Cristiano Ronaldo is quite good at football, this much we know. Likewise, Lionel Messi is also a decent player, and can change the course of a football match in the blink of an eye. Over their careers, the clubs these two play for have invested hundreds of millions of euros making sure they are the only team allowed to field a CR7 or Messi in a club game, but what if that wasn’t the case? What if Barca occasionally allowed Messi to play for Chelsea, or Juventus, when it suited them financially or for some other reason?
At the moment, that is exactly the situation we have in Counter-Strike, and it is in danger of making a mockery of the competitive integrity of the game. Today, the world’s best player, Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev, will represent mousesports in a match versus Virtus.pro, allowed because his org (Na’Vi) is not in the competition in question (ECS), which means there is no conflict of interest according to the rules of the event. Despite this, the community reaction seems to be fairly consistent, that this is unfair to Virtus.pro, and it is hard to really argue with that assessment.
The last minute nature of the sub is not the only problem, but combined with the massive advantage mous will gain, it does create an interesting question. Even if s1mple were to replace the best player on mouseports he would represent a significant upgrade, but putting him in for one of their support staff seems like e-doping. Admittedly, there will have to be some adjustments in tactics, but that is a small price to pay if you get the best fragger in CS in return.
The two faces of Na'Vi
Before we go any further, it is worth pointing out the sheer insanity of Na’Vi at this stage, if only for posterity. Less than a month ago, SK Gaming offered the full, contractually stated buyout for s1mple, who had also agreed to the move, and Na’Vi refused to play ball. While many speculated about the legal ramifications of such a move, the contrast with the way the have so freely let other teams borrow their crown jewel seems extremely odd, but that is Na’Vi all over.
We have no way to know if money is changing hands in this situation of course, or even if the player s1mple is replacing actually has to sit out. Martin "STYKO" Styk is the man who will not be playing today, apparently so he can undergo Lasik surgery, but that is all the information we get. So, to sum up, there is no real criteria for proving the need for the sub, not need to provide details of the fee paid, if any, and nothing to stop mous doing it again and again with Na’Vi not part of the ECS.
There are loads of obvious solutions to this issue, as it exists in most sports and isn’t overly complicated to solve, and very few in CS seem to still struggle to understand why it is a problem. A few loud voices may proclaim their ignorance of the issue, but we’ll always have a vocal minority that takes the ‘out’ position almost by default. I mean, there are photos from space, and yet the flat earth society exists. The ‘s1mple is not an upgrade’ society is about as logical to be honest, at least if you’ve watched a bit of CS.
Tonight though, Virtus.pro must suck it up, or maybe just try some subterfuge of their own. Nobody would blink an eye if told Snax has a busted wrist, just based on how he is playing, and the VP owners have the money and ties to Na’Vi to make things happen. Who knows, we could even see a bidding war to decide who makes the next LAN at every event s1mple, NiKo or coldzera doesn’t attend. That would be something, just not something good…