Counter Strike: My Odyssey

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Recently I have gotten back into playing my favorite video game of all time: Counter Strike.

I first played Counter Strike in 2001 or something like that, back when I was in elementary school. It was at my neighbor Tony’s place and I was so terrible at the game. But of course I loved it and I just wanted to play it all the time. Too bad I didn’t have a good enough computer back then to do so. If I wanted to game it had to be next door at Tony’s, which also meant I was on his computer, and that I was stealing it from him.

So naturally, I didn’t get to play that much.

Fast forward to the high school years and a newer version of Counter Strike had been released, and at this point I was using it to just play around on the Zombie Mod mini-game. I loved this game mode. It sadly doesn’t really exist anymore, but times change.

Back then for the majority of players, Counter Strike was all about the mini game experience. But with the newest iteration of Counter Strike: Global Offensive, the game became very competitive based, with dedicated servers for matchmaking.

Now there had been a pro scene in Counter Strike for many many years but the way you played it was very disorganized. There were independent leagues with their own servers that would set up the games and players would drive to attend the events. The parent company, Valve really had little to nothing to do with the professional aspect of the sport.

But with the new game it all changed. Valve became much more active in the sport and started organizing major tournaments. Money began to flow into the sport and betting on the matches started happening.

This caused Counter Strike to explode.

Within the span of two years the game went from having 2 million active players to 12 million active players. Everyone wanted a piece of Counter Strike, and everyone was trying to be a professional player.

Myself included.

In fact I was so gung-ho on this endeavor of mine that when I received my Masters Degree I informed the announcer to speak that I was going on to pursue my goal as a twitch streamer and a semi-professional Counter Strike player.

My friends in the crowd went wild, and the adults were also confused, but only the ones that didn’t know me.

Over the years I decided to move on from twitch and pursue new interests, but Counter Strike has always come back to me. Mostly because I set a goal that I have yet to have actually hit, well legitimately.

In Counter Strike there is a rank titled “The Global Elite.” It is an extremely coveted rank that only belongs to the top 0.5% or so of all Counter Strike players worldwide. It truly is an achievement to get this rank. For years I have wanted to get this rank more than anything. I want to be the best, and this rank is indicative that you truly are the best.

There actually was a time at one point that I was a Global Elite, but sadly it turned out that one of my teammates, and honestly our best player, was a cheater and when he was caught, the rest of us on the team lost our ranks.

That hurt.

To get to the top, but then have it taken away. But honestly, we all knew that we weren’t really that good. I mean, we were good players, but not Globals. We knew that Chico was the reason we got that rank. He carried us to the win and saved us from losing so many games that without him we would have lost otherwise. There were times that we were suspicious of his plays, and that he was cheating, but we trusted him as we had become friends.

He always denied his cheating.

But when he got caught, that was it. He deleted us all from his friends list and never spoke to us ever again. The team then disbanded and we went our separate ways. But after that I always wanted to reclaim my place at the top, but this time do it legitimately.

Over the years I tried so hard to make it to the top, and a few times I got pretty close. I hit the Legendary Eagle Master rank twice, (top 3.5-6%) before and after the dreaded “De-rankening” where Valve stripped everyone of their ranks and forced everyone to re-rank based on a new point system as the ranks had become way too inflated.

I had proven to myself multiple times that I was a good player, but yet the Global Elite rank still evaded me.

And there were many reasons why I never got it, but it really always boiled down to focus. There were jobs I was working, or I was studying for school, or I was hanging out with friends, dating, etc. But a major distraction that I never fully realized until recently was my twitch stream. While this has been the basis of my Counter Strike playing, namely live-streaming it to the world to see, it was also a major problem for rank placement.

To play Counter Strike effectively, especially at high ranks, you must be completely in tune with the game: focusing on every aspect, the footsteps of enemy players, the mini-map, your spray control, and proper grenade usage. The moment you are talking to your fans and putting on a literal show while trying to play competitively, you already have your head in two different places.

