Jess Colwill, December 26, 2016

The Biggest CS:GO Stories of 2016

Every day this week we're taking a look back at the biggest stories of the year in esports, starting with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. 2016 saw more premier-tier CS:GO tournaments than ever before, which led to some slightly awkward moments that hinted at oversaturation, perhaps most notably when Astralis and OpTic played each other in two major finals in the space of a week.

Fortunately, though, 2016 also brought with it a greater sense of competition among the top organisations, with pretty much all the best teams capable of beating each other, which helped mitigate the excess. Away from competitions itself, meanwhile, it was a tumultuous time...

Skin in the Game

When you start reading about your favorite esports title in the mainstream news, you know that it’s either because something wonderful happened, or because some new controversy is unfolding. Unfortunately, this year it was the latter, with the practice of "skin betting" in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive dominating headlines for several months.

Things kicked off when a class-action lawsuit was raised against Valve, alleging that they were essentially facilitating a worldwide black market gambling ring by allowing users to bet the equivalent of real money through third-party websites. Though the lawsuit was later dismissed outright, it did spark the investigation of several YouTubers who had been spruiking one of the most popular sitesand were later revealed to secretly be the site owners and operators. Whoops.

Counter-Strike: Go Skin Gambling

Even the government got involved, with the Washington State Gambling Commission ruling that skin betting was illegal and publicly demanding Valve take “whatever action is necessary” to shut it down. Valve hit back, saying they were doing as much as they could, and questioning whether it was worth shutting down the majority of Steam’s OpenID-related services just to stop skin betting.

That particular beef between Valve and the Commission remains unresolved for now, but it’s worth reading Unikrn co-founder Rahul Sood’s take on the matter for more context on how esports gambling works and what more can be done.

Coaches out of the Game

Valve upset a lot of pro teams this year when they turned the usual format on its head and ordered that coaches, an invaluable team resource, would no longer be allowed to communicate with their teams during the game.

Claiming that coaches were effectively functioning as a “sixth player” and not “solely as a source of guidance or training,” Valve booted coaches out and forced them to communicate only during breaks and timeouts.

The decision was immediately adopted by the ESL but many players reacted extremely harshly to it, including Fnatic’s Dennis “dennis” Edman who called it “the stupidest decision ever.” So far, however, it seems the decision has stuck, with Valve refusing to back down and most criticism seeming to fade away. Only time will tell!

Snax’s Incredible 4v1 Pistol Clutch

The final rounds of the ESL One New York CS:GO tournament in October were packed to the brim with incredible moments, but our favorite was the astonishing 4v1 pistol clutch of Virtus.pro’s Janusz “Snax” Pogorzelski. Check out the video below and watch the crowd go wild.

Unfortunately, this mind-blowing play would not be enough for Virtus to take down Na’Vi, who ended up clinching the best-of-three contest to take home $125,000 in prizes. Still, perhaps Virtus had the real victorythe one that would stick in everyone’s minds all year. Great work Snax!

Pay-to-Spray Leaves Players Infuriated

No roundup of the year’s Counter-Strike events would be complete without talking about the unfortunate mess around paid sprays, another highly controversial Valve decision. Sprays have of course existed in Counter-Strike since forever, available to promote all manner of amusing (or horribly offensive) imagery on the walls of de_dust and every other map around.

Global Offensive, however, took sprays awayand then this year, Valve decided to bring them back as a paid, limited-use feature. Understandably, everybody was quite upset about this, especially when popular sprays started reaching anywhere upwards of $30 on the Steam Marketplace. The idea of paying $30 for 50 uses of one spray, when the entire featured used to be free, was never going to be well received.

The sprays also raised game balance concerns, with transparency issues allowing some players to hide behind them and be invisible to players on the other side while still having perfect vision, or tricking enemy team members into firing at sprays that resemble players at a quick glance.

That Time Selfless Took out an Entire Enemy Team with Tasers

Let’s wrap-up our wrap-up on a high note and look back at the incredible Dreamhack Austin 2016 Closed Qualifier, when Selfless defeated newcomers Bootyclappers to win a best-of-three round using only Zeus tasers.

Selfless Gaming

Already one game ahead in the round and confident that Bootyclappers didn’t pose a serious threat, Selfless used their eco round to purchase the Zeus taser. The idea was proposed by coach Steve “Ryu” Rattacasa, who had noticed that Bootyclappers were playing very defensively and believed that they could lure them out with a series of slow, baiting advances that would force them into ill-advised attacks... and it worked. Watch the video below and end the Counter-Strike year with a bang (or a fizzle).


Jess Colwill

Jess is a writer and dog-lover from the eastern coast of Australia, who loves playing games (particularly anything by BioWare), listening to metal, baking, and fostering rescue dogs while they wait for new homes. You can find her on Twitter at @notsocryptic.