I gave up on competitive first person shooters almost 6 years ago. For 33 hours and 18 minutes, I had attempted to be decent at Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and the only thing that I was decent at was pissing myself off. So I decided that I would get my kill-to-death ratio up to an even 1 for 1 and then quit forever. On May 30, 2009, I achieved my goal, and I never devoted any serious time to a Call of Duty (or any other multiplayer shooter) again. Of course, I sat in on the occasional round of Halo or Team Fortress 2, but never with the raw and angry obsession that had plagued me.
I was one of the lucky ones.
I had broken the cycle and kicked the habit.
Then in October of 2015, a notification popped up in my Steam account. Someone had gifted me a copy of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. And just like that… I fell of the wagon.
I quickly discovered that CS:GO is an extraordinary game. There is nothing overly flashy about the game, no explosive visual flourishes or cinematic plot twists. Rather, the game subsists entirely on 4 simple (but well executed) game modes. It makes for a game that is very easy to learn, but exceedingly difficult to master. I suppose this singular focus on multiplayer is what gives rise to a community that is as lively as the CS:GO community is.
I think the promise of community is what initially drew my interest. However, if I was going to play with my friends, I needed to spend some time becoming proficient at the game. That is where my personal issues with the game, or perhaps the entire genre, started to become apparent.
When I use a bit of my ever-shrinking leisure time to play a video game, I assume that I’m going to enjoy myself. For most single-player video games, that means finding a way to overcome a challenge that someone else has created, at the end of which I always feel like I’ve completed something. Of course, I don’t love every game that I play, but I can reflect on—and write about—some aspect of the game that’s worth consideration. I like doing this. It’s a positive cycle.
For multiplayer games, there is rarely an endgame to work toward. As a result, the fun is far less predictable. I enjoy gradually improving my skills, but the only measurement of those skills is the human opponent. This becomes problematic when the challenge presented by these human opponents varies so wildly that I often feel like I don’t even have a chance to improve at the game.
I always start out feeling optimistic, but I inevitably spend the majority of my CS:GO time discovering new forms of rage. Then I have to control my emotions long enough to play decently in the desperate hope of stopping on high note. In the end, I return to my adult responsibility feeling more stressed than refreshed. And that’s not why I play video games.
The exception to this is when I get the chance to play on a team with people that I actually know. Few moments in gaming are more exciting or memorable that sharing an experience with your friends. Sadly, though, those moments are increasingly rare. I don’t think I can justify spending so many angry hours practicing a game on the off chance that I might have fun.
It is time for me to regain control of my life, so I’m done.
This is by no means an indictment of the game itself. It’s simply a matter of me coming to grips with the fact that Counter-Strike was not made for me… or perhaps that I was not made for Counter-Strike. I will always be rubbish at the game, and that’s alright.