In the late nineties, video games were still maturing as a medium and players gathered on local networks to play their favorite games. Counter Strike was one of them. A fan favorite back then, the franchise continued to evolve and grow along with the industry.
Valve released the latest entry in the series on August 12th, 2012, but times have changed. Players continue to get together, in order to admire their favorite series, but now in a different environment, as they gather to watch others play on Twitch.
Counter Strike: Global Offensive is consistently on the top 3 list of most watched games on Twitch. This fact brings a question: what makes this production a compelling experience to watch? We analyzed its game design to find out.
A contemporary product
It has been 17 years since the first entry of the franchise became available, but since then, its core mechanics have not changed. The most popular game mode is the bomb scenario, in which a team of terrorists must plant a bomb in a specific location, while a squad of Counter-Terrorists must either eliminate the enemies or defuse the explosive.
Most matches will not last longer than five minutes. It feels as if developers in 1999 anticipated the needs of people in 2016. We live in the digital era and the attention span of its citizens continues to dwindle. People, in general, now want short bursts of entertainment, rather than consuming long pieces.
Unlike other First Person Shooters, in which rounds can take more than an hour, Counter Strike: Global Offensive provides viewers on Twitch with a short and intense experience, thus meeting the needs of people of the digital era.
It is worth mentioning that the experience of watching a match of Counter Strike: Global Offensive is also friendly to the viewer. No matter which mode the streamer may be playing, the objective is always simple, defusing a bomb, rescuing a hostage or simply killing enemies. The means to achieve these goals are simple as well, creating an experience where even those who have never played the game can understand what is happening.
Brevity, intensity and universality are key reasons as to why Counter Strike: Global Offensive is constantly on the top 3 list of most watched games on Twitch, but there are other factors that come into play as well.
Keeping viewers on the edge of their seats
In the game’s most popular mode, there is no respawn. If players die, they need to wait until the start of a new round, in order to rejoin the action and a death can occur instantly with a single well-placed shot, fired from an enemy rifle.
Anything can happen at any time. This adds intensity to the experience, not only to those who play it, but to those who watch it. The game creates a sense of urgency in its audience, as viewers keep their eyes glued to the screen, afraid that if they look away for an instant, they might miss something important.
The fact that players cannot respawn also adds meaning to each time the player dies, considering the penalty players suffer after each death. In others First Person Shooters, death becomes less significant, considering that players can respawn and rejoin the action few seconds later, as if nothing has happened.
One of the reasons why people watch games online, in general, is the streamer; the person playing the game. Due to the frantic nature of Counter Strike: Global Offensive, players can never truly know what to expect around the next corner.
This unpredictability makes it difficult for streamers to force, or even fake, a reaction, thus allowing the audience to get a more sincere performance from the streamer.
Taking the game to a higher level
The Counter Strike franchise offers players a core gameplay that is simple, but difficult to master. This is; therefore, an easy game for you to get started in, but after few rounds, you will realize that learning how to use its mechanics to their fullest takes time and effort.
People often watch this game on Twitch, in order to learn from those who have achieved mastery over the gameplay, or simply watch it for the pleasure of seeing a professional player push the game to a next level.
This is the same principle behind watching sports in real life. Think of football, for instance. You could play it with your friends and yet, most people prefer watching an NFL game on television. The act of watching someone else performing an activity you could be doing yourself is compelling, because we want to watch the best athletes taking the sport to its limit and this something you will not get by playing with your peers.
The same holds true to eSports.
Counter Strike is one of the most successful franchises in the gaming industry, to the point that even those who do not play video games are aware of its existence. The series survived through the test of time and still thrives to this day.
With this said, people are aware of the importance this game holds to this industry and once they have the opportunity to watch it, they do, because they know they are in the presence of greatness.
The history of this game leads to the creation of its following. With more than half a million users playing each day, these people share a passion in common: this game. This is reflected in the chat during streams on Twitch, where users interact, share tips and stories regarding their favorite franchise.
The sense of community enhances all of those factors mentioned herein. This game would not even be alive if it were not for it, after all.
While games are experiences design to be played, platforms as Twitch and YouTube allowed gamers to create a new segment, that turns gaming into a passive activity.
This may seem counterintuitive, given that this industry craves for interactivity, but as Counter Strike: Global Offensive has shown us, an audience can enjoy a good product, even if it is not being consumed in the way it was designed to be.
Through the topics above we explained the appeal of watching a match of Counter Strike: Global Offensive on Twitch. Share in the comments your opinion as to why you like to watch the game you love to play.