How Counter-Strike Might Unify the Fractured Gaming Community

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Despite being developed by a relatively obscure team (Hidden Path’s only other game is the PC/XBLA title Defense Grid: The Awakening), Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has the potential to break down one of gaming’s oldest and most unyielding barriers.

Staunch PC gamers have generally abhorred the far less accurate and precise gamepad, and been wary (justifiably so) of the closed and restrictive networks offered through Microsoft and Playstation’s respective consoles. Conversely, console gamers appreciate the lack of upgrading required with a console, and many prefer spending less money on a dedicated gaming platform despite its limited optimization and mod support. You only need to go as far as the nearest message board to witness the hostility that can unfortunately rise up between these two factions.

However, with the impending release of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, things could change. CS:GO will feature unrestricted cross-platform play between Playstation 3, Mac, and PC players, as well as offer mouse and keyboard support for PS3 players. Valve has already dedicated resources and lip service to the PS3 through its interconnectivity with last Spring’s Portal 2, and its work with that game and its upcoming free DLC have helped the developers establish the groundwork they will need to properly launch CS:GO across multiple platforms.

At first glance, this might not seem so revolutionary. We’ve seen PC to console cross-platform games before. 2007’s Shadowrun reboot was arguably the most accepted (though still not by any means a resounding success) until 2011’s Portal 2 debuted with cross-platform co-op. We’ve also seen PC controls make their way to consoles. Late 2007 saw Epic’s Unreal Tournament 3 reach the PS3 with mod and mouse/keyboard support.

So what gives? Why might CS:GO be the game to finally unite the two audiences?

First off, Counter-Strike is not Shadowrun. It is also not, arguably, Unreal Tournament. Counter-Strike has one of the most dedicated fanbases of any game in history. Hundreds of thousands of players log in to CS on any given day. That’s impressive considering the series consists of essentially 2 titles, one of which (CS: Source) is basically an enhanced version of the first, which has been played regularly since the late 90’s. Counter-Strike can easily go toe-to-toe with the heavy hitters; in fact, Call of Duty, Battlefield, and other modern shooters gleaned quite a bit of inspiration from CS.

Second, this is coming from Valve. When was the last time Valve put out a shoddy product? Pretty much never. Even the developers working in tandem with Valve (Left 4 Dead’s Turtle Rock Studios, Hidden Path Entertainment) are held to the same standard of quality as Valve’s core teams. The only times Valve have slipped is with console ports that they were unable to support in the way they usually do because of restrictive networks (see the Team Fortress 2 Xbox 360 debacle). With Steamworks integration on the PS3, this one stumbling block has been removed.

As well as the inherent popularity of the franchise and Valve’s steady hand at the wheel, CS:GO will also make gains in its treatment of players. PS3, Mac, and PC players will share lobbies, and there will be no auto-aim or concessions given to the console players. Unless there is a lobby or deathscreen icon identifying a console player (ala Mario Kart Wii’s wheel image), players will not even know if their teammates are console or PC players. And before the PC players offer a snarky remark in regards to being able to identify the console players by their death and loss count, remember that they might be playing with the exact same mouse, keyboard, and sensitivity you are. Many avid PC gamers have adopted console gaming as a hobby over the past decade or so, and this will be a title that interests a wide range of players.

CS:GO might be a resounding success and connect gamers on multiple platforms. It might not; there are no guarantees, especially when it comes to the fickle nature of the gaming community. However, despite its past misgivings and outright spitefulness in regards to home consoles (Gabe, we’re looking at you, man), Valve has a chance to usher in a new era of connectivity and shared gaming experiences that could integrate two divided communities enjoying the same pastime. Perhaps future CS eSport teams will feature a blend of computer and console players? One can only dream.

Make sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below! To stay up-to-date on all things Counter-Strike, visit our dedicated CS:GO page.

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