Ever since I was a young child, I’ve always been competitive: the drive to win, to be the best, is what motivates me the most. It doesn’t manifest in everything, but when I realise I’m good at something, I’ll try my hardest to be the best at it and stop at nothing to keep improving. For me, that has manifested in esports, particularly in the form of the game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
My name is Adam Conway, I’m 21 years old, and I’m a final year Computer Science student at University College Dublin. I am also a journalist, reviewer, and video producer for XDA-Developers, and I run my own Irish technology website, dubbed IrishTech. I’m an esports representative for the UCD Leviathans too, captaining the UCD Leviathans CS:GO team, and have done so since I started at the University.
What is Counter-Strike?
Counter-Strike is one of the oldest, still actively-played game franchises on the planet. Created in 1999, it’s as old as I am, though the game still sells out arenas for its biggest live events across the world. It’s a First Person Shooter (FPS) game with a heavy emphasis on tactics and economy management. It’s a heavily team-based game. You can be a team of the most skilled players in the world, but another team that uses teamwork and clear communication can dismantle you in an instant.
The game is won when one team wins 16 rounds. Counter-Strike has arguably been the inspiration for both Valorant and Call of Duty’s “Search & Destroy” game mode. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) is the latest addition to the series, and it released in 2012.
My introduction to esports
My introduction to esports came through a Facebook group called CS:GO Ireland. In that group, I connected with many like-minded individuals, the love of the game being the solitary bond between us all. The Facebook group contained information about upcoming tournaments, players looking for teams, and a rather large swathe of memes. To those on the outside, it was almost a clique, and I was a newcomer on the scene. However, through this Facebook group, I learned of a tournament called “G-Series”, and the 8th iteration of the tournament was set to take place only a few months later.
G-Series 8 was to be held in the O’Callaghan Alexander Hotel in Dublin, just off of Merrion Square, at the start of July in 2016. I had only just completed my 5th year of secondary school at this time, which meant finding a team was difficult – I was young, and nobody knew who I was. Rather than trying to join a team in the hopes that I would be picked up by someone, I decided to put together my own team. We weren’t good; in fact, we came second last. However, it was a start to putting my name out there and meeting new people to play with.
I met many people at this tournament, and the next tournament to be held in Ireland was GamerCon. I had initially planned on attending alongside an Irish team I had met through the Facebook group; however, I pulled out of the tournament when it ended up being extremely close to my German oral exam. If you remember GamerCon, then you know that I dodged a bullet. I was rather inactive for the remainder of this year, and only started playing Irish tournaments again once I started University.
I started my attendance at UCD in September of 2017 and focused a lot on acclimatising to university life; gaming took a backseat during this period. However, in February 2018, I was set to attend OneTapLAN 3 in Belfast at the Jordanstown Ulster University campus. This, just like G-Series, was a CS:GO tournament that attracted flocks of players from across the island. Through the people I had met via the CS:GO Ireland Facebook group, I found a team that I was going to attend the event with. However, I became ill shortly before the tournament and had to be replaced. I instead attended another tournament in March called RAID Ireland.
Around this time, I had also been working on putting together another team. This is when the Irish Collegiate Esports (ICE) held its first tournament. Aidan Boylan, ICE’s Managing Director, has been a known name in the Irish League of Legends community for years, as he was the Irish League of Legends community coordinator. He had posted in the CS:GO Ireland Facebook group, announcing that they were going to be holding a CS:GO tournament online for University students in Ireland. I contacted Aidan Boylan immediately and helped him to run the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive ICE tournaments until September this year.
I had already made friends in my course who played CS:GO, and I jumped to put a team together. In order to help teams who may struggle to get a full team of 5 to play, we were allowed to have one player who was not attending our University, though they still had to be attending a University. I enlisted the help of a player I had met at G-Series 8, as he attended IT Tallaght. Our team consisted of the following five players:
- Adam “Incipiens” Conway
- Evin “EviN” Kierans
- Humza “MrTurtle” Syed
- Rokas “Baltic Cookie” Stasiškis
- Calvin “Calvoo” Hynes (ITT)
We played the very first tournament spanning the period of February 2018 to April 2018, only to get knocked out in the semi-finals. We were not satisfied and made the decision that we would be remaking the team once the next season started. Throughout all of this, Evin and I played on multiple other teams together, and we attended OneTapLAN 4 in August 2018 with a team that we put together with some friends. We called our team “Poppin’ Heads”, and while we ultimately didn’t place very well at the tournament, we did end up scoring big as an underdog and managed to beat one of the better teams in the tournament.
