The world of Counter-Strike is pretty volatile, so much so that players at times have even deactivated or deleted their social media accounts just to shield themselves from the harsher and often more toxic elements of the community.
But at the latest major event things have been stepped up a notch, with organisers ESL having to restrict press access following threats to certain players.
Photo: Intel Extreme Masters/ESL
The information first came out from HLTV.org, a major Counter-Strike coverage site that first complained about having their IEM Katowice access restricted for the first two days. “Unfortunately, when we arrived at the venue, we were told that press isn’t allowed to enter the venue on the first two days of competition,” according to a report on the site.
Michal Blicharz, the vice president of pro-gaming at ESL, which is running IEM Katowice, then revealed on Reddit that access had been restricted for the duration of the group stages. “We’ve restricted access to the tournament area for reasons of security (we’ve actually received information about threats to certain players at the event), tournament integrity and player comfort,” he wrote.
Blicharz said press were communicated before the event, conflicting HLTV’s report that they were only informed when they arrived at the venue. The ESL executive was also asked if the threats received against players were more credible this time around, to which he replied “yes, with legal restraining orders”.
The reason for the restrictions on the first two days is down to the schedule. After the group stages are finished, the event moves to the main stage at the Spodek Arena in Katowice, Poland, at which point the public and press will enjoy access as usual. It’s a little haphazard, with some Australians contributing to the production by broadcasting a second stream of matches remotely.
The matches themselves, however, are running smoothly unlike Valve’s recent nightmares in Shanghai. The first group has been delightfully entertaining: while the Mongolian representatives failed to secure more than a handful of rounds in any of their matches, the group was eventually topped by Luminosity Gaming from Brazil, one of the most in-form teams of the last few months.
Tournament favourites Fnatic and Natus Vincere also managed to squeak through, although the former ended the evening with a tight overtime tussle against mousesports. Group B kicks off later this evening, with EnVyUs, Astralis and local heroes Virtus.pro the most likely to proceed to the playoffs.
And while the final prize pool might not be as substantial as what’s on offer in Columbus (as it’s not a Valve-sponsored event), a US$250,000 prize pool isn’t something to be scoffed at. And nor is the trophy: according to Blicharz, it weighs a staggering 15.4kg. Hopefully the winners don’t drop it.