The Individualism of CS:GO: Why it helped me switch away from League of Legends

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On one typical, 90% humidity, Brisbane days, and after playing probably my tenth hour of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, I realised I had to make a switch. This opening sentence if you fiddled with the amount of hours, and changed the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive part to a methamphetamine of your choosing, would seem like the beginning of an epic zero to hero story. But much to my own distain this isn’t that.

My switch wasn’t to leave an at times shady, working-class life behind, and then with the power of training and love, fight and win against the world heavyweight champion. Because that is the plot line of Rocky, and I’m not a boxer. In fact, I’m a gamer, and after watching some videos, reading some articles, and most importantly playing some actual matchmaking games, I made the switch from League of Legends to CS:GO.

I switched because not only had I in some regards just become burnt-out with League as many that try to grind the ladder do, but also being a fan of both League and CS:GO at the same time, I realised that I grossly underestimated how much I valued striking a balance between the individual and the team. Whilst an extended, perfectly executed, slowed down team fight in League can transform into a seemingly well-rehearsed dance between five players, and their ability chaining, I prefer a 1vsX clutch scenario. Like when one of the few superstars in the entire world has three enemy players ganged up against them, and they have to pull out hand-eye coordination that would rival a robot and game sense that would make it look like they could see the enemy’s screens.

Unlike in League where 1v1 outplays are difficult due to the nature of high-level team play often leaving the solo kill highlight plays to stream montages, rather than professional games — CS:GO’s mechanics allow for the stars to shine. Jumping noscope collateral to act as the pivotal moment in a comeback to win the biggest tournament ever? No problem. Due to the constant duelling nature of CS:GO as a game it is significantly easier to impose your will as a superior player. That’s part of the reason why Faker is considered to be transcendent of League of Legends itself, and why his skill is such an anomaly. Because of just how difficult it is to do be that dominant, in a game where individual dominance isn’t the focal point of the core gameplay mechanics.

Whilst I understand that fighting games offer the purest form of individual dominance as it’s just that, an individual sport. I want to be able to appreciate the more abstract and scoped out aspect of roughly knowing a team’s strategic system before a match, and then with that context in mind seeing how their stars (or lack thereof) fit into the overall system. This specific aspect is where I think CS:GO strikes a perfect balance. Unlike the almost pure team play of League or the pure individualism of fighting games, in CS:GO the stars not only have to show up with their individual skills, but also to have the capacity to work with four other players. This unique ebb and flow allows for a variety of different styles to emerge within the top levels of play. Similar in some respects, to the small, domestic, metas that were present in the early days of League as a game — every team within the CS:GO elite has their own style. This level of diversity when simply looking at the team names makes every tournament a new opportunity to watch clashing, or similar styles battle it out.

What’s even more exciting is when you zoom in from this team level into the actual individual players. Just as every team has their own unique “feel”, every player has a unique outlook on the game. From aggressively peaking duellists to passive role players, every style has a place, and every individual has a style. This stylistic diversity on both a team and individual level takes a trained eye to spot but is rewarding to be able to analyse on some level and appreciate in-game. Aside from, in my opinion, the more streamlined and enticing mechanics that allow for better pro play on both an individual and team level, I really fell in love with the personalities of the game. Not necessarily because they were more professional on stream, more insightful on a cast, or more talkative on the analyst desk, but because I felt like I wasn’t being treated like a child. Whilst Hai was fined 500 euros for flipping the bird, Device was praised for asking VP to buy lube for their match the next day. The banter doesn’t feel scripted, the rivalries and intense matchups don’t feel forced, and the entire experience of watching a CS:GO stream doesn’t feel like I’m watching something made for children who can’t hear an F-bomb. So although I fully understand that I’m comparing apples to oranges, that doesn’t mean I can’t tell you why I would rather eat an apple than an orange. So considering how much more I enjoy the varying scopes of CS:GO, from the teams, to the players, to the actual mechanics of the game itself, I can safely say I’m very glad I made the switch.

 

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Max Melit

I write CS:GO and Overwatch content for Break the Game. Outside of writing, watching, and thinking about esports I listen to far too many podcasts, study full time as a student and watch my local Rugby Union side lose every Saturday.