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CS:GO
CS:GO
World

What keeps GeT_RiGhT and others going?

For many, it’s the twilight of a sporting career that excites them the most. The story of a grizzled veteran rising for one last hurrah, tugging on the heartstrings as he leans on years of experience to make a mockery of time and its passage, turning the clock back, if only for a fleeting moment. But what pushes the players who are clearly over the hill to keep putting in the hours every day, preparing for further and further battles? In this sense, traditional sports can only serve as a parallel, not a blueprint for esports players – at least for the time being.

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Only one of the players who appeared on HLTV’s annual list of top 20 players has formally retired since CS:GO’s inception – Cloud9’s Skadoodle, who arguably should have called it quits after their miraculous win at the Boston major – though it’s safe to say that players like nico and markeloff won’t be returning to a star-studded LAN lineup anytime soon. However, most of them keep on keeping on, even if only as part of lower-ranked teams, still putting in the occasional legendary performance but generally stuck in the mud of endless online qualifiers and early LAN eliminations. One has to wonder why former greats continue even when that dreaded f-word has irreparably been etched onto their status.

The financial aspect of it is undeniable. For most of us, the rapid growth of esports is reflected in the lavish stages and the growing numbers, not to mention the VC-infused insane acquisitions and franchise league spots purchased for truly life-changing sums. This is, however, also reflected in the wages and prize pools, sums which rapidly climbed from “not bad for playing video games” to “gotta stick around a few more years no matter what so that I can secure my future” levels. It’s an oft-cited statistic that Fnatic’s legendary six-LAN winning streak brought them less in prize money altogether than their unexpected win at IEM Katowice and the subsequent WESG event did after two years’ trophy drought. Such is the wave of change in esports, and the windfall associated with it. Who wouldn’t want to keep toiling away under such circumstances?

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The “professionalisation”, if you can call it that, is also clearly visible in the way the teams prepare for events and conduct themselves outside the servers. Much was made of Astralis’ hiring of a sports psychologist and a dietician alongside other servicemen from disciplines usually seen around elite athletes, and it is quite clear that the era of online practice sessions from home with a cheeseburger and a soft drink on the side are coming to an end. In that sense, we still have no idea what the real age curve of an esports player looks like, one which was groomed for this career from the very beginning and fully committed to seeing it through all the way to the bitter end.

This cash-induced industrial growth spurt also raises the bargaining power of the best players in the game. NiKo could essentially oust karrigan from FaZe Clan off the back of his importance to the brand – with questionable results in the server ever since – and coldzera is currently locked in a power struggle with his org who are holding him in a golden cage due to the exorbitant buyout fees imposed by the influx of capital. It’s a different kind of longevity, one which is well known to fans of traditional sports but still not yet standardised in the world of professional gaming. Someone like NEO is basically obligated to leverage his legendary status in the game for that one last adventure.

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Credit: Dexerto

And yet, perhaps all of this is beside the point. Just imagine the fortitude, dedication and sheer will required from the legends who managed to claw out a way to play their favorite game for a living so early on in esports’ history. Look at someone like GeT_RiGhT, struggling with a chronic illness for so long, yet still oozing love for Counter-Strike. For players like him, raging against the dying of the light has little to do with the money: it’s just the way they are.

Competitors until the bitter end.