From the time I began gaming at the age of 5, with the sandbox simplicity yet amazingly open to highly creative endeavors in the form of Midtown Madness, till I played many other single player games such as the Prince of Persia and Grand Theft Auto series, all at a pretty vulnerable age of 10 or so, my complete meta-narrative of the video gaming world was highly subjective to friends that would introduce me to the latest installments and video games. As they grew older and went to college while I still was studying in 5th standard, everything changed from that point onward. Life jumped from single player games to multiplayer ones as they began embracing the ever-expanding café culture that hit the Indian gaming market back in the day.
Games such as Counter-Strike 1.6 became staple in the part of parcel of my video gaming life. Joining them in cafes is however what I reminisce to be the turning point. My world collided with the rather harsh reality of what I never would have imagined gamers to be. At home playing CS 1.6 seemed nowhere that big a deal much owning to the fact that I never really used headphones or microphones while playing it. I had to make terms with on-ground facts which I can recollect to be rather difficult for a 12 year old. In case you aren’t a regular to common Indian cafes, one’s ears there are subjected to constant abuses and rage-shouting. While I am nowhere near to be making conclusions on cafes out of India, what Indian cafes offered to me surely did not make playing such multiplayers fun.
This however did not make multiplayers elusive from my life. Age of Empires 2 was my initial step into competing in a game with another living human being. Although as old timers are aware of, there really weren’t that many players playing in India, because all the players capable of hosting lobbies were from everywhere on the globe except India. That, however, did not prevent my journey into bringing my ELO to 1700 which is pretty sick for a thirteen year old. It still however never introduced me to any community of sorts as I retreated from the Counter-Strike community in which I never really got my self entangled. Neither did I find myself engrossed in trying to learn the shooter mechanics of CS 1.6 nor was i even aware of competitions being held of it. And that is where StarCraft came in.
StarCraft 2 was probably the only game in which I showcased interested to be the better player in the game, even though I entered a rather dying scene of it in India. And from all that I have seen in quest so far, the Indian StarCraft 2 community so far must have been the most amiable community to which I have been privileged enough to belong to. Although the active community seemed ridiculously tiny in comparison to other Asian powerhouses such as South Korea, my first touch up to an online gaming community could not have been better. It pretty much had the one aspect of a community that one lusts for in the current toxicity of MOBA communities and other online games worldwide. Gamers being open and receptive to new comers is of extreme importance, something that our pals during the Heart of the Swarm era did well and for which i am really thankful.
I later began exploring into more games to get into after finding StarCraft turn from ‘casual and solid RTS experience’ to a ‘forget your hands for the rest of your life’, but then that is a different story. And at these crossroads I found DotA 2. But I will be honest. The International’s prize pool was all that sealed the deal of forgetting StarCraft to start playing DotA. And while I totally have given up on dreams of playing at The International or even attempt to breaking into the professional DotA scene, I surely have had and continue having hours of entertainment in the game.
But a major difference lay in this particular video game when compared to the ones that I have grown to be accustomed with. An intense multiplayer action video game with objectives to be completed and ancients to be destroyed is definitively a major aspect of games in this particular genre, but THE most important aspect of it in my 500 hour long journey in this game (which will seem to pretty short to most players, I’m aware) has been completing the said objective WITH 4 more players. And while Counter-Strike carries aren’t dependent on their teammates to have a good economy at same levels of that of the Carry heroes in DotA, quite unanimously, the community factor plays a larger-than-life importance in MOBAs. (Disclaimer: I never have played League of Legends or Heroes of Newerth, but I did game a bit of Heroes of the Storm.)
My comparatively smaller world which I considered to be large in comparison to my earlier universe that I gamed in now collided with another huge universe, and that is how I met the humongous gaming community of MOBAs. My first game of DotA, I distinctively remember being constantly abused for being an Indian and sucking at the game, but more of it contributing to the fact that I am an Indian (yes, by that time I had a microphone). First impressions then and there fell down, off the charts. I, however, was determined then to learn every nuance of this vast game, and continued playing, backed up by the laughable hopes of me standing in KeyArena. I found the online community thereafter, which turned out pretty nice back in the day. But then, I was what every teammate used to call (and still do), a ‘newb’. What I lacked was a proper teacher, which I fortunately found in a long-lost friend of mine after aimlessly running across the map as the sniper for almost 80 hours in-game. Instructions then were clear, find 4 other people of your skill level. And there started my tale of woe.
