CS:GO

GuardiaN column: My Major curse and why I’m ready to return to CSGO

Published: 8/Sep/2020 15:00 Updated: 8/Sep/2020 15:43

by Ladislav 'Guardian' Kovács

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Ladislav ‘GuardiaN’ Kovács is a name destined for the Counter-Strike hall of fame. In his first Dexerto column, the AWP legend details why he believes that he’s ready to make his return to CS:GO and how he can break his Major curse.

I have unfinished business in Counter-Strike. After a string of poor personal performances following my return to Natus Vincere in September 2019, I knew that I needed to take a step back from competing at the highest level. My game-to-game rating was on a steady decline and I wasn’t comfortable with my impact inside the server.

So at the backend of January, both the team and I made the decision to move me into an inactive role on the bench. Perfecto was the perfect replacement, in the sense that it freed up s1mple to step-up the role of Primary AWPer — and everyone knows what he can do with that weapon in his hands! After all, there’s a reason his iconic AWP play from 2016’s ESL One Cologne has been memorialized as graffiti on Cache.

Since then, I’ve been working on my individual game non-stop. On a personal level, I’ve been striving to achieve the same individual form that I was hitting during my first tenure with NaVi. While most of this has been a psychological battle, the freedom of being able to grind FPL — and working to feel ‘comfortable’ with an AWP in my hands once again — has been a blessing. If I was to compare how I feel right now to my previous form, the Boston Major/Katowice era would be a fair reflection. So with that being said, I’m ready

GuardiaN competing for FaZe Clan.
ESL
During the majority of my time with FaZe, I feel like I consistently performed at a high level.

Why I’m ready to return to CS:GO

I’m ready to return to competing in CS:GO at the highest level. People might say that I’m old, but I think that age is just a number in CS. When I stood in for Dignitas during Flashpoint, there were glimpses of my old self, I felt it. But, as you’d guess, consistency was lacking. While I believe that even then, I could have slotted into a top-tier roster and still go toe-to-toe with the very best, I also think that the timing wasn’t right.

Fast-forward some months, and after watching the ‘online era’ of Counter-Strike unfold before me, I’m seeing mistakes being made at the highest level. Mistakes that I know I wouldn’t make. Saying that, I’m not expecting to come back and be the most consistent fragger on a team. But with the right team, I know that I can fill the void as a top-tier AWPer and grind to become one of the best snipers in CS:GO again. If my months grinding FPL have taught me one thing, it’s that adapting your style to make yourself more unpredictable (i.e., aggressively peeking an unexpected angle) will generally work in my favor.

In my opinion, playing FPL is much harder than against a team. Of course, in FPL, there’s nothing to lose, so players are willing to experiment and make plays they typically wouldn’t in a more structured, team-based setting. As an AWPer, this is often very difficult to play against. Especially with my approach — which is largely based on anticipating what my opposite number will do, and then put myself in a favorable position to do as much damage as possible. I’ve been playing CS:GO every day for the past six months, and individually speaking, I’m there. As I said, I feel like I’m getting back in my stride (comparable to my peak with FaZe). So for now, I’m just waiting for the right opportunity to arise which will allow me to be the right asset for my team.

GuardiaN competing for NaVi.
StarLadder
My form dipped during my second tenure with NaVi, which was primarily psychological.

Breaking my ‘Major curse’

Let’s address the elephant in the room… My Major ‘curse.’ During Cluj-Napoca, we just weren’t ready. Envy were our kryptonite during that tournament, and we just weren’t equipped to counter kennyS — especially on Cobblestone. During Columbus, I felt like there was next to nothing I could do to help my team perform when it mattered most. Nursing an injury meant that I was playing on a mouse sensitivity that threw everything out of the window. While our road to the Grand Final was smooth enough, when the Brazilians were firing on all cylinders, we were put under a level of pressure that we were unaccustomed to.

Then there was the infamous Boston Major. Under FaZe, I rediscovered my groove. As a squad, we peaked at the perfect time. It felt like we did everything right. And after Cloud9 dismantled FalleN and co. in the Semifinals, I finally felt like it was time to clinch my first Major… Turns out, the third time isn’t a charm after all. After we both traded map picks, the notorious double-overtime Inferno was a map I’d prefer to leave as a distant memory. At 15-11, we thought that we had it in the bag. But as C9 gained momentum, we began to seize up. The one-versus-two clutch to take the match to double-overtime was one of the most euphoric moments of my Counter-Strike career.

But it wasn’t enough. Again, we failed at the last hurdle. I failed. For the third time in a row, I watched another team lift the Major trophy. But this one stung. It was almost like we wanted to win too much, and we felt that pressure. And that’s exactly what shouldn’t happen in a situation like that. So, moving forward, if I’m lucky enough to find a team that soars to the pinnacle of CS:GO once again, I want to find teammates that will be able to stick to the game plan and take each round as it comes. That’s easier said than done, of course. But if I’ve learned one thing from my brief stint away from CS, it’s that the difference between becoming a Major winner or a runner-up is dictated by the finest of margins… And often, that can be something as trivial as staying head-strong in the face of adversity.

To understand the exact way a team should work, I always look to OG’s Dota 2 squad during the Grand Final of 2018’s ‘The International.’ Down 1-2 to PSG.LGD, they were getting destroyed and their fate appeared to be sealed. Yet they showed resilience, with the likes of Ceb remaining calm and collected, while N0tail continued to call the shots. And that’s exactly how a team should function in high-pressure situations like that. They shouldn’t fall apart like we did in the pivotal moments of a game, and ultimately, that’s what led OG to bag their legacy by winning two consecutive Internationals.

