With events all around the world and the incredible exodus of Twitch stars to new streaming platforms, it’s amazing to think CS:GO is still talking about glass boxes, but it goes to show how far we are from a permanent solution. Looking at other devs, the passivity of Valve looks all the worse in comparison.

John Wilkes Booths

For those unaware of the exact reason for the conversation coming up again, there is a link below to the incident in question, which occurred in Odense at the ESL Pro League Season 10 finals where the crowd essentially gave away a boosted player’s position and allowed the clutch minister Xyp9x to get a kill he might otherwise not have got.

This raised the obvious question of whether it is fair for a team to get this help from the crowd – although most commentators missed the other side of the equation, namely the victims of Xyp9x’s dastardly deed not reacting to the crowd noise, but that’s a question for another time.

So could or should we see ‘soundproof’ booths introduced to CS:GO at some point to improve the competitive integrity of the game? The first part of the question is always the same, of course. Is it even possible to create a truly soundproof booth that is also safe to sit in for hours on end under the lights of a main stage? Technology does allow for it, but to create a truly controlled environment is incredibly hard, with even hydraulics required to dampen the vibrations of the crowd that pass through the floor and ensure that players are truly isolated from the environment around them.

So, according to the people who are involved with organising big events and Majors, soundproofing is possible but expensive in CSGO, which leads us onto the second question. Is it practical to do so, with the scene the way it is? There is no point telling players to ignore noises they are aware of, as Xyp9x made clear in his Twitlonger post about the incident, so how does CS:GO move forward and create a future where random kids in the audience can’t change the outcome of million-dollar events?

Well, with ESL having taken the brave and possible risky decision to hold their next Major in Brazil, this is a question that definitely needs answering, as we’ve already seen how far fans in BR will go to ‘help’ their team. If a team wins or loses a Major title because of crowd interference, it could genuinely hurt the game long-term, as headlines will rightly focus on the lack of integrity.

Looking for solutions

According to Eugene ‘Pobelter’ Park, a League of Legends pro, the organisers in his game have secret headphone technology that allows them to do away with the booths, and that might actually make some sense. With Riot responsible for the cradle-to-grave entirety of League esports, it would be logical that they would be more invested in these sort of things that Valve are, for example, and spend more time working on improving stage conditions with the fixed arenas they have in some parts of the world.

A recent Reddit thread by Sliggy highlighted the old approach of delayed observing, and it raises the interesting point that the improved quality of observers could make this feasible in the way it wasn't a few years ago. It certainly would be a cheaper alternative, but with TOs struggling as it is, proposals which tinker with the crowd experience will likely be treated with a grain of salt.

As is so often the case when CS:GO finds itself in trouble, the answer would appear to be help from above, and specifically Valve. The way the game is run makes it impossible for any TO to justify having a dedicated arena in the way League does, and we know Valve puts a lot of the financial burden on the organisers for Majors, adding little more than a boost to the prize-pool and the occasional bit of help in the in-game client.

With the likes of Riot and Activision going harder on esports every year and the former dipping their toes into the shooter market, it is surely time for Valve to either take CS seriously, and helping TOs with booths would be a great start ahead of ESL One: Rio 2020. Be it booths, broadcasting rights or crowd-boosted prize money, Valve needs to step up and actually invest in the game that has partially carried them for so long, and collaborating with TOs on better playing conditions would be a great place to start.

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Photo credit: HLTV