How I met esports
Across my teenage and adult life, I have been accompanied by PC video games, with a preference for casual strategy games and online co-ops. I have spent my fair share on Warcraft, Worms Armageddon, Red Alert, and lately Northgard, a real-time strategy game that I definitely recommend as an antidepressant.
However, at an undefined moment back in late 2019 (that’s pre-pandemic years) I realized that gaming has evolved so much as an industry and that competitive gaming has been upgraded to a valid career and business choice for a lot of folks. I found myself watching every single video from this YouTube channel, theScore esports.
What got me hooked was the legendary story of team OG on Dota 2, one of the most popular 5v5’s out there (it helps that it’s made by Valve herself). Titles like “The Greatest Underdog in Esports History” or “The Overlooked Mastermind Who Built Dota’s Greatest Team: The Story of Ceb” surely made me look closer.
My professional areas of interest revolve around digital media, brands, and marketing, so it made sense that I should give a little attention to such an impressive market.
If you want to learn more about esports as an industry, take a peek at this article: Where I See the Esports Industry Headed in 2022 and Beyond
Then came the pandemic.
Is it hard to have fun? My troubled past with Dota 2
In order to have a favorite sport, one or both of the following things should be true:
- You can play the game and not feel like total garbage playing it.
- You can watch others play the game and get a feeling of what is going on.
Every player starts as a novice, an amateur who barely which buttons to press but little more than that. You start to play because a friend invited you to play together, you see that a lot of people are already playing, or you are attracted by the concept (e.g. Norse mythology, pirates, railroads, space exploration, etc.).
As you grow as a player, you discover areas of improvement, where you’re crushing it, or where there is little you can do. This is especially true in competitive gaming where there is no “Pause” button – you have to stay in the game and get your butt kicked by a misbehaving 14-year-old who is just killing time killing you.
Even if your personal progress is slow, by now you have already begun to “know what you don’t know”. It doesn’t matter if you are not currently aware if you can’t execute a proper defense against your opponent and you end up losing the match – it is OK that at least you know that defense even exists. This realization is actually called gamesense and it is instantly promoting you from a pure novice to a (slightly) more advanced player.
This gamesense is what helps us enjoy watching the pro players clashing on the server. We are not part of their team, we cannot suggest a strategy and we certainly lack the mechanical skills (= agility, muscle memory, precision) to execute it. Nevertheless, we are insiders: we get the joke, we have the privilege to agree or disagree, we share their excitement, and we feel their disappointment if things don’t go as planned.
This wouldn’t be possible if we couldn’t tell right from wrong. If everything is equally possible, then every move is perfectly random – so why don’t we just roll some dices?
Well, this is exactly what happened with me and Dota 2. The game’s complexity was shouting to me that I would never “get it”, I wasn’t feeling I was progressing at all, and my randomly assigned team players have been demonstratively unsatisfied with my skills. After 170h of playtime, I decided to call it quits and hop off for new adventures.
So… I have a team now?
Around the time this happened, the first quarantine orders were issued across the world. That meant, amongst others, more screen time and thus more YouTube videos. My call for meaning in gaming was answered, once again, by the theScore esports and their videos on Astralis, the reigning team on Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) at the time.
This video is of a later day but I hope you get why I felt that this is something I should watch more closely:
A legendary squad, an organization that invested a lot in personal development and mental health, champion players that make up an unbeatable team, in a game that I can far easier to understand what is going on. How could I have not fallen in love with this?
So, Astralis got me hooked again. I started playing more often, I ordered their game jersey (the only athletic apparel in my possession, of any sport, up to this day), I signed up to the newsletter, I subscribed to any social media out channel there and I became a fan, for the first time in my 29th years of age. Even though lately Astralis has been on turmoils and I find myself migrating my interest to Team Vitality (where two former Astralis players and the former Astralis coach have been transferred to), I will always be an Astralis fan #tothestars.
