Counter-Strike 1.0 is 20 years old

OG CS title screen.
(Image credit: Valve)

Today is the 20th anniversary of Counter-Strike's release. The king of competitive shooters began as a Half-Life mod, developed by Minh Lee and Jess Cliffe, which began circulating in beta form in June 1999. The co-creators released several more versions over the rest of the year, before in 2000 Valve acquired the IP and brought both in-house. Counter-Strike, which some might call the greatest competitive game of all time, was officially released on November 9, 2000.

Here's the press release that Valve's Doug Lombardi sent out at the time. "Since its initial beta release in fall 1999, Counter-Strike has become the number one played online action game, surpassing all commercial and noncommercial titles in its class. Counter-Strike 1.0 will be released later tonight to all existing Counter-Strike and Half-Life players. CS 1.0 contains new weapons, a number of gameplay fixes, as well as enhanced maps, models and animation. Counter-Strike 1.0 will be available from a variety of gaming sites in two varieties: as an update for existing CS players and as a full mod for existing Half-Life owners."

Counter-Strike arrived remarkably fully-formed, even allowing for that extensive beta period. At launch the game was about two teams of five playing either bomb defusal, hostage rescue, or assassination gametypes, and if you load up Counter-Strike: Global Offensive today that's still the core. This was only ever half the story though, because the game that began as a mod attracted its own modding community. Over the years to come they'd create maps that became competitive mainstays, invent modes that would later become official (Gun Game), and spawn subcultures like 'surf' maps.

If there's one thing Counter-Strike players enjoy, it's complaining about Counter-Strike and the game's community. This is usually done with a sense of humour, but it's omnipresent and it has to be said rooted in a basic truth: the game does attract a lot of dickheads (as well as people that sound like they picked up their mic in a skip). We do exagerrate it, however, and rarely acknowledge the flipside: this game has stayed relevant and competitive for an unprecedented length of time, has grown its audience enormously (CS: GO had over 20 million unique players on Steam last month), and has an incredible community dedicated to helping others and simple love of the game. I'm also gonna come right out and say it: I actually enjoy being shit-talked by angry Russians. Some of the time.

Needless to say, we have you covered: whether that's with the biggest Counter-Strike moments of the last decade, or the surprisingly complicated history of chickens in Counter-Strike. Valve did mark the 20th anniversary of the original mod last year, so there's speculation CS: GO may receive a content update today: so far, nada.

Lovers of fine videogames, raise your glasses, and raise your AKs, for one of the true greats. Here's to 20 years, you beauty, and to many more to come.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."