No single game was more addicting and at the same time more consistently infuriating in the history of all my thirty gaming years than Counter-Strike. For all the zen-like mindless joy that a game like World of Warcraft has provided these four past trips around the sun, it is nothing to the virtual epochs I spent in the throes of Counter-Strike's bewitching thrall. This is a game that took years off my life, and one that I hold in a special chamber of my heart to this day. Yet, even as I write of its relative greatness, I wonder whether I am suffering under some long-term form of internet Stockholm syndrome.
The horror of the game sits as squarely in my mind as the joy. Public servers were a mire of the worst in internet culture, a constant assault of obscenity, brutality and chicanery. Wall-hacks and griefers were, and likely remain, as common as AWP whores and errant flashbangs. It should have been such an easy game with which to grow disenchanted, and yet it called me back night after night.
Yet, when it shone, when the game rose above the flaws fundamental to its presentation, no shooter was more thrilling. To recall the occasional moment when I alone succeeded where the rest of my team had failed is to remember the most superior joy of video gaming. Planting that bomb, alone by the crates in Dust 2, and then defending it against the last CTU stragglers could elicit a primal barbarian yawlp. Never was victory sweeter.
CS defined a generation of shooters, and probably has as many people who hate everything the game seems to stand for as those who were held in its unparalleled sway. Yes, it was a fickle bitch, a demanding mistress who would routinely turn on you with all the subtlety and sensitivity of frenzied bear. But when it was good, I daresay it was never better.