Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Valve has just announced its Counter-Strike: Global Offensive 'Operation Hydra' event, which will take place on a weekly basis until September. These events will feature "twists on the classic game rules", and will play out on new maps across both casual and competitive.

These events will mostly involve the aforementioned "twists". For example, Wingman, is a 2v2 best-of-16 format, while Weapons Expert is a 5v5 best-of-30 match where the player can only purchase a weapon once. Other varieties come in the form of War Games, which includes Heavy Assault Suit – a bomb defusal round with the added twist that one player is wearing heavy armor. 

Meanwhile, Headshots Only is a War Game which does what it says on the tin; Hunters-Gatherers is a mode where each player drops a dogtag on death, which can be collected to win the game, and Stab Stab Zap involves only a knife, a recharging Zeus and grenades. There are more War Games, detailed over here.

Of course, you can buy an "all access" pass for $5.99 (US), which boosts the XP you earn, while also adding a new Guardian campaign where you and a friend play through a series of missions where, at a hunch, enemies will need to be shot. There are also the usual range of new weapon skins, cases and more. The full rundown can be read over here.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Photo credit: ESL

The Dota 2 Kiev Major wrapped up last weekend with OG defeating Virtus.pro 3-2 to take home their fourth Major crown and the $1 million prize pool. However, there’s still plenty of action to come from the League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational to the CS:GO Intel Extreme Masters. We even have the Hearthstone China vs. Europe tournament to look forward to. All the details on this weekend’s events can be found below.

League of Legends: Mid-Season Invitational

The Mid-Season Invitational kicked off with eight teams battling for the chance to advance to the main event in Rio de Janeiro. GIGABYTE Marines will play this Saturday against the loser of the round two series between Flash Wolves and Supermassive. Meanwhile, the winner of Saturday’s match will advance to the MSI Group Stage, so both teams will need to be at their best. GIGABYTE surprised many fans this week when they managed to take two wins away from TSM, but they failed to take the series. Jungler Levi will be aiming to use his creative pathing once again this weekend, so expect plenty of jungle antics in round three of the Play-In stage. The full schedule and stream can be found on LoL Esports.

Rocket League: RLCS Regional Championships

The Rocket League RLCS Championships return this weekend and players will be fighting for their share of $25,000 prize pool and a spot in the Season 3 World Championship. The top two teams from NA and EU will also get guaranteed spots next season, which puts even more pressure on the teams this weekend. The action kicks off in North America this Saturday at 12:00 PDT / 21:00 CEST, while Europe closes out the weekend this Sunday at 09:00 PDT / 18:00 CEST. Tune into all the latest action over on Twitch to find out which team will punch their ticket to Los Angeles.

CS:GO: Intel Extreme Masters XII—Sydney

Day one of Intel Extreme Masters Sydney 2017 concluded with SK Gaming and Astralis taking the lead. SK Gaming lived up to expectations as they quickly dismantled ViCi by consistently outgunning them. ViCi struggled to produce a positive result against the competition favourites and SK closed out the series 16:6. Meanwhile, Astralis notched a victory over IEM’s local representatives, Chiefs Esports. Chiefs did find some success in securing bomb plants, but this was fairly short-lived, as Astralis started winning consecutive rounds. Astralis were on top form and they crushed the Chiefs in a dominant 16:5 victory. This weekend’s full schedule and stream can be found by heading over to IEM’s official site.

Overwatch: Apex Season 3

The Overwatch Apex Season 3 kicked off in Korea last week and Lunatic Hai are currently in the lead in the Group A bracket after they beat Team KongDoo Panthera 3-2. Rogue will need to land a critical blow to Mighty AOD if they wish to rival Lunatic Hai for first place. Team KongDoo Uncia will face X-6 Gaming at 03:00 PDT / 12:00 CEST, while Rogue will clash with Mighty AOD at 04:30 PDT / 13:30 CEST. Meanwhile, EnVyUs will start their journey on May 16th where they will battle it out against the likes of Meta Athena and BK Stars. Make sure to check out the full stream over on Twitch.

Hearthstone: Global Games

The Hearthstone Global Games tournament is well underway, and a few teams have begun to establish themselves in the early stages of the tournament. Group C’s round three matches concluded yesterday for US viewers,  but those of you in Europe can catch all the action today at 03:00 CEST. The USA are off to the best start out of anyone in the Global Games so far—securing seven wins in total and only dropping one game. It’s a long road ahead for the pros and every team will be fighting hard to secure the $300,000 prize pool. The full schedule and stream for week four can be found here.

