CSGO: A missed scholastic opportunity

DreXxiN 2022-06-29 04:24:43
  We have no shortage of team-based tactical shooters in the modern pool of esports titles. Not many would argue the most popular of which are CS:GO, Valorant, and Overwatch. Suffice it to say, if you’re picking two of the three you could consider “student friendly,” it becomes quite obvious as to which title you’d omit. That’s not to say that CS:GO high school leagues don’t exist , but certainly not to the degree in which it could (and should), be capable.  In fact it’s not only high school. When I interviewed at ESPN, Disney was also hard to convince and sell CS:GO esports to. It’s not really overly surprising that a game with “terrorist” as official terminology on top of the violence present would be a hard sell for “all audiences.” But what if we lived in a world with a varied game mode? Not gameplay mechanics, just visuals and vocabulary. When I was growing up on video games, even with the fledgling technology we were working with back then, there were passable methods of censorship. Even as far back as the original Mortal Kombat games or Turok, you could turn the blood a different color or remove blood altogether. In Goldeneye, and several other shooters, there were “paintball modes”. The gameplay didn’t hurt at all, but the possibility to play the game was there for younger audiences. And does anyone remember this gem?  This is a fully modified Doom that was put in Chex cereal boxes. The game was FLANtastic.  
Most of what I’ve talked about up until this point is all done at an official developer capacity.  But that’s before we explore the world of mods. There’s an entire separate series of articles to be made about awesome, seemingly impossible mods that both completely altered the game and made it family friendly, but the point is, far more complex modifications have been made to games that had nowhere near the resources Valve has.  
  So this leads me to ask: when CS:GO had a stranglehold on the west as the game of its category, why didn’t they capitalize on this? Why not make guns “paintball guns” and name the teams “Attacker” and “Defender” in an alternative build of the game?  These are not simply rhetorical questions, and I’d love to hear an answer from the developers on this, especially as someone that coaches a surprising number of students who enjoy Counter-Strike. Of course, it’s difficult to determine when Valve is being complacent or simply just doesn’t care. Either way, it wasn’t exactly a mystery that scholastic esports were going to become a thing and that would be a gigantic market to hook into with plenty of participants that want to give you money.
Also read: The consequences of a short-notice policy shift for scholastic Overwatch
VALORANT really struck gold here.  I can’t speak for all scholastic organizations, but WIHSEA ran a pilot program for VALORANT that was pretty quickly and adamantly requested as a regular season game.  Now, it’s not exactly a fair comparison, because VALORANT also has that gigantic factor of a broad and diverse champion pool with relatable characters—one of the qualities that made Overwatch so popular for students.  However, it is also just inherently “family friendly” from the get go.  It’s not super bloody, there’s nothing alluding to terrorism, and the gunplay is a lot less visceral. I’ll be honest here and say that VALORANT was always set up to succeed in the scholastic arena, and more than likely would have always been more popular than CS:GO on principle, but the fact that there wasn’t even an attempt at Counter-Strike for this audience is rather shocking. In a few short months, we’ll be coming up on 10 years that the game could’ve added relatively simple adjustments in order to accommodate for a younger audience (not to mention earlier opportunities to be televised in esports, y’know, when some people still cared about TV). Perhaps it’s just not something Valve is overly interested in (see how inaccessible Dota 2 is not necessarily for students, but for new players as a whole.) It’s important to clarify that we’re not talking about quality at all here, and CS:GO is a fantastic game—arguably one of the best of any genre in the modern era. Which is exactly why I wish I could celebrate that with my students, and I’m certain that other coaches and managers feel the same way.  Of course, doing something about it now wouldn’t have the same impact, but as they say - better late than never Valve, pls?
Michale 'Drexxin' Lalor is the Editor-in-Chief at Esports Heaven. Follow him on Twitter at @ESHDrexxin. Image courtesy of John Williams via Shuttershock.

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