Schooled: Coming of age in Counter-Strike

Don’t give up, even when you die

[This is a story of hard work and determination that is neither a sports underdog movie nor a Shonen Jump manga. This is about Counter-Strike. ~Marcel]

Good day kind sir or Madam.

My name’s Metallion and I am a 33-year-old male from Belgium. Just like you, I went through puberty. That awkward time when little you tries to find out who they really are. I am going to tell you the story of my puberty and some important life lessons I learned from a video game that still stick with me to this day.

The year is 1999. I am a 15-year-old hardcore PC gamer who just loves first-person shooters. In my monthly subscription to PC Gameplay magazine, I have read many stories about this mythical online competition called deathmatch but since neither I nor any of my friends have an internet connection, I have never been able to experience it for myself.

Then one day a friend and I walk into this local game store called Game Nation and see something amazing: several PCs hooked up in LAN with people behind them, shouting the most obscene profanities as they blow each other to smithereens in Valve’s Half-Life. Our jaws basically drop to the floor. This is it! This is deathmatch! We immediately run to the counter, sign ourselves up, and join the multiplayer sensation.

Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and we had become established Game Nation LAN regulars. I loved the twitch action of Half-Life deathmatch and often found my name on the top of the scoreboard. Then on June 19 something came along to throw a wrench in it all. That was the release of Counter-Strike beta 1.

I just didn’t get it. This mod was so much slower-paced and not as interesting to me. Everyone else though… seemed to love it. As beta version 2, 3, 4, and 5 rolled around over the following months, Half-Life deathmatch got completely forgotten and all the Game Nation guys would play was Counter-Strike. I just couldn’t get used to it and found myself dead on the floor pretty much every round.

It would remain like this for a whole year until in June 2000 when my parents finally got an Internet connection. Now that I could practice at home, I was determined to get back my rightful place at the top of the scoreboard. I immediately installed Half-Life, downloaded Counter-Strike beta 6.5, and got to work, playing on public servers. After a steady couple weeks of doing this every day, my skills started to improve and it felt good to receive compliments on it in Game Nation.

Shortly after finally getting good at this game, I joined what was at that time one of Belgium’s best clans. Disclaimer: Top level at that time was several magnitudes lower than top level now. Anyway, playing with them felt great for about six months and then suddenly… we got on a losing streak. Being the immature teenager that I was, this meant I wasn’t happy in this clan any more. I wanted to win, damn it. Having been in this well-known top clan for a while, I felt like I was a recognizable player and finding a new clan would be easy. I learned the hard was that this was not the case.

I did know a bunch of the other top players and often some of them would get together to “secretly” form a new clan in which they played under different usernames. More often than not I was invited to those and it was a hell lot of fun, but still… It was not the same as a real clan. These were usually short-lived projects that were disbanded as soon as the leaders realized it takes more than just fun and games to run a clan. For the rest of my short CS career, I would be without a serious clan as I saw my original clan get re-organized without me and start winning again.

While it would take several more years for me to truly come of age, chapter CS has most definitely had a significant impact. There are two major life lessons I learned from this experience that I still strongly believe in to this day:

  • If you are willing to put in the time and the effort, you can learn and even get really good at something you’ve been terrible at before.
  • When you are in something together with other people, be it a relationship, a gaming clan/guild, a job, or otherwise: Don’t think lightly of replacing it. Though some times replacing it is the right thing to do, if you are instead able to work through a tough time together, you come out with a much stronger and more valuable bond.