ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 29: Fans react during the ELEAGUE: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Major Championship finals at Fox Theater on January 29, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

With COVID-19 forcing many of us into quarantine, lots of people are scouring the internet looking for entertainment. Sports fans have really been left out in the lurch with the NHL, MLB, NBA, Golf, MLS, and NASCAR all on hiatus during the lockdown. In the absence of traditional sports, many people are finding esports for the first time. To help welcome the uninitiated, we’re running a series of primers to get you ready to watch. Today, we tackle one of the oldest esports out there with a beginner’s guide to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

A brief history of Counter-Strike

Any beginner’s guide to Counter-Strike must start with the game’s rich history. It wouldn’t be an understatement to say you could write an entire series of articles on Counter-Strike by itself. The franchise has a storied history running all the way back to the year 2000. It was born as a mod of the popular game Half-Life, which was created by Valve. It’s worth noting that Valve was new to game development at the time Today, we know Valve best as the creators of Steam, a virtual platform that millions of people use to buy, download, and play games.

Half-life marked Valve’s first major breakout hit, and the modding community was quick to develop new concepts for it. One of those mods was a simple two team game, where players either played as terrorists or counter-terrorists. Minh Le and Jess Cliffe created the mod, which quickly took off in populartiy. If you remember a group of guys in college wiring their computers together to play a game in the 2000’s, it was probably Counter-Strike. The game has gone through many iterations, and today it’s known as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

The rules

On the surface, Counter-Strike is a very simple game. There are up to 30 rounds in a match, and the first team to win 16 rounds claims victory. In tournament play, teams typically have to win a best 2 out of 3, or 3 out of 5. So what does a round consist of? Two teams of five play as either terrorists or counter-terrorists. The terrorists win if they can eliminate the counter-terrorist side or plant a bomb and have it detonate. The counter-terrorists can win by either defusing the bomb, or eliminating the terrorist side before the bomb is planted.

ATLANTA, GA – JANUARY 29: A general view of play during the ELEAGUE: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Major Championship finals at Fox Theater on January 29, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Based on that, Counter-Strike would seem to be a very simple game. The strategy comes from the fact that what happens in one round will carry over the next. Players must purchase the equipment they wish to use at the beginning of the round. If you survive the previous round, you get to keep your gear. A death means you must purchase everything from scratch. Managing your bank of money (called economy) is key in Counter-Strike. After 15 rounds the players switch sides, and their economy is reset.

What should you expect when watching?

A full game of pro Counter-Strike is not a short experience in terms of esports. While it’s not the three to four hour marathon that Football or Baseball can be, it’s definitely long. An average match of Counter-Strike lasts about 45 minutes. Given that tournament play is typically best 2 out of 3, you should expect to watch between 90 minutes and 2 hours. A tournament doesn’t typically run for just a single day however. More commonly, they run for a full weekend or even a week.

Counter-strike is a very intimidating game when you first start watching. Players seem to operate on instinct, knowing exactly where they need to go and what to do. As with learning any new sport, you should endeavor to pay attention to what the casting team is telling you. Counter-Strike is fortunate enough to have some of the best casters in all of esports. This is likely born out of the long life-span of Counter-Strike.

How to watch

As for when to tune in, Counter-Strike shares a lot in common with Golf. It’s not like League of Legends or Overwatch where there is a set schedule of weekly matches. Instead, Counter-Strike’s season is a collection of tournaments where teams earn points to qualify for the championship. You can find a schedule of tournaments to watch here. Tournaments are typically carried live at their Twitch channel, with highlights and reruns available on Youtube. I hope you enjoyed our Beginner’s Guide to Counter-Strike. Tune in next time when we’ll break down Overwatch!

Looking for something to do while under quarantine? Check out the Shutdown Showdown! It’s a charity APEX Legends tournament benefiting No Kid Hungry. The tournaments are running on Tuesdays throughout April with proceeds going to charity. It’s just $10 to enter and you can enter solo or with your friends. Check it out here!

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A Beginner’s Guide To Esports: League of Legends

Lead Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images