The Counter Strike world champion takes home prize money of half a million dollars. What is the secret of probably the most successful first-person shooter game ever created? And is it nothing more than a shoot ’em up?
When developers Minh Le and Jess Cliffe wanted to make a simple modification to the game Half Life back in 1999, little did they know that they would create one of the most successful eSports titles of recent times.
Counter Strike rapidly became probably the most popular mod in gaming history. The software company Valve recognized its potential and began marketing it a year later as a stand-alone game. Further versions followed like Counter Strike 1.6, Counter Strike Source and the current one - Counter Strike: Global Offensive. The recipe for success quickly became clear: Counter Strike is a group-based tactical masterpiece with a close-knit following.
More than just blasting away
At first glance, Counter Strike is a first-person shooter like any other. The player acts in the first person and fires weapons at opponents. Five counter-terrorists and five terrorists fight each other in different scenarios.
The goal is not, however, to merely blow away the opposing team but principally to collect points. And these are won in each map section by defusing a bomb or freeing hostages. Two things are absolutely key: tactics and team play. The use of different grenades, diversionary maneuvers or playing against the two-minute time limit for each round have transformed Counter Strike over the years from a simple first-person shooter into a tactical shooter and the perfect eSports product.
Software company Valve puts a special emphasis on working with the game’s community. The development of the platform Steam in 2003 created the perfect meeting place for all gamers. Counter Strike especially profits from the platform. Many kinds of cards and weapons skins are created by gamers and can be presented to the entire community via the platform. The developers are open to such suggestions and sometimes integrate them into the game. Cooperation that has borne fruit.
A magnet for spectators
At events like ESL One Cologne, gamers are treated like rock stars. “I have been playing Counter Strike for years and I still find it amazing fun. The game simply lives off the community and events like this one,” fan Eike Bührmann explains at the Lanxess Arena.
But why are there so many people watching others play rather than playing themselves?
The answer is in the game itself, which is so dynamic and flexible that the star players can constantly push the envelope. They can wow the spectators with toys, tricks and their knowledge of the maps. But they also stimulate discussion and emulation.
“The fans are the reason why I play Counter Strike,” says Karrigan von Astralis. “There would be no point in playing just in a studio. The fans make Counter Strike events indescribable.”
Counter Strike is not simply a computer game anymore. It is sport on the big stage – a stage that has grown to hold several million players. Events are getting bigger all the time and the game is constantly evolving.
“For me it’s a dream to be able to earn my living as a Counter Strike professional,” says Markeloff from FlipSide Tactics. “I wanted to be a Counter Strike pro from an early age and the fact I have made it makes me proud.”
The tactical shooter has become something that has rarely been seen in a computer game.
For all the praise the game has garnered, there is also a darker side, such as an unregulated betting market. But this just shows again how dynamically the Counter Strike market is growing.
The negative reputation the game had for many years also appears to be fading. Counter Strike is no longer just seen as a shoot ‘em up.
It is hard to predict how much further this 17-year-old game can evolve. The past few years have shown that we can expect a great deal.