Didn’t attend the major? Enjoy this first-person report by Adam ‘Incipiens’ Conway, our copy editor and photographer who was on site.
With the roar of the crowd and the energy in the air, the PGL Antwerp Major was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had. And that was just meeting the other members of TLDR in the flesh.
From start to finish the crowd was immersive, a hive mind that swallowed all that entered it. Chanting, screaming, celebrating, it was an all-encompassing experience that enthralled anyone that stepped inside of it.
Adjacent to that amazing feeling of intimacy across thousands of fans was the sports-like tension across the arena. Vacillating chants of “NAVI” and “FAZE CLAN” filled the air at nearly all times. A game in itself of which supporters were the loudest. For many, it wasn’t about who won, it was about the game we all know and love.
Though it’s fair to say some of them did care who won. Someone should have told the ‘G2 Army’ about the Legends’ Stage.
Fans of the game from across the globe were in attendance. The Brazilians riling up the crowd from the very center. I asked one of them who they supported, and they told me that they didn’t care who won, they were just happy to take part in one of the best Counter-Strike events of the year. Easy to say when FURIA got dusted, though.
The lead-up to the final was hypnotic, and every Counter-Strike enthusiast was ready to go.
The show match first took place, with Frankie Ward and James Banks being their own hype people to get the crowd even further on edge before the main event. The crowd, of course, played along. Whenever any of the players bought an AK or an M4, the player who purchased it was met with a chorus of boos from the crowd. Serves them right, too.
No honour in rifling against Negevs, my friends. You might have won the battle, but not the war.
Following the show match was a lull, a lull where everyone anxiously began to wait on the final.
PGL filled the air with the announcement for Gucci Gaming Academy (curious about that? check our podcast interview with one of their coaches) and interviews with spectators, one of which actually happened to be a friend of mine who then got blasted for looking like Ed Sheeran. As a fellow ginger, I totally get it.
Everyone knew what was coming, and seeing people from the crowd, friends, and others, made it feel as if we were on the screen alongside them.
Esports is the fans, and we were all esports.
The final was the boiling point. Every single person in the crowd let loose, and a boiling point had been met. Hypnotised by every flashbang, every call, every kill, the crowd was hanging on the words of the casters and the action shown on the stage.
The final play of Inferno where Karrigan poetically made his last-second site-switch call work was one of the most beautiful moments I have ever witnessed in Counter-Strike, thanks to both the crowd and to PGL who made it exceptional.
Despite being sad it was over, I think that everyone left that arena satisfied.
I met some friends of mine who had traveled over from Ireland as well for a quiet drink near my hotel, and that’s what drove the point home to me.
While we all love Counter-Strike, it’s the community that we all love, too.
Every single person in that arena had one thing in common, and that one thing was enough for everyone to travel from far and wide to “just watch video games on a big screen”. Bloody brilliant, that.