Hearthstone: China vs. Europe

The fourth Hearthstone vs. China tournament began its group stage yesterday and will continue until May 10th. Europe was undefeated for three years straight before China retorted with a championship win last year. Bohan “Lovelychook” Zhang dethroned former champion Aleksandr “Kolento” Malsh and drove home his Ferrari sports car prize. This year’s CN vs. EU has made the Ferrari winnable by all, so every player will need to be at their best if they wish to drive home in style. A mix of invites and tournament winners will represent the host nation, most notably Blizzcon semi-finalist Jason “JazonZhou” Zhou and reigning champion Lovelychook. Group play resumes today at 03:00 PDT / 15:00 CEST, so make sure you check out the stream over on Twitch.

Heroes of the Storm: Global Championship

The Heroes of the Storm Global Championship begins week ten of play this weekend and the top teams from EU and NA aim to continue their dominance. Gale Force will need to secure a decisive win over Tempo Storm and B-Step this weekend if they want to make a claim for top spot. Meanwhile, Dignitas will be looking to snag a win over Fnatic after being knocked down to second place. You can check out the standings for each region and view the tournament schedule for your area over on the Heroes of the Storm’s official site

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

French professional team Vexed announced in a blog post this morning that they were hiring Hovik "KQLY" Tovmassian, a one-time staple of CS:GO’s upper echelons of professional competition. In his heyday, KQLY played for some of the game’s best teams, winning a couple sizeable tournaments and placing well in some massive events as part of French teams LDLC and Titan.

One problem: KQLY was banned for cheating back in 2014, prohibiting him from participating in official Valve-sponsored tournaments, the highest tier of competition in CS:GO. Due to recent rule changes made by ESL, one of CS:GO’s biggest tournament organizers, Vexed will be able to participate in some decent-sized tournaments with KQLY in their roster, but the game’s players and spectators have reacted negatively to the announcement.

Two of Vexed s existing players stated that they had not been informed of the potential roster change before it happened.

KQLY is likely the highest-profile player to ever receive a ban for cheating in CS:GO. At the height of his success, shortly after finishing in the top four at ESL One: Cologne as part of Titan, his team seemed poised for greatness in the latter half of 2014. But his squadmates’ hopes were crushed that November when KQLY was banned, and Valve announced that the whole Titan team would not be allowed to compete at Dreamhack Winter 2014. Eventually, KQLY was replaced and Titan carried on, but they were never able to achieve the success that had seemed inevitable before the ban, and eventually dissolved in 2016. In a farewell letter from the CEO, Titan alluded to KQLY’s misconduct as a large part of their inability to keep the team operational.

KQLY, as a member of Titan. (image via Fragbite.se)

The controversy damaged CS:GO’s reputation as an esport and made KQLY an unpopular figure, so Vexed’s hiring of KQLY to play for them in the upcoming ESL Championnat National tournament was bound to be poorly received by the community. But surprisingly, that negative reception extended to the team itself: two of Vexed’s existing players stated that they had not been informed of the potential roster change before it happened, and that they refused to play with KQLY in upcoming events. Vexed has now updated their roster at the bottom of the original announcement, removing all mention of the two dissenting players.

Other CS:GO professionals weighed in on the announcement as well. Veteran player and current LDLC member Ex6TenZ tweeted a sarcastic one-liner that implied Vexed would have a much harder time finding sponsors for their team now that they had a former cheater in their employ. Former Team Liquid player Hiko expressed similar derision on his Twitch stream upon hearing the news, exclaiming “KQLY’s back on a team again - gets VAC banned, but can join a team? Interesting. My boy [Braxton ‘swag’ Pierce, of iBuyPower] throws a match and he’s banned for life, but KQLY literally cheats in the game and comes back?”

In the latter half of his remarks, Hiko alludes to an old wound that the CS:GO community has been nursing for years now; he mentions that while the recent ESL rule changes allow anyone banned for cheating to play in ESL tournaments once two years have passed, the iBuyPower players who were banned for match fixing in early 2015 are still banned indefinitely. Much of the community believes cheating in the actual game to be as heinous of a crime as throwing a match for financial compensation, and that Valve’s failure to address this disparity in punishment has festered for an inordinately long time.

Vexed still won’t be able to play in the Valve-sponsored “Majors,” CS:GO’s most lucrative tournaments, since Valve maintains that no cheater will ever be allowed back into its good graces. In reality, that doesn’t affect a team like Vexed much; they’re not at the level where they would qualify for Majors, and since ESL has changed its rules, Vexed can still play all of the tournaments that exist at their skill level without incident. This stands in contrast to the fate of iBuyPower’s players, who are still banned by Valve, ESL, and any other tournament organizer who wishes to maintain their relationship with Valve.

It’s a sticky situation that once again has players questioning Valve’s philosophy regarding banned players, and has the potential to deal another blow to CS:GO’s reputation with sponsors and organizing bodies.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Last week didn't get off to a great start for Adam 'LoOp' Bahriz. The 17-year-old Counter-Strike player hopped onto the competitive Global Offensive ESEA league to play a few rounds while broadcasting to a tiny audience on Twitch only to be bullied and kicked from the match shortly after. Then, after Bahriz's story got shared on Reddit, the community banded together to donate thousands of dollars to pay for medical procedures and college while also boosting his follower count from under 5,000 to nearly 100,000. He's even been offered contracts with Twitch and some of CS:GO's biggest esports teams.

