Trash-talking has vanished from competitive tournaments in recent years and is now looked down upon by the Counter-Strike community. But it should have a spot in all sports, and we need to bring it back to this one.
CS:GO has been hit with a few trash-talking scandals over the past couple of years. In 2013, fnatic was chastised by the community for screaming insults at NiP across the LAN. They also refused to shake hands after they won because of a round that NiP forced them to replay over a technicality. Back in February 2016, Freakazoid became known as Bully-zoid in his infamous scandal. He went into the voice chat server for one of s1mple’s FPL matches to trash-talk the Ukrainian and throw personal insults his way (e.g. insulting his English). Freakazoid was forced to give a public apology to s1mple and his fans. And just this past month, s1mple himself erupted on twitter, calling out pros like TaZ, olofmeister, and NBK for being bad players and running FPL poorly. The tweets were promptly deleted and he later apologized. Granted, in some of these incidences, there was some sort of unsportsmanlike conduct involved. But the general viewpoint of the CS:GO community is that trash-talk is frowned upon and has no place among professionals. My question is: why?
Counter-Strike trash-talking never used to be off limits like it is now. Back in the 1.6 days, LANs were filled with teams whooping back and forth at each other. Yelling across the LAN (or sometimes just across the table) at your opponents to get in their heads was a common part of the experience. One of many examples of this is at ESEA LAN 8: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J89B5w9z6CM . In this clip, Semphis, at that point a player on Area 51, and Tyson, the team leader of Backfire, can be heard exchanging some verbal jabs. Another player, mOE, was notorious for yelling insults at LANs in his CS:S days. Even legendary teams like Team 3D were also known for trying to get under the skin of their opponents. In this clip, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aFK0suxjhY, Dominator is shown shouting “You guys suck!” at the German Alternate aTTaX team that had beaten them multiple times in the past. And of course, ShaGuaR has one of the most famous clips of all time – his “What up now Swedes?” shout at NiP during CGS. In the early days of CS LANs, the best players knew how to win in both aim battles and mind games.
This obviously wasn’t and still isn’t limited to just Counter-Strike; trash-talking is an element of almost any other competitive sport. Take the fighting game community, for example. Arcades were places where Street Fighter and Tekken players would go to prove their worth. To last in the arcade, you both had to be exceptional at the game and have the mental fortitude to withstand your opponent’s insults. This included trading barbs whenever a mistake was made by a player. Even today the culture centers around pointing out players’ mistakes and bad-mouthing them to get them to slip up. Verbally putting down opponents obviously happens in physical sports as well. The MMA and boxing scenes have months of hype leading up to events in which fighters are putting each other down in every interview they get. In the NFL, it is incredibly common for a cornerback to try to get into a wide receiver’s head, or for a defensive lineman to intimidate his offensive counterpart.
So, if dissing the enemy is OK in all of these sports, then what makes Counter-Strike so different, and only fairly recently at that? The most obvious answer people go for when answering this is money. CS organizations are kept afloat and players are paid using the contributions of many corporate sponsors. The sponsor wants a positive image to associate their product with in return. Therefore, the players should remain as professional as possible to reduce any drama and negative connotations that come with their brand. In some instances, this makes sense. For example, the last thing Intel or Red Bull want from the Cloud9 players is for them to bully a teenage foreigner new to America, as that tarnishes the C9 brand, and by extension all other brands associated with it.
But this isn’t the whole picture. After all, MMA and the NFL have plenty of trash-talk, and they also have much larger sponsors than Intel and Red Bull. The bigger issue here is that in a hyper competitive atmosphere where the same teams are meeting each other in a new tournament almost every week, there is no appropriate outlet for this aggressive energy. Virtually clicking a character’s head can only do so much to alleviate this need to speak out against that opponent. Using message mode 2 for anything other than technical issues or timeouts has been banned from use in tournaments for years now. At big LANs these days, teams wear noise-cancelling, over-ear headphones and are on opposite ends of a huge stage in large soundproof chambers, so forget about trying to yell insults across to the opposition. These settings give players no way to communicate with each other and put them in a literal glass case of emotion. It causes them to internalize their feelings or lash out at others at inappropriate times. Sometimes the energy that should be directed at someone in game is forced to be done after the fact, which leads to some of the scandals we have seen in recent history.
Fortunately, there is an easy way to fix this issue. Bring MM2 back into play and allow players to type to each other, or even have global voice chat enabled when players are dead. There might be things said that cross a line from trash-talk over to unsportsmanlike conduct, but in today’s competitive environments, the officials can give warnings and penalties to players who take it too far. And the best part is that these chats can be hidden from spectators, mitigating the concern of sponsors and making it more similar to professional sports. Trash-talk should be a part of any sport, and the best players should be able to either dish it, or filter it out and focus on the game. These rule changes would ensure healthy competitive insults in an appropriate environment and make trash-talking part of the game again.
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