The Cyber Community of an online video game.
A look into the Discourses of Counter Strike: Global Offensive
One of the most popular pastimes are video games, many falling under the first person shooter genre. Counter Strike Global Offensive, or CS:GO is an FPS that has recently surged in popularity over the last couple of years. CS:GO offers two attractions which makes it unique among all other games, the competitive game mode and the weapon skin market. Both the game play and skin market envelopes its players into an online community. According to Gee’s “LITERACY, DISCOURSE, AND LINGUISTICS: INTRODUCTION,” this social group can be considered a Discourse. To Gee,
“Discourses are ways of being in the world; they are forms of life which integrate words, acts, values, beliefs, attitudes, and social identities” (Gee 6–7).
Competitive play creates a social group
Unlike any other first person shooter, CS:GO has a ranking system which is used to fairly match players with similar game skills. This results in players demanding more from themselves and their teammates to claim victories in order to ascend the rankings. The competitive environment forces the user to play on a more serious, strategical level resulting with higher expectations for his or her teammates. These expectations germinate a set of shared values amongst the social group such as teamwork, strategy and skill as well as sportsmanship and respect. These set stone values and beliefs encompasses the online community into a Discourse.
CS:GO dissected as a Discourse
Primary vs. Secondary, Dominant vs. Non-Dominant
The counter strike Discourse can be considered both a secondary non-dominant, and a secondary dominant Discourse. Gee considers secondary Discourses as, “institutions in the public sphere, beyond the family and immediate kin and peer group” (Gee 8). The online community of counter strike provides an environment outside of its user’s home style in the public sphere. Although the Discourse can easily be considered secondary, whether it is a non-dominant or dominant is blurred. According to Gee, “Non-dominant Discourses are secondary Discourses the mastery of which often brings solidarity with a particular social network, but not wider status and social goods in the society at large” (8). This is very true for players that want to enjoy the game on an amateur level. However, some users strive to achieve more than just entertainment from the game.
It’s more than just a game…
A number of Counter Strike users have earned money and fame through their involvement in the Discourse. This type of Discourse is described as a dominant secondary Discourse. As said by Gee, a secondary dominant Discourse, “are secondary Discourses the mastery of which, at a particular place and time, brings with it the (potential) acquisition of social “goods” (money, prestige, status, etc.)” (Gee 8). One example that shows the Dominant Discourse side of CS:GO is the organization OPSkins. Founded by Artur Minacov and Jon Brechisci in January 2015, this site offered the safe selling of weapon skins for real currency.
“With us, people cash out the money they are getting from each sale. Some can make a lot of money out of it” (Minacov).
By mediating these transactions, the site produces around $12,000 a day. With that income, OPSkins was able to be the main sponsor for the ESWC Counter-Strike: GO World Finals, contributing $100,000. This shows that the CS:GO Discourse can be presented as both a secondary non-dominant, and a secondary dominant Discourse. Despite their differences, both types of Discourses encompasses an online community around the world. Because its range of players interact virtually, getting into the Discourse of counter strike can be difficult.
How to see who’s in or out
The counter strike Discourse has an obvious sign system that shows who are and aren’t in the Discourse. As Gee says, Discourses are the “saying(writing)-doing-being-valuing-believing combinations” (Gee 6). CS:GO has a unique set of languages which makes it relatively easy to see who is and who isn’t in the Discourse. For example, in an interview the player GeT_RiGhT from team NiP talks about the “backup” position. He explains that the backup is responsible for throwing proper tactical grenades to give the best support for his or her teammates. GeT_RiGhT shows how to impair the enemy’s vision long enough to safely secure important map positions with smoke grenades.
When he explains the proper positions to throw the smoke, he uses in game shortcuts. Instead of catwalk, he calls it “kitty”. Some players call this position, “cat” or, “meow meow”. Players do this to give rapid “callouts” in order to warn teammates or call strategies. After hearing the call out, the entire team knows that an enemy player has been spotted in that specific location. That elicits another series of responses specific for the Discourse such as, “setting up a crossfire” or “smoking out.”
Therefore, it can be quite apparent that an individual is not in the Discourse if he or she fails to use the shortcuts or says the wrong call out. Gee says that in a Discourse, “It is not what you say, but how you say it. Only players within that social group, that Discourse would understand how and when to properly use the languages. Once the player effectively learns the languages he or she can advance into the Discourse.