"I'm still absolutely mesmerized this is incredible," Bahriz wrote on Reddit.It's one of the most dramatic stories of how internet communities can often be toxic one second and heart-warmingly generous the next. And it all started because of a simple misunderstanding due to Bahriz's disability.

Bahriz was born with a condition that has left him legally blind, deaf, and unable to feel pain. It's known as hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy type 2, or simply HSAN 2. Despite his disability, he is still an incredible CS player and currently sits at Rank B on ESEA—a pretty damn good spot to hold for even able-bodied players. But his condition also led to needing his teeth and part of his nose removed. Understandably, this makes verbal communication a little trickier for him. That's why he graciously explained his condition at the beginning of the ESEA match.

"Sup guys I got a lot of teeth removed due to a genetic disease so I can't speak that properly, I can still call but be nice," Bahriz wrote in text chat at the beginning of the round. Bahriz then began using the voice channel to talk strategy with his team, but they didn't take him seriously. 

"Dude, we know you're trolling. Just stop," one player said back while the rest of the team trash talked Bahriz's speech impediment and began muting him. A few rounds later, they voted to kick him from the game entirely. Understandably, Bahriz was upset. His team was up 5-1 and Bahriz was trying to recover from a losing streak from previous games.

"At that point all I could think about was all the bullshit I’ve had to deal with on ESEA for the longest time, not because of a completely lacking of ability to talk, or mechanical skill, or anything like that, but just because of a small speech problem that is caused by something I have no control over," Bahriz told Kotaku.

At that point all I could think about was all the bullshit I ve had to deal with on ESEA for the longest time... just because of a small speech problem that is caused by something I have no control over.

The whole incident, including Bahriz's frustration following being kicked, was broadcast to his handful of viewers. One of them decided to take action. "This honestly broke my heart man," a user by the name of ch0med wrote on the ESEA forums, linking to Twitch clips of Bahriz being muted and kicked from the game. "This is absolutely disgusting how some people can be towards others without even getting a glimpse of some of the struggles people face. And they turn to gaming to get away from the real world, but still people just feel the need to ruin other people." 

Meanwhile, another viewer posted to the CS:GO subreddit, asking the community to "show him some love" because of what happened. And boy, did they.

Both posts immediately exploded, with the Reddit thread becoming the most popular on the subreddit within hours. Meanwhile, Twitch shared an incredible clip of Bahriz securing a clutch win for his team alone against five enemies. Because of this, Bahriz's popularity immediately exploded and by the end of the day his Twitch stream had upwards of 5,000 active viewers. 

Things get even better. With HSAN 2, Bahriz understandably requires a lot of medical care. As he told Kotaku, he needed eye surgery that his insurance wouldn't be able to cover. But thanks to an outpouring of donations that day, he's able to get the operation done and pay for it out of pocket. What's more, in a Ask Me Anything thread he created on the CS:GO subreddit, Bahriz explains he'll likely be able to pay for college and a trip home to Algeria.

Shortly after Bahriz's story exploded, two of his teammates came out on the ESEA forums to explain their side of the story and apologize. "We thought he was a troll…" wrote Adviko. "What would you think if someone came in with a bind text like that, people troll like that all the time. Instead he should tell the people to check out his Twitch. After I checked his Twitch I realized he was for real. I apologize but it was an honest misunderstanding. Lots of people troll in ESEA."

While their position is somewhat understandable, people didn't have too much sympathy considering how quick they were to judge Bahriz, even after he apologized and said he wouldn't talk. According to Bahriz, each teammate received a three day ban from the third-party league.

The community outreach around Bahriz since the initial flurry of attention has been heartwarming. Team EnVyUs, one of the largest esports teams who most recently took home $800,000 in the World Electronic Sports Games 2016, reached out to offer Bahriz a streaming contract. Bahriz has also since signed a Twitch partner contract. 

Bahriz now has over 97,000 followers on Twitch after everything that has happened, and his audience continues to grow. While he is stunned by the community's response, he also hints that things might've been taken out of proportion. "I couldn't give a single fuck that I randomly got kicked, 20 [minutes] of not pugging is no big deal," he wrote. "[In] other situations I would've probably not muted them and linked my Twitch but I was just tired of that shit at that point."

Still, it's a good reminder to always be mindful that people we meet online might have their own struggles we're not aware of. 

Dota 2

Photo credit: Riot Games

It’s another jam-packed weekend in the world of digital sports and lots of tournaments are reaching the finals stages. There’s plenty of action from the League of Legends LCS Spring Split Finals to the CS:GO cs_summit. We even have the Hearthstone Collegiate National Championship to look forward to. All the details on this weekend’s events can be found below.

