Last weekend I got to the semi-finals of a casual Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament at PAX Prime '12. While I would definitely do it again, it wasn't all fun. This post is mainly for me to look back on later, but if you've wondered what going to a PAX tournament is like, here's what happened.
My team was prepping for the 2nd round, changing keybindings, fixing audio, checking and re-checking mouse sensitivities. I was pretty nervous and so was my team, because only three of us knew each other in this 5v5 tournament, one had barely played any counter-strike at all, and none of us had played much Global Offensive.
We were all a little frustrated that we'd been waiting around for 2.5 hours prior to this. We were told our brackets were available at 2:00pm, and the first round would start at 3:00pm. It ended up starting much later, and we were pushed to the second round because the 32 team bracket didn't completely fill up. None of that mattered once we finally got started though.
We decided to stick with our hastily put together plan for the first pistol round, and it turned out to work. We were counter-terrorists on de_nuke and had every path covered. If we played like this on a public server, we might've been called camping assholes, but here we were able to call out every person we saw and take them down quickly. Eight rounds later and we'd secured our first victory, sweeping them 9-0 and moving on to the third round, but not before another long wait for the organizers to get everything ready.
While we waited, we again hastily laid out the map and created a plan. I don't play or watch much competitive counter-strike, but apparently our next map, de_aztec was an unusual map to use in a tournament. A new batch of computers and re-doing all our bindings and sensitivities, and we were good to go. It turned out to be another easy sweep, and we quickly went 9-0 again and moved to the semi-finals.
Another long wait and we sat at a new set of computers: this time with fancy CS:GO mice and headsets, and heavy steelseries keyboards. We were up against the very classy "PussyMonster" team on de_inferno. I found out later that our match was being recorded and live-streamed out somewhere. Someone was sitting next to us announcing the entire match.
The match turned out to be the most even match-up of the entire tournament, and also the most unstable connection-wise. The servers crashed once (just before the above video started) and we had to wait ~15 minutes for them to come back up, and then the round-length was wrong after they came up, resulting in an early map-change (which occurs at the end of the above video) , both of these occurring after my team had won a round and gotten ahead on money.
Eventually we got to an 8-8 tie-breaker round. It was a chaotic knife-only round—the organizer was shouting to watch the players and make sure we only used knives, my friend who hardly played CS asked if knives do team-damage (they do), and a large crowd had formed behind us to watch this final round. I feel bad for the person announcing this ridiculous match, because while this was the closest a match could get, it was hardly the high-level play I'm sure people are used to, and certainly nothing worthy of being recorded
I ended up being the last person alive on my team, facing two others coming at me. I'd played knife-only rounds all the time back in the days of beta counter-strike, so I felt the responsibility of our win or loss in my hands as I backed away from the two players, lunging at the right time to get the first hit on one and taking him down to the screams of applause from people behind me. Now it was me versus one other player in the tie-breaking round, and I could barely hear the game over people making noise behind me. Again, I was backing away, as was my strategy for knife-fights, and the crowd was yelling each time we got close enough to swing at each other. I stopped moving at the right time to get the first hit in, but it wasn't enough to take down the other player who still had full health. Before the lunge would recharge, he hit me and took me out, and we lost the match.
I was stunned. The last person alive, and I felt it was my fault. How could that player have still had full health? But I got the first hit in, what else could I do? It was now close to 8:00pm and I'd been there for 6 hours, an hour longer than the schedule said it would take, and apparently we still had one more match for 3rd place to go. After being so close to winning, feeling frustrated with the inopportune server disconnections, and disappointed in our performance, we hardly felt up for another match, and quickly lost again. I knew I could play better, but at this point I had trouble focusing. I was still thinking about that last knife kill.
For our trouble, they gave us some dog-tags with keys for a free copy of CS:GO. I was able to catch the last hour of the Guild Wars 2 launch party happening across the street, and getting a few drinks with the developers there was exactly what I needed after being so strung-out from the tournament. It felt so good to crush in those first two rounds, and the semi-final was exciting as hell, but losing like that was so devastating. Even if we'd made it to the final round, the other team was actually a team that practiced together, so we really had no chance. They handily won every match and were absolutely the best players there.
Still, it was a great time, and I'd encourage anyone going to PAX to go to one tournament (and only one, because they do take a lot of time). This was my second PAX tournament, and they've both been great, if a little slip-shod in their set-up. The Battlefield 2 tournament I won a few years back had some server problems as well, with a lot of players disconnecting and getting angry at the organizers for not re-doing the match. Luckily everyone took the problems in stride this year, and it was the best time I had at the show.