How to enter the world of Counter Strike
Connections and Dissociations; It’s not as easy as CoD
If a person is not in the Discourse, what can he or she do to get into it? Fiano states that, “a new Discourse is formed by integrating unfamiliar discourses, with more familiar discourses” (Fiano 65). Although connections can be made between the Discourses of other games, some differences slows or even hinders the ability to enter the Counter Strike Discourse. For example, Call of Duty another popular online game features many of the same aspects as Counter Strike. The games feature two teams that are assigned objectives and similar weapons. Despite the similarities, there are rifts in the Discourses which inhibits the transfer-ability of the CoD Discourse into CS:GO’s. On a forum, counter strike players discuss Call of Duty’s seemingly easier game play to counter strike’s.
“Counter-Strike is literally designed to be a skill requiring game. CS:GO is based on team play, whereas in CoD you can rambo and get good KD and play the objective, CSS you HAVE to play as a team or you will lose, straight up” (Grovertooskinny).
In Call of Duty, the individual’s skills are more honored than the cohesion of the team as a whole. Therefore, those that are beginning to play CS:GO with a Call of Duty mindset neglect the major concept of teamwork which prevents them from entering the Discourse. Although Call of Duty fails to fully bridge the Discourse gap, basic strategies and game sense can be carried over. In order to get into the Discourse, it takes mushfaking along with practice.
How to fake you way in
Some first person shooter qualities can be transferred into the CS:GO Discourse, but a lot cannot. However, that little bit can aid the individual to get into the Discourse. In order to enter into the Counter Strike Discourse, one must first mushfake. Gee identifies mushfaking as, “the partial acquisition to make do” (Gee 13). Some qualities include hiding, taking cover when being shot at, and positioning to get a better shot.
In addition to using prior game knowledge, the player must also become proactive and learn from outside sources. On YouTube and the internet there are numerous articles and websites that helps new players advance into the game and Discourse. One blog presents a coalition of interviews with professional gamers on how to improve game play. In the blog, it says that, “The Counter-Strike community is constantly generating videos designed to teach important concepts to players at every skill level. To get players up to speed quickly, the Counter-Strike community has produced a broad set of resources aimed at both new and experienced players” (blog.counter-strike.net).
Because Counter Strike is an online Discourse, it is very hard to learn from other players in the beginning. That is why it is up to the individual to access resources and use what he or she has to mushfake into the Discourse. Once they have entered the Discourse, they begin to create an identity for themselves as a player.
Customizable skins creates an in-game identity
CS:GO weapon skins provide an example of Gee’s “Identities” in a Discourse. Each weapon model in CS:GO has a variety of color patterns known as “skins”, which are exchanged and even gambled online for other skins and sometimes real currency. Skins vary in rareness, coloration, and condition which factor into their worth. The rare statrak feature that shows the number of confirmed kills with the weapon can double or triple the skin’s value. Gee states that, “A Discourse is a sort of “identity kit” which comes complete with the appropriate costume and instructions on how to act, talk, and often write, so as to take on a particular role that other people will recognize” (7). A player’s weapon skins are like banners that represents the player. When in a competitive match, players can associate the weapon skin with the user’s skill and performance.
One example is the highly reputable player KennyS. In his inventory, he has a brightly colored AWP sniper skin with his name on the scope. His mastery of the weapon has earned him and his unique skin a reputation amongst the professional players. “When you see him and that AWP, it is too late” (GeT_RiGhT). Skins represent their user’s ability in the game. When a teammate or enemy sees a player skin they can identify that player’s skill and role on that team. Skins represent their player’s identity to the rest of the community. They are a way of showing the player’s achievements and milestones in the Discourse.
The Counter Strike social group is a unique Discourse. Everyday, teams are made out of complete strangers all set on improving their ranks. They communicate and play as a unit with unique languages and strategies that would leave an onlooker wondering. As players increase their rank, so will their appreciation for skins and collections. Their skins may provoke a “wow” from a teammate after they let them see their AK-47 elite build with 1250 confirmed kills. If players take a step farther into the Discourse, they can compete on an international level to win profit and fame. Although CS:GO is much like other first person shooters, certain aspects dissociates CS from generic games. The online Discourse of Counter Strike Global Offensive is an acquired taste, but is a flavor worth trying.