So I’m not just coming back to CS:GO to tick a box and earn a paycheck. It’s much, much more than that. I’m hungrier than ever; and I feel like with the right team, I can finally claim the elusive Major trophy and it will no longer be a case of ‘one that got away.’

Columns

Adam Fitch: Sorry Dr Disrespect, mobile esports are thriving

Published: 27/Nov/2020 17:00

by Adam Fitch

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Earlier in November 2020, streamer Dr Disrespect spoke down towards mobile gamers on Twitter by questioning how it could be a “serious thing” — however, he’s just failing to understand how popular competition on mobile already is.

While mobile gamers and industry figures alike came to the defense of mobile gaming when the Two-Time took aim at the platform, there’s still a serious misconception around mobile esports and the success it’s already achieved.

Firstly, it’s worthwhile addressing the “serious” comment from Doc. While mobile devices perhaps don’t allow for precision that PCs do, there’s still a major skill gap between average and professional players and that lends itself perfectly to competition. The most common and widely-accepted definition of esports is a “video game played competitively for spectators,” mobile tournaments meet such a criteria on a daily basis and it’s already serious to hundreds of thousands of viewers on a weekly basis.

This skepticism from one of the faces of gaming is emblematic of a larger problem of platform elitism that plagues gaming on all levels. Ever since the popularization of esports there has been debate between console and PC gaming, centering around not only which type of players are better but whether console esports have unfair advantages due to features such as aim assist.

Ezreal in League of Legends Wild Rift
Riot Games
The most popular esports title, League of Legends, arrived on mobile in October 2020.

Tribalism is also a factor in this spritely, never-ending discussion, with players grouping together based on their platform of choice and nonsensically taking aim at those who have other preferences.

The only time in which such a debate would be productive is if cross-platform play is embraced in serious competition, which seems to be a long way away from ever becoming a reality. Fortnite developers Epic Games received plenty of criticism when implementing this feature in casual play, never mind in their esports activities, so it’s probably safe to assume no companies are rushing to make this a reality for the time being.

Infrastructure matters

Something that all good games need to be viable on a competitive level is infrastructure. Creating an appropriate structure for esports initiatives is important, whether it’s by a game’s developer or a third-party tournament organizer.

A great example of this in the realm of mobile esports is Clash Royale, one of the more popular titles from Finnish developers Supercell. The real-time strategy game has its own official team-based league from the company themselves, with top-tier gameplay spanning nine weeks and culminating in a year-ending world championship. This level of support and structure actually goes beyond what some PC and console games receive.

On the third-party organizer front, especially in the West, you only have to look as far as ESL to see how seriously mobile esports is being taken. As well as hosting regular online events for the likes of Call of Duty: Mobile, Clash of Clans, Brawls Stars, and Clash Royale, they have the ESL Mobile Open for elite players.

Clash Royale League World Finals
Supercell
The Clash Royale League World Finals are always a spectacle, rivaling events in almost any other game.

Recently incorporating the Middle East and North Africa into the European arm of the competition, it’s said that ESL hosted over 500,000 players in the inaugural season alone. The second season involves PUBG Mobile, Auto Chess, Asphalt 9: Legends, and Clash of Clans, and will be expecting even more success with the widening of the player base.

In North America, the Mobile Open from ESL is already in its sixth season and has a headline sponsorship from the world’s largest telecommunications company, AT&T. There are other examples of infrastructure being fleshed out for mobile titles, but you get the gist.

A sight for sore eyes

One major factor of how we define success in esports is viewership. With a healthy amount of eyeballs on a product comes sponsorship opportunities, bragging rights, and further validation that fans are interested in watching the elite face off against each other.

With that in mind, it’s never been clearer that mobile esports isn’t just a major part of the future of the industry — it has already arrived. According to analytics agency Esports Charts, mobile events made up three of the five most popular tournaments in October 2020. This happened alongside the League of Legends World Championship taking place, which is not only one of the most anticipated occasions in the esports calendar but as it turned out to be one of the only LAN events we’d seen in six months.

Garena Free Fire
Garena
Free Fire hit a record of 100 million peak daily users earlier in 2020.

Asia and Latin America are where mobile esports are truly thriving at the moment, rivaling the popularity of any other title you decide to compare them with. This is proven from last month’s peak viewership statistics, where MOBA title Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and battle royale game Garena Free Fire occupied three of the top five placements.

Ryan ‘Fwiz’ Wyatt, the head of gaming at YouTube, posted a thread on Twitter on November 26 backed up the sheer popularity of Free Fire on the platform. In 2019, it was YouTube’s fourth most-viewed game and it’s proving to have some longevity considering its monthly viewership peaked in October 2020.

While this level of success isn’t replicated across all regions just yet, that’s how esports typically work. Call of Duty and Counter-Strike are mainly popular among those in North America and Europe, for example, which is reflected in the demographics of both the top-level players and the viewership alike. The same applies to mobile but it’s not an excuse for ignorance.

The future?

Mobile devices are generally more accessible than a high-end computer or new-generation gaming console so there’s a much higher ceiling on participation in mobile esports by default. Whether adoption from mobile users does indeed propel it into becoming the de facto competitive option is yet to be seen, but such potential can’t be ignored.

With viewership rivaling (and even oftentimes besting) that from console and PC esports alike, it’s sheer ignorance to state that mobile gaming isn’t already a major player in the industry. If you fail to see that from the investment that’s being funneled into mobile titles, or the number of people who already enjoy playing and spectating, then perhaps you’d like to argue that grass isn’t green too.