The debate about terrorism has gone on for a long, long time, and we don’t mean in the Oval Office. Counter-Strike, a setting arguably more important than mere world politics, has long been stuck in between two positions, of wanting to maintain the culture and community that made it what the game is today, and of wanting to broaden the reach of the game by changing to fit the standards expected of an esport in 2019.
But is that even correct? The number of people who have publicly stated that X or Y commercial partner decided not to get into CS:GO can be set against the likes of Audi, Microsoft, Marvel and any number of other blue chip companies that have decided to do so as commercial partners. The question for this article at least is, does CS:GO need to be all things to all people, or is the idea it should have universal appeal based on false pretences?
There should really be no questioning the likes of Anders Blume when they state that some investors decided not to get involved with Counter-Strike due to the fact that terrorism is a theme of the game. For a start, there are few people more invested in or connected to the history of this great game than Anders, and none who have done more good for it down the years. When he says that investors have concerns, you can believe his main focus is on making things better for the game.
However, as previously stated, there are a lot of big names in CS already, and some of them might logically prefer a more ‘adult’ game. We aren’t talking about wanting to slap your logo all over what Street Fighter has become because the female characters look like Amazon concubines, but the fact that an Audi, or maybe a gambling firm, might actually want to target the older markets, rather than trying to extract their pound of flesh from the theoretically universally aged Dota audience.
Of course, there are some games, like Fortnite or League of Legends that actually struggle to appeal to a wider adult audience, due to the simple, colourful way they are presented, and in League’s case a lack of understandable ‘hype’ moments to the first-time viewer. Most of CSGO is self-explanatory, and the average late teen or adult can relate to the general action you’d see in an FPS easily, even if it’s Call of Duty they’ve played, but learning why a specific play in a MOBA is good or bad takes far more contextual knowledge and experience.
With all of that in mind, there is an argument for saying there is no need to change CS:GO, and the problem is simply one of scale. The larger esports becomes, the more sponsors will be involved, and the more diversity of commercial partners we will see. That way, the companies looking to target a younger audience will be able to, through games Fortnite, League, Splatoon and the like, while those people looking to sell you a car, house or pint of beer will be able to pay their way into CSGO, where the grown-ups enjoy their electronic sports.
This is not to dismiss the idea we could drop the ‘terrorist’ bit of the game and still be a shooter for big boys and girls, but simply to question whether changing would really help in the long-term or simply be a knee-jerk reaction aimed at getting a little bit more money right now. If German car company like Audi – a country famously fastidious about ‘gaming violence’ – are willing to spend their hard cash on a CS:GO-exclusive deal with Astralis, we definitely have to question whether the problem is actually with the T-word, or just education of the companies looking to buy in today.
In the long-term, the real ‘win’ would be convincing the mainstream media, politicians, and the rest of the people called boomers online that there is no correlation between video game violence and real life, and that the terrorism in CS:GO is no more problematic than death in Minecraft or the existence of violent films. Fundamentally, when you accept the word ‘terrorism’ is an issue for Counter-Strike, you are buying into the idea that games lead to actions. That might be the best reason of all to reject the idea we should pander to that lobby, and sanitise CS:GO for a crowd that doesn’t really understand it.