, you may find that you really enjoy it. What have you got to lose?

– James Gray

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