Esports primer — Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Esports are passionately followed by millions of fans around the globe on a daily basis. With the games featuring a wide range of formats, competition types and schedules, Field Level Media is producing a series of overviews to introduce you to the most popular titles, teams and personalities.

Today, a look at Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, commonly referred to as CS:GO, is a multiplayer first-person shooter game published by Valve. It was released in 2012 as the fourth game in the Counter-Strike series, with Valve transitioning the game to a free-to-play model in December 2018.

The goal of the game is straightforward with two teams, the Terrorists and the Counter-Terrorists, competing in different game modes to complete objectives on various “maps.”

Players are rewarded at the end of each round based on their performance, earning virtual currency to spend on additional weapons or utility. Completing objectives earns cash bonuses, while actions such as killing teammates incurs penalties.

There are nine primary game modes: Competitive, Casual, Deathmatch, Arms Race, Demolition, Wingman, Flying Scoutsman, Danger Zone and Weapons Course.

Competitive mode features two teams of five players competing against each other, with each player having a skill-based ranking. Matchmaking is supported in each of the online game modes, running the Valve Anti-Cheat to prevent cheating and match players of similar skill levels.

The current active duty map pool includes Inferno, Train, Mirage, Nuke, Overpass, Dust II and Vertigo. They are the most balanced and competitive maps used in official Valve events.

Valve has continued to update CS:GO since its release, introducing new maps, weapons, game modes and weapon-balancing changes. While the active map pool has consistently remained at seven, they do change periodically to keep the game aesthetically current.

In best-of-one competitions, teams typically take turns banning three maps apiece and compete on the one remaining. In best-of-three, teams take turns banning two maps, with the final three maps played.

The longest format is best-of-five, with only one map banned by each team. It is considered the most difficult test, requiring teams to prove their skills over the most robust gameplay. However, some critics prefer best-of-three to reduce the hours-long strain of competing in the longer format.


The professional CS:GO scene is one of the most comprehensive in the gaming industry, with a wide range of organizers staging competitions around the globe.

Valve-organized or co-sponsored tournaments known as Majors feature many of the most lucrative prize pools. The tournaments include teams directly invited and others who advance through qualifying rounds, with 16 teams typically battling it out for the prize pool.

Marquee annual events include IEM Katowice in Poland and ESL One events held at the “Cathedral of Counter-Strike,” LANXESS Arena in Cologne, Germany, and in other rotating cities.

There are numerous third-party organizers, with DreamHack and BLAST each staging several events on an annual basis that feature six-figure prize pools.

Event champions win a point for the Intel Grand Slam. A team that wins six out of 10 big tournaments on the ESL Pro Tour or four out of 10 consecutive main events among IEM Katowice, ESL One Cologne or any DreamHack or ESL Major will complete the Grand Slam and earn a $1 million prize.

The ESL Pro League includes 24 teams in a season-long competition for a $750,000 prize pool, while Flashpoint debuted in 2020 with 12 teams battling it out for $1 million.

In all, there were nearly three dozen CS:GO competitions with six-figure prize pools in 2019.

PLAYERS/TEAMS TO KNOW’s world rankings are considered the leading authority on ranking teams around the globe. The system is based on results from the past year, weighted toward those from the past two months and predicted around a three-man core team to retain past points.

There are three main professional regions: Americas, Europe/Commonwealth of Independent States and Asia/Oceania.

Natus Vincere are the current No. 1 team in the rankings, led by 22-year-old superstar Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev. After falling to mousesports in the Grand Final of the ICE Challenge in London in February, Na’Vi went on to win the Katowice major. While s1mple is from the Ukraine, the remainder of Na’Vi’s roster hails from Russia.

Astralis are currently ranked No. 2, but the Danish team assembled what is considered the greatest team in CS:GO history as the organization won four Majors, consecutive ESL Pro League Finals and the $1 million ELEAGUE CS:GO Premier between 2017-19.

Astralis are the top-ranked team from Europe, followed by G2, mousesports, Fnatic and FaZe. Other notable teams from the region include Vitality, Ninjas in Pyjamas and Complexity, while BIG made a surprising run to the ESL One Cologne 2018 Grand Final, where they lost to Na’Vi.

Sixth-ranked Liquid, led by Jake “Stewie2k” Yip, are the top-ranked team from the Americas region. They are followed by Evil Geniuses, Gen.G and Cloud9, who each have notable wins on their team resumes. South America also boasts strong Brazilian teams FURIA and MIBR.

While Asia is known for its dominance in games including DOTA 2, League of Legends and Overwatch, the region is not as strong in the CS:GO scene. No. 29 TyLoo are currently the top-ranked team from Asia, featuring four Chinese and one South Korean player. They are followed by ViCi Gaming and EHOME, two primarily Chinese teams.

Australia is the stronger force from the region, boasting globally competitive teams including 100 Thieves (No. 9 overall) and Renegades (No. 27).


CS:GO events are streamed on a variety of platforms, while the big events include live weekend playoffs.

IEM Majors and the ESL Pro League are streamed in four different languages on Twitch, with the English stream available at Fans can also watch competitions on the IEM YouTube channel.

–Field Level Media

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