I don’t head back to the Pakistani CS:GO scene often, for obvious reasons. The players are terrible, the egos are massive, and the pay for talent is near non-existent. At most, I’ll work behind-the-scenes to help bolster specific campaigns and tournaments without revealing myself. It’s the problem with all the ground level esports scene with little to no investment in them.
But recently, I found my Facebook – yes, that’s how antiquated the Pakistani CS:GO scene is, we still use Facebook – swamped with various groups either defending the honor, or making memes about Portal Esports. For context, Portal is a little bit like 2015 Fnatic, where they just wipe out every single LAN they play, with no small part being played by their star player – Haseeb ‘HsB’ Khan. They’ve been to some international LANs as well – WESG 2017 was the most recent one if memory serves, so they’re pretty adored in the few thousand people who make up Pakistan’s CS:GO community.
The drama, it was insane. Murmurings surrounded the scene that HsB had used his influential position to get friends of his – who didn’t necessarily meet the skill required – into the newly-launched Dubai based FPL, and the already-existing Rank S. With the community up in arms, instead of refraining from commenting on the situation, HsB let out an open challenge for anyone seeking a Rank S, or FPL vouch.
“Whoever wants Rank S or FPL vouch and they think that they’re real hotshots, come meet me at LAN. Bet 10,000 or more rupees (~USD 100) on the match and let’s see how you get invited to FPL or not.”
The die was cast, HsB’s challenge rang out as the ultimate hubris – and with Portal being as dominant as they had been in recent years, 100 USD was as good as gone for anyone who was foolhardy enough to take up the challenge. In the ultimate display of arrogance, HsB looked to make a statement that the best are above the law of the land. True wild West style.
At least, that’s what he thought. Out of nowhere, a player who hadn’t been around since 1.6 came to the forefront. Musab entered the fray with TGS Allstars. A quick and clean 2-0 was all she wrote, and Portal’s reign of terror came to an end. The cyberspace was up in arms. The king had fallen. It was a fucking regicide.
And the sad thing was, despite the hundreds and thousands of social media impressions this debacle got, and despite everyone talking about it, there was no stream of the match and barely any media from it. Despite all of that, everyone knew about it. If this was an esports team in the big leagues, it would be a massive win for their brand presence.
Hell, even if the players over here had properly publicized it, and managed to put it on a pay per view with a caster and a $5 fee to view it, it probably would’ve netted them more of a profit than the actual bet itself.
But that’s the problem I’m going to touch on. When’s the last time you saw a grudge match in the top leagues of CS:GO? When’s the last time you saw a player put their own money on the line and call someone out on LAN? Esports is growing, but as we leave our grassroots, we leave behind the part of us that made us special. Faceit and ECS can have their shenanigans, ESL can have its showmatches, but none of them truly add the same value to a broadcast as rivalries between players, hatred and love of teams, and personal brands that you just identify with.
CS is supposed to be the wild west of esports, but slowly even that is leaking out, and why wouldn’t it? More and more, tournament organizers are dependent on sponsors who don’t want ‘bad character’ associated with their brand, an unhealthy obsession of mainstream media and just can’t afford to show that particular side of esports anymore. We grow, but we leave behind our own identity.
Maybe it’s time to ask ourselves how to preserve our uniqueness, how to grow without having to shoot our best traits down one by one. Let the mainstream have their Overwatch, their League of Legends and whatever else they want. Don’t take away my Counter-Strike, where K0nfig can tweet about destroying his former teammates, and Taco can remind JW that he’s tired of eliminating him from competitions.
Save us, from us.
*Note: Portal were playing with three of their active lineup, one player who got benched a few weeks ago and one who was an ex-teammate and skilled Pakistani.
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