As the whole world gears up for Rio, another sporting event is currently dominating TV – the inaugural ELEAGUE. Fans of the global gaming phenomenon Counter-Strike: Global Offensive can watch the tournament on both Warner TV and truTV, with the Global Championship airing live on 4:00 am-6:00 am on the night of July 31.
For many years games have been able to leave the confines of individual PCs, but with competitions like ELEAGUE emerging, eSports has become a multi-million-dollar industry with huge events staged across the world. What was once an ordinary game is now a cultural phenomenon that has changed the way the world views “sport”. Welcome to the era of eSports where players from all around the world compete in a battle of gaming wit and reflex.
From PC game to a worldwide sports event
The idea for Counter-Strike began in 1999 when co-creator Minh “Gooseman” Le, who had a personal interest in the dynamics between terrorists and counter-terrorists, couldn’t find any game that explored the skills needed for such a situation. His desire for a game that provides a certain realism pushed him to work for about 30 to 40 hours a week on the project while studying at university.
However, Counter-Strike was not just born out of Le’s effort, it was a collaboration that gradually developed within a community of players. Fans would suggest levels and other elements in the game which would be considered by the development team, who would then make any necessary alterations. This crowdsourcing model was retained all throughout the years and has since refined the game to what you see at present.
In 2000, Valve acquired Counter-Strike. The acquisition led to a re-released PC version of the game. During this time, Counter-Strike stood out from other games with a similar theme for its emphasis on teamwork and its slower-paced, more realistic combat mechanic. Counter-Strike would then go on to influence the development of the genre over the next few years, setting the stage for first-person shooters and pioneering team-based action gameplay.
The rise of eSports
Counter-Strike upheld the same elements as any other physical sport: skills and teamwork, which makes the game all the more appealing for competitive play. Coincidentally, eSports began the same year Counter-Strike was re-released. But it wasn’t until 2010 that the popularity of eSports began to spike and surge.
Just like any other sport in the history of humankind, eSports began with small tournaments participated by amateur players. Today, it has grown to include more than 2,000 tournaments worldwide, featuring their own versions of elite professional players. Furthermore, reports abound that some universities in the US view added eSports to their selection of athletic programs, going as far as offering athletic scholarships to qualified gamers.
CS:GO elite teams
The success behind ELEAGUE is attributed mostly to the caliber of its participating teams. The remaining teams who are advancing to the semi-finals are EnVyUS, Fnatic, Na’Vi, Cloud9, Astralis, Mousesports, Virtus Pro, and NiP.
Among the oldest teams is Swedish eSports organization Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP) which was formed as far back as 2000 – the genesis of eSports. NiP’s long list of achievements for CS:GO stands in contrast with the newly-formed Astralis which was officially regarded as an organization in 2016 after working hard to get proper financial support.
Like in physical sports, popularity is also a byproduct of being an eSports athlete. German multi-gaming organization Mousesports, known for their CS:GO achievements, are among ELEAGUE’s most popular teams, boasting of a huge following in Germany’s 23m active gamers. Meanwhile, North American CS:GO team Cloud9 has an enormous worldwide following with 8m unique visitors and 21m stream views.
In eSports, awards also make the team. One of the teams to beat is Fnatic which is hailed as one of the best eSport organizations, winning the eSports Team of the Year Award in 2006 and 2009. Well-established Russian eSports organization Virtus Pro has garnered prestigious medals, which are a testament to prove the quality of the gamers in the organization. In 2003 alone, Virtus Pro won more than 100 Gold, 170 Silver and 220 Bronze Medals in more than 10 cyber disciplines which is quite a feat in any competition, more so in the gaming world.
EnVyUs, fresh from their MLG X-Games Aspen invitational win, continues to prove that they are among the best in the world, while Ukraine’s Na’Vi is the first team in CS:GO history to win three major tournaments in one calendar year – the Intel Extreme Masters, Electronic Sports World Cup and World Cyber Games 2010.
So much more remains to be seen in the development of eSports as well as ELEAGUE. But for now, one thing’s for sure, Counter-Strike and eSports has grown as a cultural phenomenon will shape generations to come.
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