It may have taken a while but North American Counter-Strike finally had its time in the sun. In 2019, we saw the greatest team NA has ever produced dominate the scene in unprecedented fashion. Team Liquid’s incredible run through the Intel Grand Slam was the stuff of legends. It came only a year after Cloud9 became the first North American org to win a Major. Today, we celebrate a player who may not have been a part of these achievements but did a lot to elevate the region to where it is today. Hiko may have moved on to VALORANT but his Counter-Strike achievements, and a certain caster highlight, will remain with us forever.
A long time ago in an esports scene far, far away, NA CS was a joke, known for lazy players, match-fixers and not having been good since the pre-go days. Today, the likes of NAF, Twistzz, Stewie, Brehze and co. are all top tier players that any team would want, but they are only following in the footsteps of the first American hero, Spencer “Hiko are you kidding me?” Martin.
Like a lot of his peers, Hiko started out as a sports obsessive, but an injury sustained playing hockey left him looking for a new way to fill his time one summer, and vidya was his outlet. N64 became PC, and soon after he discovered the joy of Counter-Strike. From there, a legend was born, set to one day alter the face of NA gaming and the vocal chords of one (at the time) portly Danish gentleman.
He started his CS:GO career alongside the legends of NA, namely Storm and the infamous fRoD, playing with them before they kicked him in favour of another legendary moniker, Warden. From there he went on to play with swag and DaZeD before ending up on the Cloud9 roster that featured [email protected], n0thing, shroud and semphis.
This is the team where people starting hearing his name, and no moment is more iconic than the 2v5 he and [email protected] managed against Dignitas at ESL One Cologne 2014. Although that event saw them taste defeat at the hands of Ninjas in Pyjamas, Hiko established himself as a star of the game, not only with the 2v5 but also a flick onto GeT_RiGhT that would have ended the career of anyone less legendary than the CS:GOAT himself.
Eventually his time on C9 came to an end, with perennial NA sniper and potential colleague ShahZaM replacing him in the lioneup. He did go on to represent Team Liquid in 2015, being arguably their best early signing in the game, a story that ended when his friend s1mple left the organisation to return home, with Pimp his replacement, with stanislaw coming in to fill Hiko’s spot soon thereafter.
Since those days, there hasn’t been a lot to talk about Hiko from a competitive point of view, even if he has done a great job keeping his face and brand out in the space. The announcement last week that he had officially retired from Counter-Strike to pursue a career in VALORANT came as little surprise. He has initially joined the 100Thieves organisation as a pro for their team, and is currently the only name on their roster, with the org no doubt happy to have someone who can aim and is also PR savvy to build their team around.
It’s hard to predict how he’ll do in Riot’s new title, with previous attempts by CS pros in games like Overwatch less than successful, but more reasons to think his skills will transfer than they would in the case of players like AZK and fRoD’s failed OWL careers. The timing of his departure from CS:GO is understandable, with more talent in NA than ever before and his star somewhat faded, but nobody should forget the trail Hiko blazed, and stuck to ever since.
If you look at his contemporaries today, they are mainly done with competition: n0thing is being cute and telling us not to bully people, shroud is the richest man on Twitch and we all know what happened to DaZeD. Yet, Hiko endures. Hopefully he can rediscover his magic in VALORANT, and bring us more magical moments like those we remember so fondly, as the NA CS scene owes a great debt of gratitude to one of the first superstars it produced.
Photo credit: HLTV