This was not conducive to getting wins.

Every time I streamed I always played worse than if the camera was off. While some people might say that was because I was nervous in front of an audience, I disagree. I really don’t care if people see me lose a game and say I suck, but what I did care was if fans were typing to me and that if I didn’t respond quickly enough to their comments that they would leave my show and stop watching me because in their eyes,

“I didn’t care about them.”

And every fan really counts in twitch because the more people watching your exponentially increases your exposure to potential new fans. And when they leave it also exponentially decreases your exposure as well. There were definitely times I felt a little bit hostage to my own show. Yes, I wanted to win the game, but more importantly I wanted to put on a show for fans and grow my audience.

This time around I had retired from streaming, yet the fire to get The Global Elite was rekindled in me. The way it happened was at an office meeting last week. Brad Pearson, an absolutely stellar Real Estate Agent for Coldwell Banker came to our office and gave us a motivational speech which truly fired me up. He talked about being the best and how to be the best, and it resonated.

I want to the best. And I’m going to do what I need to become that.

After the speech I had the pleasure of chatting with him for a bit about our hobbies and what not and he revealed to me his love of cars and how spending his money that he makes on the cars that he loves is awesome to him as they are a sort of goal. (Note, I am paraphrasing and extracting from what I got out of the conversation.) It got me thinking throughout the day that work is great, and that I want to be an amazing Real Estate Agent, but what other goals do I really have?

Hitting The Global Elite Rank.

So this week I decided I really did want to get back on the horse and start playing. But the first thing I noticed was how hard the game was. I used to be so good at the game but I had truly lost so much skill. In fact I was ranked at Silver Elite Master, one of the lower ranks of the game.

I really had a long road set ahead of me.

But the good news is that I have started to rank up and I have successfully broken out of the lower ranks by getting to Gold Nova. But I still have a long way to get to the upper ranks starting with Master Guardian Elite. I can do it, but I need to seriously practice. Counter Strike players are hardcore. The best go into deathmatch servers every single day and work on their aim, a sort of virtual driving range if you will for people unfamiliar with the sport.

For a few days this past week I had not been doing deathmatch. I just decided to practice on bots and do some other light warm ups, but really it was not enough. There were many games where I just ended up losing out completely and not moving up the ladder. So last night I decided to deathmatch for over an hour, and the results were tremendous. The game I played right after I dropped over 40 kills.

I dropped the 40 bomb.

In Counter Strike, 30 kills is an amazing game, referred to as the 30 bomb. If a player gets 40 kills in a game, that just does not happen. Clearly the deathmatch practice came in clutch.

Now I know what I must do if I am going to get The Global Elite. I have to practice every day for at least an hour in deathmatch and seriously commit my energies to focusing on improving my aim skill. Just playing game after game without practicing the fundamentals will not make me any better, in fact I bet that it will make me worse.

But deathmatch pits you against the best players in the game over and over again without end until you want to exit the server, and as such you are forced to work on your fundamentals, or lest you are just repeatedly killed by players better than you.

And that is often how the deathmatches start. I get trucked by player after player until I start to find my groove, but then I get rolling and I start dropping people left and right. Once I feel comfortable it is time to go into the game and then get that actually competitive victory that moves me onwards towards the rank that I want.

Getting The Global Elite is going to be a tough journey, I know it, and not just because of the skilled players, but also because of the cheaters. Unfortunately there are way too many cheating players out there that make getting the high rank extremely difficult, and I would know I played with one unbeknownst to me in the past, but I won’t let this stop me.

Even more so do the cheaters make me want to prevail and gain The Global Elite rank. To show that despite the odds, and all the cheaters, that it is possible to prevail and be the best. The rest will make excuses as to why they could never be the top, but the best don’t.

The best prevail.

And that is what I will do.

 

Keep Smiling,

Nolan

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