League of Legends: 2017 EU LCS Spring Split Finals

Two-time defending EU LCS champions G2 Esports secured three straight wins against Fnatic in the semifinals last Saturday, winning the series and taking a spot in this weekend’s finals. Fnatic didn’t go down without a fight and they caught G2 off-guard in game one with aggressive roaming and early lane swaps, but G2 played safe and punished Fnatic’s over-aggressive plays. Meanwhile, Unicorns of Love took down Misfits in a tense 3-1 series. The final game saw UOL secure an early lead thanks to an explosive play in the bot lane, which gave them a 3-1 lead. UOL used this power advantage to quickly barrage Misfits’ bot-lane and secure a quick 23-minute victory. This weekend’s final schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

League of Legends: 2017 NA LCS Spring Split Finals

Team SoloMid made short work of FlyQuest in last weekend’s semifinals with a clean 3-0 sweep. Both teams will play in Vancouver this Saturday and TSM will face Cloud9, while FlyQuest will play in the third place match against Phoenix1 in the finals. The series saw both teams pick strong team fighting compositions, but TSM had a better frontline which they used to tank FlyQuest’s damage and snag objectives for a decisive sweep. The semifinal series for Cloud9 was also a one-sided affair as they dominated Phoenix1 in a quick 3-0 series. Cloud9 matched P1 point for point, but they always had the advantage in every skirmish. Phoenix1 desperately tried to make a comeback, but Cloud9’s superiority was shown in game three when they only gave up one tower and three kills. This weekend’s final schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

Dota 2: StarLadder i-League Invitational European Qualifier

The European qualifiers for the LAN finals of SL i-League Dota 2 Invitational are under way and eight teams will compete in the final playoffs. Cloud9 is kicking the quarterfinals off today when they face Team Spirit at 08:00 PDT / 17:00 CEST, while Natus Vincere tackle Effect later at 11:00 PDT / 20:00 CEST. The semifinals and finals will be broadcast over the course of the weekend, so make sure you head over to the official Dota 2 StarLadder site to find latest schedule and stream.

CS:GO: cs_summit

Eight teams will clash this weekend in a bid to secure the lion’s share of the $150,000 prize pool. Cs_summit offers an informal, relaxed atmosphere for participating players and is designed as a behind-the-scenes style event. Players will be able to take a more active role in the broadcast than what is normally seen at traditional live events, so expect to hear some top quality pro analysis. The semifinals kick off today at 15:30 PDT / 00:30 CEST, while the finals start same time tomorrow. You can check out the full weekend schedule and stream over on Beyond the Summit.

Overwatch: Rumble

The Spring Overwatch Rumble is back once again and the weekend tournament will see eight of the best North American teams clash. However, the pros will also be will be joined by eight qualifying teams, so anything could happen. The format for the tournament will be a round robin and only the top two teams from each group will advance into Sunday's double elimination bracket. The invited teams for this tournament are: EnVyUs, Immortals, Rogue, LG Evil, Cloud9, Splyce, compLexity, and Selfless Gaming.  You can check out the full schedule and stream by visiting Rivalcade's Overwatch Rumble page.

Hearthstone: Collegiate National Championship

After seven weeks of grueling group play, regional playoffs, and an elimination championship bracket, the Hearthstone Collegiate National Championship is coming to an exciting end this weekend. Live finals will be broadcast from the Esports Arena in Santa Ana, California where the remaining teams will battle it out for the lion’s share of the $160,000 prize pool. The Collegiate National Championship is one of the first Blizzard-sanctioned Hearthstone competitions to use the new standard rotation with Journey to Un’Goro in play, so expect plenty of primordial decks. The event will be kicking off tomorrow at 09:00 PDT / 18:00 CEST and will continue at the same time tomorrow. You can check out the full stream by heading over to Twitch.

Heroes of the Storm: Global Championship

The Heroes of the Storm Global Championship is wrapping up week seven of play this weekend and the tension continues to build up. Teams from around the world will be aiming to continue their journey towards the Mid-Season Brawl and secure a top spot in the regular season. Tempo Storm still remains at the top of leaderboard in North America, while Team Liquid are the team to beat in Europe. You can check out the standings for each region and view the tournament schedule for your area over on the Heroes of the Storm’s official site.

Rocket League: Championship Series

The Rocket League Championship Series returns this weekend and things are heating up at the top of the European and North American brackets. NRG have looked extremely strong so far, but G2 will be looking to secure a lead this weekend when they face their rivals tomorrow at 03:20 PDT / 12:20 CEST. Meanwhile, over in Europe Northern Gaming have taken third place and will be looking to take the top spot from Gale Force when they face Pocket Aces Sunday at 13:30 PDT / 10:30 CEST.  Make sure you check out the full schedule and stream over on the official Rocket League: Championship Series website.

