Back in my day – a quick trip down CS memory lane
Now that the Dust has settled on the announcement of Counter-Strike 2, I decided it would be a good shout for my next blog to be about the origins of Counter-Strike and my memories of those early days on the server. What it has resulted in is a nostalgic trip back in time. Let’s turn the clock back 23 years!
Let’s start in Berlin. It was July 8th, in the year 2000, and I was lost among 1,300,000 people for the biggest gathering of ravers, shape throwers, and glowstick-wielding party people: the Love Parade. The streets of Berlin were packed with people, young and old, blowing whistles, dancing, and partying like there was no tomorrow. What a time it was to be 18, full of energy, and around over a million party people.
However, that energy does need to run out at some point, and even if I did think it was inexhaustible, I needed to take a breather in the early hours of the morning. I remember I was sitting outside a post office, coming down off a whole day and night of ‘throwing shapes’, when a group of fellow revellers around my age sat down beside me, and we struck up a conversation. I am unsure where the conversation started, but it very quickly got onto gaming. At the time, not unlike now, I was playing a lot of video games. It would be fair to say my life revolved around it. It did not matter if it was consoles, handhelds, or PC, my spare time was going into gaming. Quake, Unreal Tournament, and Soldier of Fortune were my staples around that time, but there was a game which has captivated me like no other before. Half-Life. It was a story-driven first-person shooter title released on the PC.
While I could spend the rest of this blog writing about how amazing it was to first step into a HEV Suit for the first time (that’s the Hazardous EnVironment suit for those unfamiliar with Gordon Freeman’s exploits into Black Mesa), it is what Half-Life the game brought with it that excited me. Myself and hundreds of thousands of other gamers were captivated by the multiplayer aspect of Half-Life. More accurately put, its modifications, add-ons, and community-made content that were being created. This was a time when fans of the game were embracing the fact that they could use toolsets provided by the original developer of games like Half-Life to make whole new creations and then provide them to the community to play, engage with, and feedback on what they liked, loved, and made their own.
One of these mods was called Counter-Strike. It was a team-based game where you played as either Terrorists or Counter-Terrorists and, unlike Half-Life, it was grounded with real-world guns and maps, and it was fast-paced and extremely tactical. Coming back to Berlin and the conversations with my fellow gamers from different parts of the world, a few being from the US and Canada and a few local to Berlin. One of us mentioned Counter-Strike. This being 23 years ago, my memory is a little fuzzy as to who mentioned it first. But what I can remember is that we all became very excited and animated about this particular mod. Not all of us had heard of it. I seem to recall one guy who did not have a PC and tried to steer the conversation back to Mario Kart. That did not happen. We stayed on CS, and our energy levels had gone from zero to around 1.6 very quickly. At the time, CS was only in early BETA and growing via word of mouth on forums, IRC, and ICQ chats and now seemingly on the streets of Berlin after a million people had finished raving and were looking for recommendations as to where to get some good breakfast before heading back to their hostel to sleep for a few days straight!
One thing worth noting about this era of PC gaming is that this was before the release of STEAM and before high-speed internet access. So unlike now, where you have a client that ensures your versions of the games you play are up to date while you are sleeping, logging into the lobby knowing you are using the same version as everyone else you want to play with, this was a time where you had to download the exes and maps yourself and ensure you had the right assets installed, especially if there was a new map which was the talk of the community. I digress! Which is very easy to do when talking about Counter-Strike, especially on what it was like ‘back in my day!’
But out of over a million people, who were now heading back to their dorms, hostels, and hotels, and the streets were being cleared and cleaned, a chance meeting with some gamers who knew of Counter-Strike was pretty special. My memory fails me on maps available at that time, but I am pretty sure Tire, Desert, and Mansion came up in discussion. Mostly maps which were retired in later releases, but they felt incredible at the time. Being on forums and likes of IRC, ICQ, and ultimately Counter-Strike.net and CS-Nation, noting what was dropped in game chat between rounds and geeking out at LANs was how we found out what the best servers were, which maps were hot, and which teams were being formed that were owning the servers. It was a time when those individuals who made the maps were the rock stars of the scene. This was a golden age of community with competitive video gaming, and I firmly believe it was the birthplace of esports.
So what made Counter-Strike so exciting and drew players away from the likes of Team Fortress and Quake? For myself, it was how quickly you fell into the tactics needed to enjoy the game to its fullest. Going from rocket jumping over gibs on Claustrophobopolis (for the OG Quake fans 😉 ) to sneaking and peaking around de_dust felt like such a leap forward in terms of how a competitive first-person shooter could not only be played but also spectated! You could witness legends being born, players who would go on to dominate the server, form their own teams, and ultimately Orgs.
If I am losing you with this terminology, I apologize. I would recommend checking out some of our guides elsewhere here on TEN.gg. But if you are familiar with CS or even just competitive video gaming, I am sure you can relate and understand how easy it is to get excited about ‘the good old days’ of a scene you have followed and been passionate about for so long.
Personally, I was never any good at CS, not to the standard where anyone would A) want to watch me play or B) rush to have me on their team. Well, not a team that did not enjoy goofing around on a train and getting lost in the tunnels for the hundredth time (RIP de_railroad)!
While I could continue a trip down memory lane, there is a real danger of going off-topic and ending up reminiscing about having the best post-Love Parade Bauernfrüstück in Berlin. That is not likely what you are here for or why the guys at TEN hired me!
Someone who knows better than anyone what the community aspect was like back then and how important it was to the development of the game is Minh ‘Gooseman’ Le, the architect and creator of Counter-Strike. He designed and programmed the entire game. I recently asked him what his fondest memories were 23 years ago when Counter-Strike was born.
Minh Le said, “My fondest memory of working with CS was being able to work with so many talented level designers that contributed to the success of CS. It was an absolute pleasure coming up with cool scenarios and helping to balance the levels. Initially, CS was never intended to be an esports game, but as it became more popular, we had to design our maps to fit the needs of the esports community.”
With regard to working closely with the community and fans, Minh Le shared this with me:
“It required me to work closely with the players and the level designers in order to design a well-balanced game experience. The success of CS is due in large part to the various input we received from the players that allowed the development team to shape the game to best suit the needs of the esports scene.”
To say I was excited to chat with Gooseman about this is an understatement. He is rightfully seen as one of the greatest video game designers of all time, and his contribution to esports should not be forgotten or understated.
Here in our TEN.GG directory, we have Orgs that have some of the best Counter-Strike players in the world on their rosters. Our management team is made up of recognized and respected individuals who were involved in running some of the most epic CS Majors in the history of Counter-Strike. But it has been over 20 years since Counter-Strike was released, and since then, it evolved, as it needed to, into Source, CS:GO, and now Counter-Strike 2. A new generation of players and fans are shaping that evolution and its community, with a large majority of them not even born when Counter-Strike was originally created. As the sun begins to set on CS:GO and the dawn of CS2 begins, being both the same but oh so new, Counter-Strike will continue to be one of the most important games in my history of esports and video gaming.