CS:GO is a much easier esport to follow
There is HLTV.org which offers original reporting, match and player statistics, user forums, a mobile app, and the feature to “become a fan” and get notified whenever your team plays.
There is tons of content on YouTube of any sort: game analysts, tutorials, players’ point-of-view videos, and the esports organizations themselves push a lot of (promotional) content as well. This means that you can easily play 1h per day and spend another 2hs just keeping up with anything new.
There is Twitter, where most of the top players, analysts, and commentators are posting frequently.
And, finally, there are a lot of online events, a couple or more huge events per year, and thousands of players livestreaming on Twitch. CS:GO has been steadily growing in media attention and as a result, more money is coming in, more teams are setting up shop, more players try to go pro, and this upward spiral keeps going.
How to play the game
At the moment, pure built-in Matchmaking seems to work fine for me. I rarely get in a map with overqualified players that disguise themselves as low-skilled players (this is called “smurfing“) and I feel that the games are just enough of a challenge for me.
I had tried FACEIT in the past, however, I was not ready for this. This competitive gaming platform is too competitive for me, I couldn’t match up with equal (= low) level players and I was getting my butt kicked consistently. I’m not ready to go back there UNLESS you want us to become friends and play together. I would be happy to come back for you:
Getting better in the game: Leetify
Leetify is a free service that monitors your stats and gives you actionable feedback to improve your CS:GO game. TBH, I am not entirely sure how I learned about Leetify, my guess is that there must have been a promotion on a YouTube video (no surprises here).
What I really like about Leetify is this idea of personal development and comparing yourself against the benchmark of rankings above yourself. As of this writing (early February 2022) I’m a Silver IV player (rank 4/18) but I’m comparing myself with a Master Guardian I (rank 11/18) because this is a rank where I will feel happy reaching to.
On a day-to-day basis, I’m taking a look at every map I play. I’m trying to understand if my stats are at par with my normal average or if this one was an outlier. On Leetify it’s standard to compare yourself during this period (= last 30 games) against the previous one (= 30 games before that).
For example, I’m looking to improve my headshot accuracy but please mind that this can easily become a vanity metric. Total accuracy is more important and other metrics are far more important in-game (e.g. Kill/Death Ratio or Average Damage per Round). Having fun with your stats is one thing, but do not let stats alone dictate how you play the game.
In any case, I’m practicing once a week on uLLeticaL’s Aim Botz – Training workshop map (subscribe on Steam Workshop). My standard aim routine is 20 bots on one side of the training area, no armor, headshots only, time to 100 kills. I’m currently at 01:08, down from 01:26 when I first tried it.
Through Leetify I verified a negative assumption that I had for my play style – the one that I’m not using utility and my general movement across the map was not good enough. These were some of the Focus Areas that Leetify suggested I focus on and I did bring them as top of mind for the rest of my games.
Finally, one of the BEST features that Leetify has is “Team Finder”. You can submit your preferences and you can invite/get invited by other Leetify users to connect, become friends on Steam and Discord, and as a result, play together on more structured matchmaking. So far this is the only method I have successfully used to create meaningful connections with other players, meet lovely people, and fine players that help me feel much better about the game as a whole.
I’m looking for teammates!
I believe that my love and appreciation for the game will go through the roof the moment I find a standard group of co-players that we can play together as an extended roster.
My vision is that we can form together a team of 5-10 people that will play together on Friday nights, practice together, share a Discord server, etc. You shouldn’t feel bad if you don’t make it – I won’t make it all that often myself.
I’m looking to meet casual players who love the game AND also love playing together in a team environment. So far my favorite teammates has been an IT guy from Egypt and a 39-year-old from Germany that had to leave early to take care his baby son. Mothers and fathers of all ages are most welcomed.
You can take a look at my detailed stats once you find me on Leetify and see if we are a good match.
Would you like me to add more on this page? Do you have questions or suggestions about CS:GO? Leave a comment below and I will 100% answer it ASAP.