StarCraft 2: GSL Super Tournament 2017

The three Global StarCraft League seasons are the pinnacle of competitive StarCraft II play in the Korean scene. This year’s tournament winner will receive $150,000 and a guaranteed spot at the WCS Global Finals, so the competition is expected to be extremely fierce. GSL matches are the defining journeys in many StarCraft II pro players’ careers and it’s likely that we’ll see some new talent shining through. The full schedule and stream can be found by heading over to the WCS StarCraft 2 site.

Dota 2

A lot of people watch other people play games. According to the industry researchers at SuperData, the "worldwide gaming video content audience" includes 665 million people. And it's growing: The company predicts a 21 percent viewer increase between now and 2021.

According to SuperData, there's now a bigger audience for gaming video than the combined audiences of HBO, Netflix, ESPN, and Hulu. For reference, Netflix's subscriber count is somewhere near 100 million, while Hulu maintains about 12 million. For better or for worse, PewDiePie alone has over 54 million YouTube subscribers. 

It's not a shocking conclusion: Netflix, for instance, is not currently available in China, so it's no wonder that it would be dwarfed by a category of typically free, streaming video around the world. But if there was still any doubt that the YouTubes and Twitches of the world have made gaming video as mainstream as any primetime TV show, it ought to have vanished long ago.

The report also concludes that men make up 54 percent of the audience for gaming streams and videos and women account for 46 percent. Additionally, gamers who watch streams and videos have a higher average income than other gamers, and like to spend it. "PC and console players who watch [gaming video content] spend over $70 a month on digital games and in-game content, 56 percent more than their non-viewer counterparts," reads SuperData's press release.

We watched "nearly 100 million hours" of League of Legends in February alone, according to the report, with CS:GO coming in second at 40 million hours on Twitch. Twitch is one of the biggest earners in the scene, despite not holding the majority of the eyeballs. SuperData finds that it only captures 16 percent of the audience, but earns 37 percent of 'gaming video content's' revenue thanks in large part to direct spending through subscriptions.

And through advertising and direct spending (subscriptions and donations), SuperData predicts $4.6 billion in revenue from gaming video and streams this year. That probably has something to do with why over half the audience for livestreams wants to try livestreaming themselves.

SuperData's full report will set interested companies back $2,499. Surely there are some interesting insights inside, but here's the too expensive, didn't read version: a lot of people like to watch videogames on the computer.

Dota 2

This weekend is absolutely bursting with esports goodness as the LCS heads towards the semifinals stage. There’s plenty of action from the Dota 2 StarLadder i-League Invitational to the CS:GO Championship Series. We even have the Overwatch: PIT Championship to look forward to. All the details on this weekend’s events can be found below.

League of Legends: 2017 EU LCS Spring Split

Last weekend’s quarterfinals of the European League of Legends LCS saw H2K face off against Fnatic. Fnatic shocked viewers around the world when they dominated H2K with their unconventional champion picks. Rekkles’ Twitch was unstoppable and after securing Baron and Elder Dragon buffs, Fnatic stormed into H2K’s base to deliver the final blow to the Nexus. Game two followed a similar pattern as Rekkles found strength in another unorthodox pick. His Vayne plays gave Fnatic a huge power spike in the late-game and they delivered another crushing blow to H2K. In match point for Fnatic, it was Caps' turn to shine and he locked-in Aurelion Sol in the mid-lane.

Meanwhile, Rekkles’ Kennen and Broxah’s Kha'Zix roamed around the map eliminating any signs of life from the H2K roster. Fnatic overcame expectations and they’ll be hoping to deliver another decisive win over G2 Esports in the semifinals. This weekend’s schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

League of Legends: 2017 NA LCS Spring Split

FlyQuest faced Counter Logic Gaming last weekend in the quarterfinals of the North American LCS. The first game of the series saw CLG mid-laner Huhi lock in Aurelion Sol, which he used to pick off FLY’s support multiple times. His global presence was huge, and CLG were able to grab Baron and quickly push into FLY's base for the first win of the series. Game 2 was a back-and-forth affair with both teams struggling to secure a lead. However, a team fight around Baron pit broke out and CLG managed to take down four members of FlyQuest. This successful engage gave CLG plenty of time to dismantle turrets and apply pressure around the map.

Game three saw FlyQuest obliterate CLG with Hai’s dominating performance on Talon, while game four also went in favour of FLY thanks to Moon’s excellent Rengar plays. However, FLY took the final game by punishing CLG’s over-aggressive skirmishes and baiting out an Elder Dragon fight. This weekend’s quarterfinal schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

Dota 2: Summit 7

Beyond the Summit continues this summer with the Dota 2: Summit 7 LAN event. The main tournament begins June 14th-18th just outside Los Angeles, California, where teams will go head to head to compete for the $100k prize pool.

