12 Nov My Counter Strike Story
My Counter Strike Story
By Matt Weldon
A lot of people have been known to call me a “liar” when it comes to my competitive gaming career. I’m here now to tell you the complete truth. For 4 years of my life it was completely dedicated to video games, and during this time I came across Counter Strike. My story isn’t one of success, but it is one I would like to share with you. This is…My Counter Strike Story
It was sometime in late 2003 or 2004 that I came across a night of complete boredom, and my brother had just gotten home. He told me he was at an “internet cafe” all night. I thought it was a joke or something, but then he explained what it is which is “A place with a bunch of computers to play games on”…this was the coolest idea I’d ever hear of being an 11 year old. So the next weekend we head out to the internet cafe called “Digital Planet”. We picked up really fast on a game called “Counter Strike” a first person shooter tactical game. It was very popular among the teenagers around the world. I fell in love with the game quickly. I found myself spending $20 a week of my parents money to be there as often as I could. Then it turned into $40 a week, and finally my parents started limiting me. Then my 12th birthday came along and guess what…oh yeah a lot of that money went to Digital Planet and Bawls energy. After about 6 months I found out that there was a whole league for this called The CPL. The CPL is basically a world tour of tournaments where people played for money…Counter Strike was among the games that was played at The CPL.
I found myself really interested in the CPL so I did some research on it and found myself in a place where I really fit in. You see, as a kid I was always told to root for the Cubs because my family was, and to root for the Bears because my family were fans of that team. Then of course this goes onto the idea of “root for your favorite team”…well I didn’t care a whole lot for football or baseball. I liked to play them, but because I was never that good with them I never found myself interested in the general idea of the professionals behind the sport. So why did a league of video games interest me so much? Well for one I knew I was a fairly good Counter Strike player from playing online. I was very good at previous video games such as Tony Hawk Pro Skater, 007 Nightfire for the PS2, and other various games. So what did I find in this research about The CPL? I found something larger than I could imagine. Hundreds of teams around the world play Counter Strike and many other games for competition. Not always for money, but a lot of the time it was for sponsors, money, and in some cases, fame.
I finally found something I had a lot of interest in, and decided to talk about it with some guys at Digital Planet. So there are 2 main guys that knew about The CPL, their names were Matt and Alex. Matt was an awkward scrawny looking white guy who spent his time at Digital Planet playing Counter Strike, or at home play Counter Strike. Alex on the other hand was a loud Asian guy who was the guy who you wanted to be your friend at Digital Planet, mainly because he was easy to get along with and didn’t get mad when he performed badly in video games. So I began talking to these guys who then brought along some of their friends who were among the bigger things I found from researching CPL. (On a side note, when I mean bigger I mean there’s a lot more than just CPL, not necessarily bigger than the CPL itself). They introduced me to a guy named Steve, or also known as “Simplicity”. Simplicity was a little older than the rest of us, but he was one very skilled Counter Strike player (at least from what I knew at the time). He only spent the weekends at the cafe, but spent his time with a spread of games like Command and Conquer and sometimes the occasional Battlefield Vietnam or 1942 with the owners of DP. It was then that I wanted to know more about the game because he just seemed to be the best in the cafe. So I asked him some questions about what he knew, and he told me about CAL.
CAL is basically the online version of The CPL but it’s free. CAL is also much different because it can be played by anyone…you didn’t have to be a pro to play in it. So Simplicity told me to find a team on CAL, and he told me about IRC. Internet Relay Chat…it’s basically a very large instant messaging service but is very simplistic. He told me what rooms to check for teams, and what I would need at home (by this time I had bought Counter Strike for my home PC), he said I would need Ventrilo or teamspeak because all of these teams are going to use one of the two. So I set out for the next month or so looking for a team.
During this time I came across many clans, and joined one called MEH (Mechanically Engineered Heroes). MEH was a clan of CSS players that came from Day of Defeat and other games. This kind of set me off track from my journey into competitive CS but don’t worry it gets back on track in the future. MEH had a few core members, along with 10 or so people like me…who were just there to play. I met some of the coolest guys in this clan, Pixel, LedHed, Hammer, Paperboy, and Dud. I still communicate with a few of them to this day once in a while. I was with MEH for about 6 months before I brought up the idea of us playing in CAL just for fun…unfortunately they were not up for it and shortly after MEH was shutdown due to Pixel (the leader) having too much work to do with school and other complications. Soon after this I was back in the world of finding a competitive team for the original Counter Strike game.
While pubbing (Pubbing is a phrase used when you’re going into public servers, just to play) I came across a very skilled individual with the name TSF|Ranger…I can’t remember his full name but it was something Ranger. Anyway I talked to him, then he told me to add him on AIM and we began talking about playing in CAL. Ranger and I were talking about additional people for the team, and we never got a 4th and 5th unfortunately but because of him I found a motivation to find a whole team. Ranger then disappeared, never came online, never came on ventrilo or AIM ever again. So after a few months I have finally joined a team for CAL and just in time before the roster locks. The team was currently 1-2-0 but I thought I could give them a chance. I forget the name but in the end we did poorly and disbanded as a team after 11 games with only 3 wins.