However, it was time to start planning for the following college year. I reached out to one of my teammates that I originally was supposed to be playing with at OneTapLAN 3, as I knew he was also going into his second year in IADT. He was happy to play with us, and we formed the new UCD CSGO team. Our team was now the following:
- Adam “Incipiens” Conway
- Evin “EviN” Kierans
- Humza “MrTurtle” Syed
- Conor “dragS” Lyons (IADT)
- Reuben “Reubish” Mulligan
UCD takes esports seriously
In September of 2018, the UCD League of Legends captain and I reached out to UCD in order to look into establishing some form of esports society. We had hoped that we would be able to receive funding to send players to tournaments on behalf of UCD, and to fund our entry to online tournaments like ICE. We were told to instead contact GameSoc, who would go on to cover our entry fees to tournaments. We entered the semester one ICE tournament, which spanned from September to December 2018, and we managed to finish in 2nd place. I acted as a go-between for both UCD GameSoc and all of the esports teams that operated within UCD.
Second place was certainly an improvement over our first attempt, though again, we weren’t satisfied. We decided to enter the UCD CSGO team to OneTapLAN 5 as practice, as the competition would be a lot tougher. Humza wasn’t available to play, so instead, we picked up one of the players from Trinity College to play with us. UCD GameSoc covered our entry fees, and we finished a respectable third place in the tournament. Given the competition we had a faced, third place was hard-earned, and we were proud.
UCD GameSoc saw how well their teams were performing, and opted to brand its esports teams for entry into future tournaments. All UCD teams became “UCD Leviathans”. This made it clear as to which teams were playing officially for the University and which were not. Despite everything, we have finished 2nd place in every ICE tournament since, falling only to TUD in the past two years. We have not lost a game to any other team in the past two years.
In fact, during the summer, Conor and I entered the Redbull Flick 2v2 tournament, with first-place taking €500. Conor and I battled our way to the final under the name UCDG4MERS. The final was a best of 5; we lost the first two maps and battled our way back to win the remaining 3 maps and, therefore, the final.
However, the most recent ICE tournament removed the option of having a player from another University play on your team, which meant that we had to replace Conor. Evin also decided to step down from the team and has opted to commentate games instead. The team is still going strong, but this semester has seen it drastically changed.
For the majority of our team, time is coming to an end. Humza and I are both in our final year, and the replacement that we selected for Evin is too. Once all three of us graduate, there’s no telling what will happen to the UCD Leviathans. I’ve represented the team for nearly 4 years now, but I know that no matter what, I’ll always be involved in Irish esports in some way, shape, or form. Esports has given me so much – Evin and I solidified our friendship over CS:GO, and he is one of my closest friends to this day. I already have plans that will allow me to give back to the esports community that has given me so much over the years.
Esports has been nothing but a good influence for me. As a means of making friends and finding things to do over the past few years, the Irish Counter-Strike community has always been there, and I’ve made some incredible friends and had some fantastic experiences because of it. The community is tightly-knit; everybody knows everyone, and each tournament that is held (be it in Dublin or in Belfast) brings the same set of people to it every time, with some (very welcome) newcomers as well. Only in February of this year, right before the pandemic hit, did I attend OneTapLAN 6, and it was with great joy that I met up with all of the same people as I always do once or twice a year. We all play together online, but being able to meet up, compete, and have a few drinks in the evening and catch-up is something that I genuinely look forward to every year.
CS:GO has also taught me teamwork and leadership skills. I wasn’t just the captain of the UCD CS:GO team, I was also the leader in-game who told people what to do, when, and where. I needed to make tactics, to identify the current situation happening in the game, and to dictate the pace so that we could take the win. It’s a mentally-taxing role and requires clear and calm thought. You need to work with a team of 4 other people to best tackle a problem, and that problem is the other team.
As you can imagine, those skills are hugely helpful for any kind of teamwork in software development. In CS:GO, arrogance and ego get you nowhere, and the same can often be said of the real world too. I am eternally grateful for the time I’ve had in CS:GO and University-level esports, and I’m looking forward to being able to give back to the community once I have graduated. My time at University has been interwoven with esports, and I am proud to say I led the first UCD Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team to 5 ICE finals in a row.