However, the South East Asia qualifiers are taking place today and Clutch Gamers and WarriorsGaming.Unity are kicking things off at 01:00 PDT / 10:00 CEST, while TNC Pro Team tackle Happy Feet at 04:00 PDT / 13:00 CEST. Clutch Gamers and TNC Pro are currently at the top of the standings, but this could soon change as we enter the semifinals. Be sure to check out all the action over on Twitch.

Dota 2: StarLadder i-League Invitational

The Chinese qualifiers for the LAN finals of SL i-League Dota 2 Invitational are under way and last week saw iG.Vitality and CDEC Gaming secure their place in the semifinals. iG.Vitality played against LGD.Forever Young in the quarterfinals and they secured a 7.5k gold lead, which they used to break open the map. LGD.Forever bounced back in game two with a strong defensive strategy that saw only their outer towers fall.

However, iG.Vitality showed their superiority in game three by winning every team fight and killing Roshan multiple times. Meanwhile, CDEC Gaming had a great time against Wings Gaming and they swept them in a clean 2-0 victory. CDEC Gaming was forced to play defensively in the first game, but they took the advantage in the second with constant ganks. Wings Gaming eventually collapsed under the pressure and CDEC closed out the final game in just 26- minutes. This weekend’s schedule and stream can be found over on the official Dota 2 StarLadder site.

CS:GO: Championship Series

Season three of the CS:GO Championship series is taking place today with action from both the European and North American branch. In Europe G2 Esports will take on GODSENT at 10:00 PDT / 19:00 CEST, while over in North America Team Liquid will face OpTic Gaming at 15:00 PDT / 00:00 CEST. G2 Esports were crowned the champions back in season one when they managed to beat Luminosity Gaming in a best of three.

However, the team has struggled to win a premier tournament since, and GODSENT will be hoping to cause an early upset. Meanwhile, Team Liquid found success in season three of the North American i-League closed qualifiers, while their opponents, OpTic Gaming, finished second in season two of the ECS. The full schedule can be found here, while the official stream can be found by heading over to the ECS Youtube channel.

Overwatch: PIT Championship

The Overwatch PIT Championship grand finals will be broadcast this weekend and every team has been busy fighting it out for their chance to claim the PIT title and their share of a $15,000 prize pool. After two weeks of gruelling group stages and intense playoff matches we will finally get to see Europe and North America crown their PIT champions. The European grand finals are kicking off today at 09:00 PDT / 18:00 CEST, while the North American finals start 18:00 PDT / 03:00 CEST. Both the European and North American schedule can be found here, while the stream can be found over on Twitch.

Heroes of the Storm: Global Championship

The Heroes of the Storm Global Championship resumes its regular season in North America and Europe this weekend. During the Western Clash at IEM Katowice, Team Dignitas crushed their regional rivals, while over at the Eastern Clash in Shanghai, MVP Black took the crown, winning the grand finals against Autumn Championship winners L5. Now it’s back to normality as teams continue their journey towards the Mid-Season Brawl and the conclusion of the regular season. You can check out the standings for each region and view the tournament schedule for your area over on the Heroes of the Storm’s official site.

Rocket League: Championship Series

The Rocket League Championship Series returns from its Midseason Mayhem event and G2 remains the top team in North America. G2 looked extremely strong in week three when they managed to sweep Selfless 3-0, but their matchup against NRG this weekend will be the decider. Meanwhile, over in Europe Northern Gaming took down Mock-it Esports 3-1 in what was a very clean win, but they’ve got some catching up to do if they wish to rival The Leftovers for top spot. G2 will be kicking off this weekend’s action when they face SETTODESTROYX at 00:00 PDT / 09:00 CEST. Make sure you check out the full schedule and stream over on the official Rocket League: Championship Series website.

Hearthstone: Red Bull Team Brawl

The Red Bull Team Brawl event is back! One of our favorite Hearthstone formats, teams of three compete in a sealed draft. Each team is given a random pool of 240 cards and must make three decks, one for each player. Then those teams go head to head to see who's deck building skills reign supreme. The tournament starts on Saturday at 12:00 PDT / 21:00 CEST on the Red Bull Esports Twitch channel, and you can find more information here.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Most players like theirs small, while others prefer a bulky frame. Some choose to rely only a single dot. Whatever your preference, your crosshair is an important tool, and it's worth investing time to find the right one. The key is to experiment and see what works for you. Collected below are the simplest steps to customising your own sights for CS:GO.

Ditch the default

If you’re still using the default crosshair, change it. Introduced to the series in CS:GO, the default dynamic crosshair changes size based on movement, stance and shooting. While the idea is nice in principle—teaching new players that movement hampers accuracy—the result is a cluttered, confusing mess. Taking up a hefty portion of the screen, the default dynamic is overly animated. Wildly expanding and shrinking as you play, it serves more as a distraction than a representation of where your bullets will go. The expansion of the crosshair can even mislead you into believing your shots will land within that area.

