For some reason, an image commemorating the 17th anniversary of Counter-Strike has been making the social media rounds. I don’t remember this being a thing last year, and why is Year 17 so special? Why not wait until the 20th anniversary? Are we going to do this again next year, during the game’s 18th anniversary?
You know what? It doesn’t matter. Seeing the image being circulated took me back to my Counter-Strike playing days and I’d like to share my thoughts and experiences with what is arguably the most popular game of it’s time.
I was in first year college when I started playing LAN games in network cafes. My classmates were really into StarCraft but I was never really good at it. Usually, my forces get whittled down to the point of irrelevance. One day, I was eliminated in a session that was still in its early stages. Since I had nothing else to do, I decided to look at the other games that were available. And that’s when i discovered Quake II. I got my friends to try a round and pretty soon, Quake II had become the game of choice whenever the group decided to play network games.
But network gaming never really became a thing for us until we discovered Counter-Strike. Unlike Quake II’s free-for-all death match mode, we found Counter-Strike’s team-based gameplay more engaging due to several factors. First, the mechanics of Counter-Strike were simpler and easier to grasp. You basically had your knife, your secondary and primary weapons, and your grenades – very different from other FPS games at the time which had you cycling from 0-9. The use of real world weapons and uniforms added to the game’s appeal.
Counter-Strike also had a mechanic for rewarding individual achievements, giving you money for each kill and everytime you complete a mission objective. Money carries over succeeding rounds, and is used to buy better weapons and equipment. Also, staying alive in Counter-Strike is very important. Unlike in the other popular first person shooters (FPS) where you’d just respawn after a certain wait time, when you die in Counter-Strike you won’t respawn until the start of the next round AND you lose your weapons and equipment. Staying alive means you get more money, you get to keep your current equipment, and you maximize your play time.
But what I think really got us into Counter-Strike was the game’s focus on team play and team success. All the other popular FPS games back then were free-for-all matches where the focus is to get the most number of kills per session, but in Counter-Strike there’s fulfillment in being part of the winning team (and you get even more money). So there’s a cooperative aspect to playing Counter-Strike because your team can’t consistently win if you don’t have enough teamwork. And you can taste success even if you’re not the best player, something that is hard to get from the other FPS games at the time.
Counter-Strike pretty much became our favorite pastime. Soon, more network cafes opened up and Counter-Strike was being played in all of them – my generation’s equivalent of DOTA. But of course, all good things must come to an end and we eventually moved onto other games and other hobbies.
But that’s not where my Counter-Strike story ends. A few years after graduating from college, I started hanging out with my old high school friends every Sunday. I don’t know how it started, but one day we just decided to try playing Counter-Strike again. This time around, there was a new version of the game – Counter-Strike: Source.
By this time, Counter-Strike wasn’t that popular anymore so there was barely anyone else playing it. This changed the game for us – without others to play with, we decided to team up against AI-controlled bots and not having to compete with other people made the experience purely a cooperative one.
Just because we weren’t competing with real persons doesn’t mean that our sessions were easy. It was usually three or four of us against a squad of ten to twelve to make our games challenging, And whenever we’d up the difficulty level of the AI, we’d really need to be tight with our teamwork in order to squeeze out wins. It wasn’t rare for us to end a session winning only a handful of rounds but because we weren’t competing against other people, losing didn’t hurt our egos much.
One of my favorite Counter-Strike: Source moments was when one of my friends had this idea of going against a huge squad of AI bots (twenty or more) set at the highest difficulty. But we limited the bots to just knives, so it felt like we were up against a horde of fast-running “zombies”. This changed our game experience completely, making it more frantic in a way. This was months, maybe even years before Left 4 Dead came out.
And of course, we moved on from Counter-Strike: Source eventually (we moved on to playing Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2, to be exact). Two years ago, I was surprised to find out that Counter-Strike is still being played in the form of Counter-Strike Online. I tried a few sessions but at that point, I was no longer that interested in playing PC games so the game didn’t hook me. And that was the end of it.
Or maybe not? Like I said, there’s this Counter-Strike 17th Anniversary image that made the social media rounds and a few of my friends suggested that we get together for a few rounds of Counter-Strike. Not sure how serious they were, but I’m game if they really are. I may have moved on from the game, but I’ll never forget about Counter-Strike – I enjoyed it a lot, and I spent a lot of time and money just to play it! And I’m willing to play it again with friends, because I’m sure we’ll have a good time with it, even after all these years.
Did you play Counter-Strike back in its heyday? Or maybe you’re still playing it now? Share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment or two below!