Personally, I’ve spent hours watching European CS:GO online, following the European scene and of course always drawing comparisons to our own scene and examining what makes them so much better. Naturally the thoughts of larger communities, more opportunities, and that their scene has existed for many years were all formulated from merely following online. On the other hand, we had our fair share of comparisons whenever we sent a South African team across to any major tournament and they failed to perform adequately. What a lot of people didn’t understand is just how good and experienced the European scene is, and that was something I was fortunate enough to witness first hand this past weekend in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Europe understands eSports
It all began at the airport while I waited for my bags and was treated to a Dreamhack Masters advert played on a loop on the TV screens around the baggage area. From there it was people recognizing the logos of sponsors on my jackets, and the general public understanding when you say “we’re here for CS:GO competition.” Europe understands eSports, and they endorse it wherever possible. At the actual competition, fans of all genders, ages and cultures flocked to the competitive area to watch the teams play, asking for signatures of professional players and coaches. This was a surreal feeling for me as I felt welcome in a place where eSports is noticed.
Prior to the competition, I joined the Energy eSports team at Let’s Play, an internet café in the middle of town. Internet cafés died out in South Africa when the internet became more accessible, but in Europe, some gamers have to book weeks in advance in order to get a seat at their favourite internet café. The café was packed and open 24 hours a day. Everyone there understood eSports and were eager to hear more about South African eSports – and to say the least, we felt welcome.
Practice makes perfect
The Energy eSports squad spent several days practicing at Let’s Play against what can only be described as tier 3/4 teams. They joined an active Facebook group where teams from all over Europe posted by the hour asking for practice matches. These teams were far from the best in Europe, but these games were tough. The teams were also willing to allow each other to practice site executions, and certain strategies, something I’m told rarely happens in South African practice games. Energy did struggle in these practice matches, which already made them well aware that in Europe, almost every “amateur” team is still a force to be reckoned with.
Another important aspect which I noticed was just how many players play deathmatch. Deathmatch is a mode where you spawn instantly upon death and run around getting as many kills as you can. What I noticed is that Europeans love death match, and the servers are always full. Deathmatch is an extremely important aspect of practice as it aids your reaction time, situational awareness and aim. In South Africa, we barely have proper deathmatch servers, which is a major problem on its own.
The importance of an in-game leader and roles
In between matches I was lucky enough to stand behind Casper “cadian” Møller as he led his mixed team out of the group stages. I’ve always understood the importance of an IGL, but when I saw how cadian controls the game from the center it all became so much clearer. He’s constantly keeping everyone motivated between rounds. His calls are precise, and his control is felt. He knows what’s happening on every member’s screen, he keeps them in check and ensures their executions are perfect. If things didn’t go according to plan he very rarely yelled and instead kept them motivated and focused on improving in the succeeding rounds. What this truly created was an aura of trust among players. They trusted each other to get the job done. They didn’t hold one bombsite feeling as if they’d need to aid their teammates in the opposite bombsite because they trusted their teammates to get the job done.
When you have a proper IGL the game becomes relatively simple. For example, an entry fragger (the guy who walks into the bombsite first and clears it) should ideally focus on nothing else but his screen, not even the mini-map. He needs to be dialed in at all times finding those tiny pixels on his screen to take them out of the round.
The AWP is also a much more important role in Europe as it often opens up the map for any team who has a capable player who knows how to use the AWP. It’s a one-shot kill and 9 times out 10 with a confident AWP, your entire round can change. While I’m not doubting South African teams have great in-game leaders, it was this experience that made me aware of just how important a knowledgeable and calm in-game leader is. Standing behind him made me want to be better at everything.
Punishable by death
In the upper echelons of European CS:GO, you dare not make a mistake. Their game awareness is unrivaled at all levels and one simple slip up will cost you a round. You make a false step somewhere you will be flashed or grenaded where you stand. They know their angles, they know their timings and their ability to adapt to any situation at any time in the game is what I felt created this large disparity between Energy and the other European teams at the Copenhagen Games.
Our aim was not the problem No, it came down to inexperience and their superior tactics and game knowledge. When we managed to get an execution off we found ourselves in a much better position to hold it together and take a round, but again their knowledge of flashbangs and smokes often caught our players off guard with their masterful use of a blend of patience and aggression.
Patience and Aggression
As mentioned above, with great game knowledge comes a nightmare for South Africans. The European teams know exactly when to play aggressive, and when to be patient. Often they have a unique ability to gather information while not giving much away. They will very rarely peek and try take a duel, and if they do, they make damn well sure they trade those frags. Their aggression on the Terrorist side is something spectacular to see. They trade effectively and know just when to push, and when to hold back and post. As Counter-Terrorists, their retake abilities are almost like clockwork with each player working as one unit to retake a site. This was one thing I noticed almost immediately was how they retook a site as one unit while Energy offered very little aggression after the plant.
How did Energy do?
Honestly, they did okay. I’m not going to sit here and make excuses like the fact that half the team was extremely ill, but instead, they learned a lot about just how tough the scene in Europe really is. Their first game was great. You could see they were nervous, and it did cost them a winnable game after losing 16-14. They then went on to defeat a second Danish team 16-7 but, unfortunately, met their first opponents again and lost 16-7 to OBEY.
Kas “CAWA” Ahmad and I tried our best to keep the guys motivated, but we both soon realized that their communication was lacking and the illness of certain players began taking its toll. In the B Tournament, we progressed further in the rounds as teams forfeited, which meant their first game would be against a really strong Swedish team, which ended in a loss. In the lower bracket, it was clear that team morale was low and that’s where Energy found their exit out of the competition.
In the past, I felt I had the answers to just how we can improve and make it to that level, but after visiting Europe and witnessing first hand just how dedicated the teams are, I’m afraid I’m out of options. Really the only way we can progress now is creating a similar scenario, as in Europe, where our country understands and supports eSports. The competitive scene needs to grow to a point where the leaders of the major teams create an environment where others can learn and lead as well.
Once tournaments get larger, the higher tier teams will rather play in the bigger competitions while allowing up and coming teams to play in smaller ones and still make some money. It’s going to take time and a lot of money, but I personally feel we are on the way. This needs to be a wake-up call to all teams who would rather play casual maps and matchmaking as opposed to finding matches against better teams and these better teams allowing them to properly practice without running over them every round.
It’s time we put egos aside and instead offered assistance wherever we can.
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Last Updated: March 30, 2016