Counter-Strike: Global Offensive launched on 21 August, 2012, and on 11 February 2023 it has just surpassed its all-time record of concurrent players: At the time of writing, 1,320,219 players are in-game, while the previous record was 1,308,963 players around three years ago.
Counter-Strike dates back to 1999, and began as a mod for Half-Life that became popular enough for Valve to take notice, and make one of the best decisions in its history. It bought the rights and hired the co-creators to work on making it into a standalone release. Counter-Strike 1.0 is now 23 years old (opens in new tab).
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is the latest iteration of what the official twitter account, quite rightly, calls "your favourite first-person shooter's favourite first-person shooter." It has features that the older versions didn't but remains fundamentally the same game and, while there are dozens of different ways to play, the quintessential CS experience is five terrorists trying to plant a bomb at one of two sites, while five counter-terrorists fan-out to stop them.
CS: GO didn't launch in the best of conditions, and the first few years saw big changes. You can make a very good argument that, in addition to the rock-solid core of Counter-Strike goodness, what really saved it was $400 knives (opens in new tab). But something that rather unbelievably began as a console port (opens in new tab) now stands as the greatest competitive FPS of all time, as well as Steam's most popular game by a great distance.
I think I've probably played more CS: GO than any other game, ever. That doesn't mean I'm good at it. Recently in PCG Towers we were discussing trash talk, and I had to mention the time when my team lost a match of CS: GO and a gentleman with a Russian accent on the opposing team noticed my 10-year veteran coin (a little trinket Valve doles out to long-term players) in the lobby afterwards. Through voice chat he boomed "this guy’s been playing since I was little baby and we still slap him" and everyone started laughing uproariously. I’ve never psychologically recovered from that burn but, as you can perhaps tell, these are the moments I live for.
If you want to try out one of the greatest PC games ever made, there's never been a better time to start. CS: GO is free-to-play on Steam (opens in new tab) and this beginner's guide will set you off on the right foot (opens in new tab). And while CS lovers will moan about the game, and things may seem a bit intimidating from the outside, it's a huge community that absolutely adores things like chickens (opens in new tab) and "door stuck!" tattoos (opens in new tab) as much as the genuinely great moments (opens in new tab). So come on in: The Dust's lovely (opens in new tab).