To go back to MEH days, February 12, 2005 there was a Counter Strike 1.6 tournament (Original Counter Strike) at DP. I couldn’t team up with Alex, Steve, or Matt….nor any of the other decent players like Chris and his team…So I ended up getting 4 other friends, paying $20 to enter (per person) and we were put in last place. It was really unfortunate but at least I got to play in a tournament of some kind. After the tournament Chris (who ended up winning) gave me a few words. I shouldn’t give up so easily, and I should keep trying. So I did….
To skip forward into mid 2005 I played on a few different teams, switching to Battlefield 2 as well because finding a team for Counter Strike was not working out for me. I just watched the tournaments online, and fantasized myself being on the big stage at ESWC, or CPL, or any tournament really…By now I found a passion for computers, computer games, and FPS. I was a great Battlefield player, but Battlefield never got a lot of attention from eSports (Electronic Sports, another way of saying Competitive Video Games). So just played with my friends and my Uncle. Then in 2006 I picked up Counter Strike Source again since most of the current pro teams in America were switching to Source. I came across a local player named Steve “Orbit” he was 2 years younger than me, had a snotty attitude but he was a very good player. He met up at another internet cafe, (oh by this time DP closed down the internet cafe…they made the place into a 100% computer repair shop) this internet cafe was called Xactek. They held the 2004 WCG American qualifier there (WCG:World Cyber Games, The Olympics of Video Games). We played a few games, and decided we should pursue to recruit a team.
So to recap everything, I’m 14 years old at this point, the highest level of experience I’ve had at this point was being a sub for a team that was in CAL-M….oh and I was scrimming against a lot of CAL-M teams. CAL-M is a way of saying “Hey, I’m pretty good at this game, and my team is the top 50-20%”. I performed quite well with these teams but they didn’t want someone that was my age…At this point in my life I was going through an odd depression, and video games were a way to keep me busy and to feel like I was doing something useful in the world. In other words, video games is all I had.
Orbit and I began to recruit through IRC for Counter Strike Source, we were labeling our team as a team who would be planning to go to LAN events (LAN events are events that are played in a venue, not online). After 2 weeks of searching we found a team that was all in the Midwest…only 1 player wasn’t, but he said he could afford traveling from Florida. To make things perfect the new CAL season was starting in a week. We took this time to go over strategies, shared each others experiences, tips, and tricks…within that week we were fully prepared. Our team name was XTC (Xamples That Corrupt). Our first CAL match was given to us through a forefit, and the 2nd game we lost. During the 3rd week we were doing some heavy duty practicing, and practicing on the new map for CAL “Contra”. We were scrimming against a team that was fairly new, so it should have been easy. We lost 16-5. Looking at the scores, it was easy to tell who was at fault which was myself. I made up a very lame excuse, which was only half true, and this lead to XTC falling apart by week 4 of CAL.
In 2007 I came across Warfactory, which was a tournament in St.Louis that happened twice a year for Counter Strike. I found a local team from Gurnee, IL and began practicing online. A week before the tournament we had a LAN practice at one of their houses which ended up being a short 4 hour marathon of looking for teams to scrim against, and only played 2 practice games. A few days before the tournament, one of our guys called another member and said he couldn’t go. We were in a panic since we’d all paid for the tournament, and wanted to go. So I made a call to a teammate I met through Scrims and through a tryout for XTC and he accepted. We were on a 6 hour road trip to St.Louis, and ready to play. We got to the venue (the basement of the science museum in St.Louis) and were all good to go. Levi (our player from St.Louis) was a little stressed because he knew the rest of the team wasn’t as skilled as him and I but we knew we had to try our best. We went against a semi-pro team under the name of “Dinosaurs” (There semi-pro name was different) and we got wiped in a 16-4 loss. Then we went against a team called “Rejim” who was local to our area. Rejim was a little less intimidating but again we lost, luckily though we had a good run and went into 26 rounds, winning 10 of them. Unfortunately the tournament rules changed in the middle of the tournament and we were knocked out completely. So we waited and went back home that night. This is the last time I played Counter Strike on a competitive level.
So why did I quit? It wasn’t a lack of passion, or the feeling of losing a lot, but it was because the Counter Strike scene in America pretty much died…and quickly. WSVG failed, CGS failed, The CPL was decimated under its owner, CAL was destroyed in the process…it was just dead. In 2008 the recession didn’t help either…Xactek closed down, along with many other internet cafes. Over the past 5 years and no competitive Counter Strike I’ve always paid a lot of attention to the eSports community of CS. Unfortunately CS:GO did not revive it as quickly as we wanted it to…hopefully it can pick up attention in the states, and also more attention in EU. Oh so are you wondering what I played in CS? Well I mainly played as the in-game leader, calling strats, positioning, and an all around skilled player.
So what do I do now? Well I try to live a normal life of a gamer…not always playing games, but still playing while trying to live on my own and working. I currently play League of Legends, and am the Head Admin of the LoL division of Gamrs.net, a video game ladder hosting website. I also play World of Warcraft, I am a raider…I think I’ve given up on PvP to be honest.
If you have any questions for myself, or want to contact me for any reason, you may do so. Email me at [email protected] and I’ll be happy to respond back, and quickly. I hope by reading this I have given the passion to more people…I know it’s not very inspirational but I put a lot of my life into competitive gaming….and honestly I haven’t stopped. I am now involved in different ways, and honestly a much less stressful way. I’m always looking to help any players in any way I can.
-Matt “Steadyhndz” Weldon