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It was easy to get swept up in the excitement around the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive final at the ELEAGUE Major this weekend, but over the course of Sunday afternoon it reached an absolute fever pitch. At one point, it seemed like every single person who has even a passing interest in competitive games was watching Cloud9 face FaZe Clan in a taut best of three. In double-overtime, Cloud9 found an incredible groove and strung together a tournament-winning string of victories over a a FaZe Clan that just couldn’t keep up anymore.
It was special because it represented a rare top-tier tournament victory for a North American CSGO squad (this is a theme across most esports), but also because their opponent’s roster read like a super-team of some of the best Counter-Strike players Europe has produced in the CSGO era. But I also found myself thinking that the real magic of Sunday’s final was due to the fact that Counter-Strike is one of the few esports that has a great overtime format, and a good overtime can make a sport almost transcendent.
Each “map” in a Counter-Strike tournament goes for 30 rounds, with each team playing 15 rounds from the Terrorist side and 15 rounds from the Counter-Terrorist side. If they’re tied-up after 30, they do an overtime set of 6 rounds… but the rules are still the same, so if they split rounds they go into yet another overtime set. There’s no flukey sudden-death play that’s going to bring things to an unceremonious end. From beginning to end, a Counter-Strike team needs to show its mastery and endurance.
It’s what I love most of all in sports. Maybe it’s a slightly sadistic impulse, but I love rules that force teams to play until someone gets a convincing sort of victory. One of my favorite sports memories of all time is Game 2 of the 2015 NHL conference final between the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks, which went deep into triple overtime. Watching two elite teams push themselves past the point of exhaustion, where even the simplest passes and checks started to become Herculean efforts from players who looked like they were on the cusp of delirium, revealed something essential both about the teams themselves and the sport of hockey itself. For a lot of people, C9 vs. FaZe is going to be another one of those memories, and it’s why CSGO’s overtime format is one of the game’s best ambassadors.
What are your favorite overtime games that you can remember? How bad do you think shoot-outs and penalty kicks are?