Counter-Strike is a lot like high school. There are a lot of cliques. Fights break out in the hallways. Everybody is concerned with looking cool. And now, with Global Offensive’s latest update, people are able to decorate the covers of their books (guns) with stickers.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive now has stickers. This is a good thing. This is a very good thing.
I’ve written before about the growing weirdness of Counter-Strike’s microtransactions. Currently, by playing or paying to unlock skins, you can turn your ordinary submachineguns into works of graffiti art, covered in colourful paintwork and realistic rust. There’s then a button in the game which allows you to turn the side of that gun towards you, so that between manshoots, you can admire the paintwork. I love this, because it suggests that the terrorists and counter-terrorists are simpletons infatuated with their weapons. Even in a firefight, they can’t resist sneaking a loving peek. “I always wanted my own little M4A1 Colt. I will name him George and I will hug him and pet him and squeeze him.”
The stickers are a sensible extension of that idea, but shift the vision in my head from Of Mice and Men to Saved By The Bell. I’m OK with this.
If you read the comments about the stickers anywhere on the internet, you’ll find a lot of criticism from players annoyed that this somehow disturbs the sanctity of the game. I disagree, or at least think that the sanctity needs disturbing. Counter-Strike always had a community problem, where its matches could grow increasingly aggressive and offensive as players, frustrated by the process of playing, took those annoyances out on others. Global Offensive adds a bunch of modern community tools that cut down the number of problem players, but public servers can still be a hive of scum and villainy.
Team Fortress 2, by comparison, never had problems of the same scale. I think that’s in part because there’s a silliness to the game that cuts across the seriousness of fighting, competing, shooting. The character types, the colourful maps and ridiculous hats, the little bits of fun-dickery that are coded into the game’s systems, like grudges and taunting in killcams. They each help keep the competition fun, not vicious. My hope is that stickers, and additions like it, find ways to do the same in Counter-Strike, undermining the seriousness of its initial theme by treating guns like skateboards. Especially when there’s so much that’s compelling about the system.
Also the update makes a bunch of other changes. I don’t really care about those, but did like Dust 2’s “Covered up shadow that looked like a player near CT spawn.” See the list of full changes here. If you’ve got Global Offensive installed, Steam has likely already downloaded the update.