Psychology Behind the Appeal of CS:GO



Tue 12th Sep 2017 - 8:55am


“Thump, thump”. Adrenaline courses through your veins as your heart slows down to a snail’s pace. “Thump, thump”. Your brain kicks into seventh gear as on-the-fly decisions need to be made. This determines whether you will live to see another round or are buried six feet under.  Everything comes down to this. “Zzzzinnggg” A bullet whizzes past your head leaving a ragged hole in reality like a photo negative with its passage. With a quick 180° turn, you dispatch an enemy. That leaves one. As you enter the bombsite, a glimmer from your peripheral vision causes you turn. A crisp headshot quickly dispatches the last remaining enemy. "The bomb has been defused".

This is your life. You are engrossed in a very intense and competitive match of CS:GO. Based on such a description, a literary mind would have no difficulty in understanding the addictive qualities of this game. It keeps one coming back for more and more. However, one does not need to be a literary mind to understand CS:GO's allure. For this very reason, the field of psychology exists to explain this phenomenon for logical minds. This subject enables one to fully grasp the veracity of this game. In this article, the proceeding eight major components of enjoyment have been referenced from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's psychology book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. 

The Eight Major Components of Enjoyment

As studies have suggested, the phenomenology of enjoyment has eight major components. When people reflect on how it feels when their experience is mostly positive, they mention at least one, and often all, of the following. First, the experience usually occurs when individuals confront tasks they have a chance of completing. Second, they must be able to concentrate on what they are doing. Third and fourth, the concentration is usually possible because the task undertaken has clear goals and provides immediate feedback. Fifth, one acts with a deep but effortless involvement that removes from awareness the worries and frustrations of everyday life. Sixth, enjoyable experiences allow people to exercise a sense of control over their actions. Seventh, concern for the self disappears, yet paradoxically the sense of self emerges stronger after the flow experience is over. Finally, the sense of the duration of time is altered; hours pass by in minutes, and minutes can stretch out to seem like hours. The combination of all these elements causes a sense of deep enjoyment that is so rewarding people feel that expending a great deal of energy is worthwhile simply to be able to feel it. 

If you scrutinize each of the elements, you will notice that CS:GO possesses all of them. Let's take a closer look at each element in order to understand how it relates to CS:GO.

The Components of Enjoyment in Relation to CS:GO

1. The experience usually occurs when individuals confront tasks they have a chance of completing.

The length of a CS:GO competitive match has been allocated according to this very reason. A match lasts 45-50 minutes, the amount of time which people are able to spare quite easily. Also, casual exists for those who do not have as much free time available.  A competitive match doesn't take long, so individuals are able to fulfill that time constraint as well.


2. They must be able to concentrate on what they are doing.

This is pretty much self-explanatory. CS:GO is only enjoyable because people are able to focus and invest all their concentration in it. They can concentrate due to two factors which are explained in the following points.

3. The task undertaken has clear goals.

To elaborate further on why one can concentrate on CS:GO, we turn towards the competitive mode. Competitive is especially addictive due to its clear goals. Your goal in playing competitive is to attain a higher rank to prove your skills, whether it be Global Elite or even Distinguished Master Guardian. Even casual has a clear goal - to help your team win the match. This transparent goal makes CS:GO particularly enticing.  

4. The task provides immediate feedback.

Building upon the former point, CS:GO provides immediate feedback as you are aware of your progress. Winning games and ranking up indicate a step towards the desired goal. On the other hand, lost matches would mean that you are doing something wrong and there is a need to re-evaluate your strategy. In this matter, CS:GO provides instantaneous feedback.

5. One acts with a deep but effortless involvement that removes from awareness the worries and frustrations of everyday life.

The elo ranking system ensures that you are facing opponents of similar skill level. Usually, the most memorable games are ones which are intense and constantly challenge you to stay at your wit's end. If you were facing enemies of significantly lower level, it would be fun to "wreck noobs" for a while but it would get boring rather quickly. On the other hand, facing enemies of significantly better skill level would make it a drag as you would get annihilated. This system ensures that you are invested deeply into CS:GO without leaving any room for distraction. That is why when you are playing the game, nothing else matters.

6. Enjoyable experiences allow people to exercise a sense of control over their actions.

Winning matches provide a feeling of ecstasy that instills confidence in your ability. In the game, your decisions and plays determine the outcome. This is a contrast to the humdrum of everyday life where you are often manipulated by forces outside your control. However, they do not play a role in CS:GO. Thus, playing this game makes you feel in charge of your destiny with the ability to shape the outcome. This is one major factor that makes CS:GO so enthralling.

7. Concern for the self disappears, yet the sense of self emerges stronger.

The matter of utmost significance while playing CS:GO is emerging victorious. Your concentration is so completely focused on CS:GO that your soul is transferred to the player model occupying the map. At such moments, your sense of self dissolves into the game. Once the game is completed, you emerge feeling stronger as you step out of the virtual realm feeling that you have learned something new. This is a paradox in the fact that you are surrendering your identity but strenghtening it in the process of doing so.

8. The sense of the duration of time is altered. 

Any CS:GO player will be extremely well acquainted with this point. You start with one match which spirals into two, three, and even four matches. Before long, the night departs and the crack of dawn greets your eyes. All this while, you are left wondering how exactly your time disappeared so quickly.



There is no doubt that CS:GO is an extremely addictive game. An average CS:GO player has no difficulty in clocking 1,000 hours going upwards to even more than a whopping 4,000 hours! The method by which CS:GO has been able to capture the attention of gamers for such an impressive amount of time is by having successfully integrated all the aforementioned elements of enjoyment. You were just never aware of it.

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