Counter-Strike: Global Lockdown

Aug 20 2020 5 min read
Credit: miroha

Even esports wasn't able to escape the Covid-19 pandemic. Though the effects have mostly seemed negative, some good has come from Counter-Strike: Global Lockdown

It's safe to say that 2020 has been a decade thus far. The Covid-19 pandemic has made its presence known in every industry everywhere. Esports, contrary to popular belief, is no exception to that rule. While competitions have continued following a transition to online play, we've seen some changes in the scene.

BIG win DreamHack Open Summer 2020

Repetitiveness within the scene

Production quality has remained impressively high in these online tournaments, but the global lockdown has created very repetitive regional matchups. It feels like every time you open HLTV you see FURIA Esports facing off against Evil Geniuses, Gambit Youngsters vs. forZe, ORDER and Avant Gaming, etc.

With the same matches presenting themselves every other week, a sense of redundancy is slowly but surely creeping into the CS fanbase's minds. No one takes online CS very seriously; a LAN victory has always had more prestige tied to it. But what happens when online CS is all we have? Is one tournament victory worth more than another? When six or seven of the eight teams attending are the same, we begin to feel disinterested. Sure, more prize money may be up for grabs in tournament A vs. tournament B, but when teams aren't showing consistent form, there's not much to be excited about. It feels like we're trapped inside of Valve's latest "Operation Groundhog Day", where everything feels vaguely the same every week. 

While it's already been difficult for viewers, the adaptation to online play has been colossal for players. Many pros are feeling flat in this era and that lack of motivation could be very harmful in the long-run. 

nitr0 Team Liquid

Who are we scrimming tonight?

The other issue tied to a lack of opponents is a small pool of teams to practice with. While it hasn't been felt quite as much in Europe and the CIS, this situation's effects have been very noticeable in NA, SA, Asian and Oceania.

The list of tier one and two teams in NA isn't very long: EG, FURIA, Team Liquid, Gen.G Esports, Cloud9, 100 Thieves, Team Envy… All these teams are facing each other both in practice and in official matches. It becomes nearly impossible for them to keep strategies in their back pockets. Given that they're all so familiar with one another, matches look much more chaotic as teams play based on their opponents' tendencies. Tendencies that they wouldn't know so well if they weren't facing the same seven teams multiple times per week. This only deepens that feeling of staleness for both the players and viewers.

Oceania faces the same issues. Renegades is the clear-cut favorite in any domestic matchup, but even as the best team in the region, it's only a matter of time before teams take maps off of them. ORDER and Avant have looked strong in 2020, Chiefs Esports Club, Ground Zero Gaming and Rooster all have pretty good lineups, but realistically no one has any business challenging Renegades. In a region that has historically been very isolated from the rest of the world, ANZ has always benefited from hosting events like IEM Sydney or from having Renegades/100T going and competing abroad, bringing back new ideas whenever they'd go home. 

Renegades DreamHack Open Leipzig 2020

Though there are many Asian teams, the continent is vast and internet connections are very uneven. A team playing from Mongolia won't have a good connection to servers compared to a roster from Singapore. Events like eXTREMESLAND, WESG and IEM allow teams from Asia and abroad to compete against each other, thus shaping the region's meta. LANs were a vital breeding ground for new ideas between Asian and ANZ teams as both regions are very geographically challenged. 

Things aren't all bad, however. While we've seen a dip in performance from some of our favorite teams, having everyone stuck at home has allowed lower tier teams to practice more. Chaos Esports Club, Triumph and even New England Whalers have looked promising this year. Scrimming against teams of a much higher level has proven beneficial for both parties. The tier one teams have new opposition to try stuff on, thus not revealing their secrets to direct rivals. The smaller teams can gain incredible experience they might not have gotten if Liquid and co. were traveling abroad. You really can't overstate how invaluable that practice is for those smaller teams. It has allowed the hard workers to improve at a monumental rate, one they wouldn't have achieved in any other scenario. 

At the end of the day

While it's still not great for mental health, staying cooped up at home has given professional players a break from all the traveling. Burnout is a genuine situation in our industry and, thankfully, it's being taken more and more seriously. With the much-needed player break now coming to an end, hopefully, the play level will begin going up again as players have recharged their batteries.

Things haven't been great this year, but esports has been fortunate enough to go on despite everything. While we've felt the negative consequences of online play, we're also discovering its benefits. It might not always feel exhilarating, but we're still fortunate to watch matches from our favorite game from the comfort of our own home. The issues our scene is facing aren't major when it comes down to it. Most of them will be resolved naturally once a return to LAN is possible and things begin to return to normal. Until the elusive ESL One: Rio 2020 Major happens, be sure to wash your hands frequently and wear a mask when in a public space. 


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