Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s crown jewel, competitive matchmaking, has had a reputation of being saturated with rampant toxicity. In the thirty round contest of skill between five Terrorists and five Counter-Terrorists, players may be willing to exploit any mean to produce a personal outcome that is most favorable to them; consequently, the possibilities are almost endless. Want to de-rank yourself in order to play with others who are within a lower skill threshold? You can grief (intentionally throw the game) for a few matches. Want to easily increase your rank to get to the skill level you’ve been “working hard” towards? Toggling aim-assists and “wallhacks” can facilitate that. Want to troll everyone in the match to beget pleasure for yourself? You can activate your terminator-like spin-bot for easy aces almost every round. These examples barely articulate how problematic it can be to find a fair, competitive match in competitive matchmaking.
Recently, Valve created a remedy, termed “Prime Account Matchmaking”, for the toxins within the player-base. With the addition of the Prime feature, competitors can be exclusively matchmade into competitive lobbies with other players who also have the premium feature enabled. An account with Prime status requires the user to link their Steam phone number with their CS:GO account, and there can only be one active Prime account per phone number. It’s important to note that VoIP phone numbers are unavailable for use in the Prime matchmaking system to prevent further exploitation of the ranking system, such as players cheating the system by “smurfing” against players who are drastically below their skill level with the use of an account that is linked to a fake phone number. In theory, Prime matchmaking is supposed to eliminate blatant cheating, extensive match-throwing, and arrogant smurfing throughout the general online competition pool.
I firmly believe that Prime matchmaking made CS:GO great again. Anecdotally speaking, the frequency at which I’ve encountered griefers, smurfs, and cheaters has decreased exponentially. Before the release of Prime, I would encounter a griefer, “smurf”, or possible cheater in about six out of every ten matches in competitive matchmaking. After the release of Prime and after three months of Overwatch and VAC (Valve Anti-Cheat) bans stabilizing the legitimate player-base within the feature, I can confidently assume I encounter those competitive pests about once every ten matches. The only exception to my aforementioned statement (It made CS:GO great again) is when I queue matchmaking games with friends who lack the Prime feature. Without it enacted, non-Prime games contain problematic and suspicious players about eight in every ten matches.
The effects of Prime matchmaking may not be readily palpable. Players who are enraged may quickly lose faith in the system after a few games of being confronted by exceptionally skilled players or individuals who have immature behaviorisms. Their beliefs may be compromised by confirmation bias and they may hold irrational vendettas against Valve for “creating yet another useless feature”. The efforts of Valve in creating this beautiful addition to Counter-Strike may be undermined by the narrow minds who unknowingly feed into the toxicity of the community.
Unfortunately, one of the largest complications associated with Prime matchmaking is the alienation of newly-born Counter-Strike players and/or accounts. In order to be given the option to activate the Prime status, an individual must be at least Lieutenant Rank Twenty-One. That casual ranking can only be achieved by grinding through twenty arduous levels of casual matches, casual death-matches, and non-Prime matchmade games. Valve’s reasoning behind the Rank Twenty-One requirement may have been implemented to prolong the incubation process of creating another account for griefing, smurfing, or cheating. Regardless of the newer player-base being affected, more seasoned competitors will still be able to enjoy the fruits of fair-play free of toxicity. It’ll just take longer for newer players to also bask in the Prime Experience, which makes accomplishing Rank Twenty-One that much more satisfying.
In the long term, Prime matchmaking has the potential to greatly benefit the Counter-Strike community. By institutionally segregating negatively impactful players from normal competitors in competitive games, that same “type” of player may be detracted from causing issues within competitive matches in the future. I would equate Prime matchmaking to the ubiquitous justice system we have in today’s society. Although the justice system isn’t perfect in reforming personalities, it can still be effective in converting harmful behaviorisms into relative normalcy if evaluated and executed properly. A person has the opportunity to live a full life without committing any wrongdoings; if they do so, they must pay the ultimate price and be removed from the system which fosters pleasure, integrity, and revelry.
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