The Impatience Problem in CS:GO

Mike "Ragamuffin" Ciavarella October 11th 2016 3:00 PM

Why players and organizations need to realize that building a legacy is not an overnight process

In professional sports, a huge emphasis is placed on the development of upcoming talent. Soccer clubs have huge academies dedicated to scouting and training the best young players who might one day have a shot in the pros. Baseball has entire leagues dedicated not only to the upbringing of recent college grads, but also the rehabilitation of older players coming off an injury or going through a funk. And the rules that force college athletes to play at least 1 year in basketball or 2 years in football before going pro, while controversial, ensure that players get some time to train with professional coaches and get used to the limelight. Some stars, like Bryce Harper and LeBron James, can transcend this developmental process; most can't. But the fact is that the star players always need a supporting cast, and the other 99% of athletes need time to train.

In Counter-Strike, most of the time, the opposite of this scenario is true. Each country is dominated by one or two top teams who continuously poach the top fraggers from up-and-coming rosters in (and out of) their country in an attempt to create their version of SK or Virtus Pro. New players usually have 6 months at most to get adapted to their new teammates and strats, as well as the upper echelons of professional CS:GO, before they are chalked up as failures and released. The cycle continues until the team either snags its crown jewel or disbands. But it isn't always this way, and often times the more patient teams get the biggest payoff. Let's look at the following 2 examples:

1) In 2015, Jake "Stewie2K" Yip is a young 17 year-old player who might already be one of the best aimers in North America. However, he is a raw talent - his game is somewhat one-dimensional, and he is largely unproven in a LAN setting. Despite this, Cloud9, who lost their in-game leader, decides to pick up Stewie. This is seen as a controversial move by many, especially because C9 are left without a strat caller. The beginning is rough. Cloud9 manages to pick off a few low-key North American tournaments, but largely plays second fiddle to Liquid, and even loses matches to Optic, CLG, and TSM. Cloud9 drops out of the top 10. But throughout 2016 Stewie2K was mentored by his veteran teammates n0thing and shroud. He was allowed time to find his place in the team and become comfortable with a LAN setting. And most importantly, his gamesense became leaps and bounds better. After not even 1 year, Stewie2K is one of the success stories of North American CS. He is an integral part of his team and has helped Cloud9 to their first top 5 ranking in over a year.
2) In the beginning of 2016, LDLC's White team strung together a couple of impressive tournament showings. They were lead in large part by DEVIL, a relatively unknown player who achieved amazing ratings both times. Despite having only played lower tier teams, he was signed by EnvyUs to take the place of a struggling Kioshima. This was ahead of a major at which EnvyUs was expected to compete, and therefore DEVIL was under immediate pressure to perform. He was not given a chance to adapt to a high-level of play and his new role on the team, and his rating plummetted. He was allegedly mocked and insulted by some of his own teammates for his poor performances. The team followed suit by dropping out of the top 5 and nearly out of the top 10, their lowest ranking since signing their French core. With EnVyUs' patience wearing thin and wanting to bring in someone who might have a more immediate impact, DEVIL was released from the team, lasting a mere 6 months.

These two teams started in similar situations - they were in tier 2 and heading backwards, and they needed to pick up another player. EnVyUs wanted someone who could immediately make an impact and would take nothing less. Cloud9 wanted someone who had the potential to be great and took the time after the recruitment as a building period. The results are clear. Cloud9 is in much better shape than EnVyUs.

I claim that this is not a one-off instance, but happens almost all the time in CS:GO. Most CS:GO teams have a problem with being patient. Often players who have a promising future are treated as a panacea and are brought into not-so-good situations (a reason for a roster change in the first place), with 4 new teammates each with their own playstyle and personality, with little to no experience on LAN or against top tier teams, and sometimes even across language barriers, and are expected to fix all of the preexisting problems. These are simply unreasonable expectations, yet it is not uncommon. Oskar to mouz; koosta to Liquid; s1mple to HellRaisers; and the revolving door of players that is Faze Clan, are all examples of this. Of course, if things really don't work out for a long time, a change must be made. But I firmly believe that many of these un-success stories are either due to a player getting prematurely kicked or internal conflict that could have been avoided.

The teams that get it right are the ones that realize that they can't win everything, take losses in stride, and practice, grind, and form not only chemistry but genuine bonds with each other over a long period of time. The best example of this is obviously Virtus Pro, currently ranked #2 in the world, who has stayed with its core lineup for over two years now despite fluctuations in ranking and calls throughout that time to get rid of pasha, byali, and even neo. But even NiP has learned from its mistakes and has stuck with pyth through tough times to get back into the top 5 recently. fnatic had one of the most consistent lineups in history and probably could have stayed at the top had they put their differences aside. But they have also taken a great step recently to sign an academy team to develop and mentor young talent properly. Some teams are figuring out that to be consistently relevant and near the top, player and team development cannot be half-assed. They need to leave their egos and toxicity at the door, support, educate, and be inclusive towards new players to the team, play the best role that they can for the team, and roll with the punches when the team is on a losing streak. Once other teams realize this winning formula, I predict we will have a level of parity among all top teams that is unprecedented in Counter-Strike.

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About Me

Ragamuffin is a Counter-Strike expert who has been following the competitive CS scene since 2004. He has a passion for competitive CS:GO and a severe inability to play it. He is also a computer engineer by day.

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