The best way to customize your crosshair

Beyond the default, CS:GO crosshairs come in four main styles: Default Static, Classic, Classic Dynamic and Classic Static. These are all accessible from the in-game menu, but beneath this, CS:GO hides a treasure trove of customization options. To fully customize your reticle, you’ll want to edit the game’s autoexec.cfg file. This informs CS:GO of any settings you want it to adopt on startup, and can be found in the game’s directory (Counter-Strike Global Offensive/csgo/cfg). Open this up in a notepad and you can edit to your heart’s content, provided you know the right commands. Searching for these and testing each change can prove time-consuming, but fortunately the CS:GO community has already risen to the challenge, simplifying the process.

Workshop user Crashz has produced an extremely generous map, allowing every aspect of the crosshair to be easily adjusted on the fly. From the line thickness to the alpha, it’s all managed through a simple button interface. First, try swapping between the basic styles of crosshair to find one you like the feel of before you really crack on with tweaking. The main aspects to play with are thickness, gap, color and dot. While much is left to preference, there are some general rules of thumb to follow:

  • When considering the crosshair gap (the distance from line to line in the vertical or horizontal), smaller distances are usually best. The larger the void between each side, the harder it is to judge the precise center of the screen.
  • The bigger it is, the more your screen will be obscured. If you tend to fight at long range and one-tap with rifles, a meaty reticle might not line up with your technique.
  • When selecting a color, consider your environments. A light yellow will be hard to spot against Dust2’s sandy walls. Similarly, a blue or purple crosshair might be less prominent in darker locations. Aim for something light but clear.
  • Have your heart set on a dynamic crosshair? Consider having a central dot too. As the crosshair expands it can help to have a stationary point to focus on.

If you’re not feeling creative, you can always copy the pros. Coating the walls of the level are crosshair designs matching a huge number of professional players, and even top YouTubers and streamers. Once you’re satisfied, Crashz’s map allows you to copy the exact configuration details by hitting the “share crosshair” button. Beyond letting you compare with a friend, this is a great way to backup crosshairs that you like. Simply save the text in a notepad file and you’ll be able to copy the text directly into your autoexec or console to retrieve it. This is an essential step on the off chance you have to reinstall the game.

Online alternatives

There’s no substitute to testing your crosshair in action, but if you don’t have time to load up the game, Skarbo's CS:GO crosshair generator is a good alternative. Each trait can be adjusted via sliding bars, altering the display on the left. Offering a few advantages over Crashz’s map, manually adjust the RGB color values allows fine control over color. 

While it hasn’t been updated in awhile, a selection of classic map locations can be viewed, with targets at a variety of ranges to test your sights. Once again, copy the details in the config box and paste them into your autoexec.cfg to load them next time you play.

You could even make something like this. (Please don t.)

Try before you buy

Before you jump straight into to matchmaking, a few rounds of deathmatch will give ample time to acclimate to your new sights. More importantly, this should highlight any remaining niggles. Try playing with a thinner frame than you’re used to, complete a round using just a central dot. If you’re missing the shots you used to, don’t sweat it. A change in sights is expected to throw you off a bit, but with a little practice, you’ll be landing cleaner headshots in no time at all.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Are you a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive veteran with an urge to blow a few bucks on silly swag? If so, then allow me to direct your attention the Valve Store on WeLoveFine, where a real-life version of the Five Year Veteran Coin is now available for preorder for $45. 

The offer isn't open to everyone, though. As the FAQ explains, if you haven't earned the coin in the game, then you're not allowed to buy this physical rendition. And yes, they check: In order to preorder, you have to log in with your Steam account, and if there's no coin in your inventory, you're out of luck. 

If it's simply a matter of timing—say, you're a four-year CS:GO vet—then "stay tuned," because the FAQ notes that "more purchasing opportunities" will be coming in the future. If your account is straight-up ineligible for some other reason, however, that's the end of it. "We have no way of allowing ineligible users to purchase the Coin, nor can we bypass any VAC bans or ownership checks to allow users to purchase," it says. For those who are eligible, purchases are limited to one, and only one, per account. 

The coin, made from die cast zinc alloy with the "5" up front in copper, is 63mm in diameter and 3mm thick, and weighs just a hair under 56 grams. It arrives in a box with an acrylic cover that can be hung on a wall, and also includes an acrylic coin stand if a shelf display is more to your tastes. Worldwide shipping is included in the price, except to Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Burma, Syria and Sudan, although you may have to cover VAT or other region-specific taxes. 

