Why We Need to Kill Bo2’s – From an EPICENTRE Apologist

Max Melit

The initial impressions of EPICENTRE 2016 leave hard-core fans of Counter-Strike salivating. The teams in attendance represent the perfect cross-section of the top end of the scene. The amount of narrative threads heading into the event rival any Netflix drama or sporting event. The staging and location of the event – based on interviews with players – seem to be the best the scene has ever experienced. Practice rooms with top end PC’s, luxurious hotel rooms supported by equally ostentatious food, and a diaphanous community manager who is willing to talk about any complaints. Yet despite the highest level of tournament organising in every single category possible, there remains one unfortunate blemish/shortcoming  – “Best of Two”s.

It goes without saying that the vast majority of fans dislike a Bo2 format. More often than not a game can end in a tie, blue balling the audience in anticipation for the final game that will never come. It is as unsatisfying as it is frustrating to try and construct an overarching narrative when the stories are bogged down by split series, and playoff placing’s are decided by round difference. The EPICENTRE group-stage was a perfect example of this Bo2 format gone wrong.

Within an objective vacuum that looks at games on an individual basis, Moscow has bore witness to some of the highest level of strategic play fans have seen all-year. However, we do not live in a vacuum, and watching Group A eventuate in every series being 1-1 is a Prometheus-bound existence to the fans who need closure and a punctuated end.

Source: HLTV
Source: HLTV

Watching fan-favourite teams exit the tournament simply based on the round difference between teams is unpalatable. Even though Natus Vincere and Ninjas in Pyjamas had the exact same record, because they had two convincing losses (like most other teams in their group), they exited EPICENTRE in last place. This destroys any opportunity for the community to watch some of the tournaments potentially engrossing narratives.

Fans went into EPICENTRE with tempered expectations, keen to witness Maikelele attempts to maintain the same vintage form they flaunted at the StarSeries StarLadder Season 2 Finals, in addition to how they will perform under the pressure of the playoffs. There is no worse feeling than watching a motivated band of players leave by the vehicle of technicality rather than the glory of competition.

It is as unsatisfying as it is frustrating to try and construct an overarching narrative when the stories are bogged down by split series, and playoff placing’s are decided by round difference.

Bo2’s carry the implicit undertones of poor planning, and corner-cutting to save time. It does not take long to find examples of crammed tournament days, as organisers overwork broadcast talent and players to save on the amount of money needed to hire the arena, whilst having the maximum amount of teams present to increase hype.

From reading player interviews and watching the time in-between the matches, you get the sense that EPICENTRE is some ramshackle operation. Contradictively, they have a level of in-game customisation that shows attention to detail and prior planning, a series of creature comforts for players, and it generally seems like everyone present has nothing but positives to say about their experience – this is more of a bash about the idea of the Bo2 format rather than EPICENTRE as an organiser.

Source: Kespa
Source: Kespa

EPICENTRE themselves have admitted that they will look to change the Bo2 format and that it was the primary shortcoming of the event thus far, as can be seen in the tweets below:

This is in stark contrast to the most famous example of the Bo2 format being used outside of CS:GO when Riot announced the stigmatised two-game series will be used for the EU LCS. Rather than being transparent and talking about any difficulties that they might’ve had with organising time allocations, and clashing schedules with the NA broadcast, the excuse of “Europeans like ties” was brought out in all of its bovine excrement glory. Considering the Riot response, the EPICENTRE response feels genuine and real and has definitely made an apologist out of me.

However good the event, and however well they’ve handled any criticism, we still have to look back on all the games with a chastising eye, and remember that Bo2’s aren’t popular for a reason. They gut a viewers experience, make teams leave early in a fashion that doesn’t feel true to competition, and ooze a sense of poor prior planning and amateurishness.

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