I was going to just have a retrospective on my year 2016 at first, but in fact I want to talk about a topic that I really got interested in as the year went by: storylines in esports.
I think I realised this when I noticed, after Astralis won ECS Season 2, a very small recap I found on ESPN. This mentions how this was a revenge on OpTic gaming, who defeated Astralis a little while earlier in the ELeague finals, and how the danes quickly swept the North American side.
What struck me is the absence of any mention to the fact that Astralis just ended a title drought that was running for more than a year already, when they were known as TSM, at PGL CCS. And probably for longer than that if you consider that this tournament didn't have their nemesis from then, EnVyUs.
To think about it made me realize how big this was for Astralis, a team always considered "elite", boasting one of the best players in the world, dev1ce. I was kind of shocked that there was no mention of this in the recap from ESPN. I've got nothing against them or anything, but I thought that this was peculiar, and this really made me feel the importance of storylines.
So here are my favorite, or which I think are the biggest, storylines of 2016 (mostly about CS:GO, sorry, other games... )
The fall of Fnatic
This one's pretty straightforward. Fnatic, once all-time great on CS:GO with to their absolute dominance through 2015 - with 2 out of 3 majors won, countless titles during the year - and the very beginning of 2016 - between the Cluj-Napoca Major and the MLG Columbus Major they entered six tournaments total, won all six. Then the Olof injury, and the slow decline, which saw them exit the two majors of 2016 before the finals. This led to one of the biggest earthquakes of CS:GO, which is the split of that legendary lineup.
The explosion of the danish scene
Denmark has always produced excellent CS players. But what we saw in 2016 was quite unique in a way. Astralis had been at the top of the danish scene for some time (and before as TSM, and Dignitas), but as the year developed, we saw the rise of Dignitas, slow but steady, with the development of players like Kjaerbye, k0nfig and Magiskb0y into elite-tier players. Behind those two was SK Gaming, where Magiskb0y revealed his potential earlier in the year. After the mess that was the signing of the brasilian lineup from Luminosity, this team went as Team-X, and then as Heroic. The development of this team during 2016 has been quite impressive and head turned when they started to beat the likes of G2 or even their fellow countrymen of Astralis in tournaments.
Where many country can often align only two very good teams, Denmark managed to have three at some point.
The most impactful player transfer
This one is literally a followup for the last part. When Astralis decided to part ways with karrigan, after a little less than two years with him as IGL, and brought in gla1ve from Heroic, this was seen as a move that could indeed benefit Astralis. It was way better than that. gla1ve managed to transform Astralis and did what karrigan never could: bring the team to finally lift a trophy. Sad story for karrigan? You'd be wrong to think that. He ended up in FaZe, a team that's been for a long time notorious for their incredible individual talents, but that always lacked an IGL. The arrival of karrigan saw the team immediately improve. In karrigan's debut match in FaZe, they won two Bo3 against top teams, and advanced out of groups (at ELeague S2). Two feats that FaZe failed to achieve the whole year.
This player transfer remains, for me, one of the best move that could happen to CounterStrike, where both teams would actually greatly benefit from this.
The end of the North American underperfomance.. for now
This was quite massive. When Cloud 9 won ESL Pro League Season 4, they ended a decade of suffering for NA fans, during which no NA team could get their hand on a premier tournament trophy. And just before you could actually absorb the historical moment, OpTic shocked the world and took the trophy at ELeague Season 2. In just two weeks (!!!), North America went from 0 big trophy in a decade to two.
In the end, when Yamato wrote about NA CS underperfomance, closing it with his hopes about a team worth writing about a year from then, I don't think he (and pretty much anyone) expected that two would have actually won a premier tournament at that point.
So those are my favorite stories of the year. As for me, I've had a pretty amazing 2016 in terms of esports. I went to HTC 1v1, DreamHack Tours, ESL One Cologne, ESL One New York, ESWC 2016 and HomeStory Cup, and let's be honest, each and every of these event was just great, all in their specific way. I also got to meet a lot of TL.net peeps and it was really cool to finally meet some, after going to so many events alone.
I also got officially staffed, both on Liquipedia and as a writer. Honestly, I can't describe that feeling, it's been a thing I've respected and looked up to since I signed up on TeamLiquid. This only got me determined to invest even more into it and try to improve at everything I'm doing.
As for the future, I don't really know. I've been enjoying a lot doing interviews through 2016, and I've got no intention of stopping that. Writing has been a bit chaotic, due to the Coverage team being quite in a weird state. I hope we'll find a solution, stuff, anything that could improve in that area, and I'm confident we will. I'm also getting a new camera, hopefully I'll manage to become good at photography, though we're starting very low, here... More events, more stuff, more esports, what could go wrong with this program?
What's a blog without its shoutouts, so here we go:
Souma, I wouldn't be where I'm now if not because of him.
Yamato, with whom I always like discussing all things CS:GO. These discussions always make me realize I can be shortsighted, always help me structure my thought and notice stuff I would have easily missed otherwise. I long for that ability of yours to think that well.
All the Liquipedia peeps, especially FO-nTTaX and tolkienfanatic
lichter because mandatory, and of course because he's always there to help with basically anything.
Aeromi, that title is right for you.
And of course, all of you that I met throughout the year, in no particular order: Bluemoon, Hayl_storm, peanuts, akasha, Waxangel TheOneAboveU, munch, Olli, Destructicon, hexhaven, tolkienfanatic, JunoTheCat, FO, R1CH, Nazgul.
I hope I'm not forgetting anyone.
I'm looking forward to 2017, hoping I'll be able to improve at what I do, be able to do more stuff, all of this as a humble member of the wonderful TL.net family.