There's no two ways about it: 45 bucks for a little commemorative trinket isn't cheap. But my instinct to be critical is tempered by the Max Payne statuette that's glaring at me from the shelf on the other side of the room. And hey, you spent five years of your life on this game: If you want that coin and the cachet that comes with it, hey, you've earned it.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

It’s another busy weekend in the world of digital sports and lots of tournaments are heating up. There’s plenty of action from the Overwatch APEX finals to the CS:GO StarLadder i-League StarSeries. We even have the crazed combo action of the Street Fighter V Ultimate Fighting Arena to look forward to. All the details on this weekend’s events can be found below.

League of Legends: 2017 EU LCS Spring Split

Roccat managed to break G2’s year-long streak after picking up game two and three, while Fnatic secured their playoff spot by beating Misfits in a 2-1 victory. Meanwhile, H2k were still looking to grab first place in the group B bracket. Their first series against Origen looked a bit shaky, but xPeke’s team failed to close the game out giving H2K the win. H2K faced Splyce’s off-meta champions in their next matchup and they schooled Splyce on why you shouldn’t pick Teemo in the pro scene. Vitality’s games against Unicorns of Love followed a similar pattern as they also fielded non-meta champions, but just like Splyce they couldn’t pull it together. This weekend’s quarterfinal schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

League of Legends: 2017 NA LCS Spring Split

The NA LCS returns this weekend with the live quarterfinals where Phoenix1 will take on Team Dignitas, followed by a match between Counter Logic Gaming and FlyQuest. Week 9 was a close affair between Cloud9 and Dignitas, but a clutch teamfight and decisive plays from Jensen’s Orianna gave C9 the power they needed to obliterate their foes. Phoenix1 also suffered at the hands of C9, while Team Liquid tried to avoid relegation by picking up two victories against TSM and FlyQuest. Team Liquid managed to beat TSM after DoubleLift’s Ezreal obliterated TSM’s bot-lane and he carried his team to victory. However, FlyQuest’s Hai managed to stop them dead in their tracks with his Talon plays, and he secured a playoffs spot for FlyQuest. This weekend’s quarterfinal schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

Overwatch: APEX Season 2

Lunatic-Hai faced Meta Athena last Tuesday in a tense semifinal match which saw the previous runner-up’s take Athena down for their third chance to win a major championship. Lunatic-Hai eradicated any signs of life, and they continuously punished Athena’s over-aggressive plays with game-changing payload pushes. Lunatic-Hai will now face RunAway in the APEX finals for a chance to be crowned king and take home a lion’s share of the $200,370 prize pool. The match begins this Saturday at 02:00 PDT / 11:00 CEST and you can catch all the action over on Twitch.

Overwatch: PIT Championship

The best Overwatch teams from Europe and North America have been busy fighting it out for their chance to claim the PIT title and their share of a $15,000 prize pool. Ninja’s in Pyjamas and Misfits are currently at the top of the European bracket, but this could soon change as we enter the group stages. The North American side of the PIT will see Rise take on LG Evil in the group B matches today at at 16:00 PDT / 01:00 CEST, while Ninja’s in Pyjamas and SNG Ninjas are kicking the European action off on Sunday at 09:00 PDT / 18:00 CEST. Both the European and North American schedule can be found here, while the stream can be found over on Twitch.

Street Fighter V: Ultimate Fighting Arena

Capcom’s first official European Street Fighter tournament of 2017 is taking place at the Jean-Bouin stadium in Paris this weekend.  The Ultimate Fighting Arena will see 512 of the best Street Fighter players come together to beat the virtual snot out of one another for a chance to win the $15,000 prize pool. However, only three players can take home the cash prize, so expect competition to be extremely fierce. The stream and schedule can be found over on the official World Gaming Federation site.

Rocket League: Midseason Mayhem

The Rocket League Championship is now just over the halfway point and with only two weeks of matches left, there’s still much to be sorted out in North America and Europe. However, this weekend the main competition is taking a brief break and throwing some added mayhem into the mix. Midseason Mayhem is back for its second season, but this time the pros will rev their engines on the new Dropshot mode. Just like last season, viewers will be able to influence the maps and mutators that the pros will play on. The North American branch starts this Saturday at 12pm PDT / 21:00 CEST, while the European branch starts the following day at 09:00 PDT / 18:00 CEST. Be sure to check out the full schedule and stream over on www.rocketleagueesports.com.

CS:GO: StarLadder i-League StarSeries

The StarLadder i-LEAGUE StarSeries Season 3 Finals started in Kiev, Ukraine this Tuesday and the gun-toting action continues over the weekend. With a $300,000 prize pool up for grabs the tournament is set to be extremely fierce. The event will pit 16 of the world’s best CS:GO teams against each other and each team will need to secure three wins to land a place at the playoffs. Once this weekend’s action is over we’ll be heading to the Intel Extreme Masters XII in Sydney which takes place in May. This weekend’s schedule and stream can found over on the official CS:GO StarLadder site

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