Trolls and Tribulations: The Problematic ‘Counter-Strike’ Rank System

By | 1 year ago 

The Counter-Strike rank system in Global Offensive, and a growing trend in farming kills, has got people pondering the pros and cons of player pecking order. The ability to rank players in games is a cherry on top of the multiplayer sundae—you spend some time grinding and learning in the trenches, gaining levels and experience as you go. Eventually, you hit a high rank that reflects your progress, and get the badge to prove it.

Ranking players serves a pragmatic end in that it can create more even matches, since players of higher rank are more frequently matched with others of similar rank. That keeps the competition stiff for highly-ranked players and allows lower ranks to sharpen their teeth against others at a comparable skill level.

At least, that’s how it works in theory. Unfortunately, as with any multiplayer game, players intent on maximizing their experience do so at the detriment of other players, making many fans wonder if there’s a better alternative to the ranked match system.

Counter-Strike Fans Face Demotion For Playing With Friends 

One downside of the Counter-Strike ranking system is that it works both ways—improving means you move up the ladder, while underperforming means you move down. For people who want to play with their friends of lower rank, that can mean sacrificing their rank.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Screenshot

Counter-Strike fans with high rank may lose rank when playing with low-ranked friends, a side-effect of the game’s demotion system. Image Source: Fallschirmjäger via Wikimedia Commons.

While sacrificing rank might seem like a small price to pay, it’s also penalizing players for wanting to play with their friends— which is supposed to be one of the best parts of playing games in the first place. While rank isn’t the most important thing about the gaming experience, a high rank is difficult to work up to and easy to lose. Playing with your friends shouldn’t come at the cost of your hard-earned rank, even if the loss is small.

Of course, some fans have methods of fighting back. Buying a second (or third, or fourth) copy gives you another account, meaning players can use one account for preserving their rank while using the other to play with friends.

Multiple Accounts Lead to Harassing Low-Ranked Players

Having multiple accounts also has a downside. While some people might be using a second account just to have some no-consequences fun with friends, there are others who just like the thrill of messing with lower-ranked players. There’s a growing problem in the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive community, where high-ranked players have an alternate account to farm kills just because they can.

While this kind of thing can be fun for the high-ranked players doing the killing, for low-ranked players it can also kill any chance they have of moving up the rankings ladder. Getting repeatedly slaughtered by people at higher ranks isn’t an effective method of learning to play better—it’s more like pitting a newborn kitten against a rampaging elephant. It’s also far more likely to drive new players away from the game.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Screenshot

Untangling Counter-Strike‘s ranking system will be difficult, as the good is mixed in with the bad. Image Source: mroosa via Counter-Strike Wiki.

Fixing the Counter-Strike Rank Problems 

Unfortunately, little if anything is being done to address the concerns of Counter-Strike fans regarding the current ranking system. Anything that gets players to buy multiple copies of games—whether to play alongside their friends or to harass lower ranks—is unlikely to be frowned upon by the games producers. Buying multiple copies means players are spending more money on the game and thus increasing Valve’s profits. Others believe there isn’t anything to be done, and that griefers are an inevitable part of any online gaming experience.

While the latter might be partially true, that doesn’t mean that nothing can be done to address the problem. In League of Legends, for instance, players must reach level 30 before they’re able to participate in ranked matches, meaning creating multiple accounts just to throw matches or annoy lower ranks is more of a time investment than many trolls are willing to undertake. While there’s been no word from Valve on whether they’re interested in pursuing something like this for Counter-Strike, it is a possible way of combating multiple account abuse.

Whether Valve will address fans’ concerns about Counter-Strike rank problems remains to be seen. Ranking players is a great concept for matchmaking, but manipulation on the part of players is causing some grief. With any luck, Valve will take steps to eliminate the imbalance without upsetting the matchmaking, as more and more players ask to enjoy their games without having to sacrifice ranks or deal with high-ranking trolls on alt accounts.