I began adding every player who I acknowledged to be a good player. Players either turned out to be extremely egoistic, blasting you for the smallest of mistakes without taking a step to criticize and teach but simply open their fascinatingly large mouths, or what I find to be a plague in the Asian scene- highly and extremely racist. Playing on SEA, one is bound to find people for whom the servers were meant in the first place (i.e Singaporeans and Filipinos). And while I couldn’t add them owing to the problematic communication due to a language barrier, Indians were surprisingly acting on an extremely negative front towards them. The slang term ‘pinoys’ for the indigenous people of the Philippines were found to be used in almost every alternate match, as people showered them with blames in the event of a defeat in hand. I was fortunate enough to then finally meet some truly spirited, talented and more importantly ‘teaching’ players with whom cafes became a much nicer and more visited place. But, the term ‘dystopia’ can be used rather extravagantly right here, keeping in mind my personal experiences.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive was my next destination. Introduced to me by a friend at a night-out in our cafe, ‘addictive’ was just the term that came in my mind as I had ended up spending the night revisiting the fan-favourite Dust2 and Italy from Counter-Strike 1.6. Although, here again lay another catalyst similar to The International’s prize pool attraction- betting, trading and the huge marketplace open for the takers. And here again lay another ‘dystopic’ setting all set to ruin my so-called ‘social life’ (or whatever was left of it).
I got my parents to buy me a 15$ steam wallet that turned into keys that went into cases to end up giving me skins worth 1$ which went into betting for some team that I don’t remember to leave my inventory worth all the scrap items that were left with me. Nevertheless, taking inspiration from a guy who i knew who supposedly made 22,000 INR just out of scrap items he received from drops. I again went on to get another 15$ that i blew on keys that again gave skins, well, this time a little more than 2$ and even give me a winning streak of 4 games on a betting site but deserting me right again, jumping me off to square one. Accepting the fact that I never am going to unbox anything even close to an AK47 – Redline, with the next 15$ that I spent (amounting to 45$ dollars straight down the drain), I got myself a sweet M4A1-S Hyper Beast, a Five-Seven – Monkey Businees and a copy of the latest expansion of Age of Mythology (because old habits die hard).
I met a guy from Russia who showed interest in my Five-Seven, promising me to send a steam code worth 5$ for my skin. Seeing a 2X profits and being a true ‘noob’ here, I fell for the stupidly recognizable scam by going first and losing my much loved skin for it. I then met a trader with whom I traded my Hyper Beast for a few other skins which I was after. I then met another guy who actually was a so-called retired trader but had made millions just out of betting. And he introduced me to another world of gambling, in the form on CSGODouble. Watching quality Counter-Strike was and still is my idea of spending my leisure time away from my PC. However, betting for a side turned me into a highly obnoxious and desperate human being shouting wildly every time ‘someone killed someone’. Coming to awareness and terms with this conversion of mine, as I spammed chats asking people to send their energies to the team on whom was my money was difficult, but i accepted the fact as I moved on.
CSGODouble was a land of opportunity, rich for the takers. I deposited all of my skins that I had made from winning a few bets. It amounted to almost 5000 coins, not much but still worthwhile. And, magic happened when I went from 5$ to 49$, all in one night. Yes, i actually ended up making up all that i had lost over a period of a month in just a matter of minutes. But wait, there is a catch. I checked back to see what all could my newly found richness get me, and it turned out to be a flip knife. However, always being a dreamer of the much coveted Gut knife, I took my luck for a spin again to make just another 1000 coins. Fun fact: Currently my CSGODouble balance stands at 0.
In my journey, encountering various communities and people, I have had my ups and downs. I have made friends for life out of what started as a simple hobby called gaming, and I also have made quite a few enemies. While it surely hasn’t ended here, or it can be considered pretty small now to even comment or write on it, this simply is my experience which I am sharing. People can argue that I simply wasn’t smart enough to be betting and trading away, and I myself couldn’t agree more on that. But hey, this has been my personal experience and surely there must be someone else who must have gone through something similar.
As of now, I still continue meeting similar-minded people at cafes and LAN events and enjoy the regular night-outs there too. About my career with Counter-Strike items and trading and what not, I have finally consented to the rather obvious idea of it not being my cup of tea, but the fun of CSGODouble that night continues to haunt, well, my father’s wallet.