When Mr Janson Teh first started playing Counter-Strike in Primary 6, he did not expect to follow the multiplayer first-person shooter franchise for more than a decade.
Today, the 24-year-old IT engineer zeroes in on targets and battles terrorists as part of a five-member team called Litelab, which still plays competitively on the Counter-Strike Online platform.
The team is one of the top-performing Counter-Strike Online teams in Singapore. Last year, they came in first at the iChallenge competition and took second spot at the One Asia Cup.
The five are not the only fans of the game. Despite the arrival of many new shooters such as Battlefield and Call Of Duty, the "grandfather" of shooters, Counter-Strike, still has a sizeable following in Singapore.
Since the launch of Counter-Strike Online in late 2010, there have been some 180,000 players here. Across Asia, around two million gamers are on the online platform.
The number of players in Singapore and Malaysia grew 60 per cent in the first year and doubled in the second year.
Those numbers are still growing, said Mr Jason Wong, managing director of game publisher IAHGames.
Part of the allure of the game that has kept players such as Mr Teh hooked is the teamwork needed to both stay alive and kill the enemy.
Despite having tried other games such as Blackshot - believed to be the most popular free-to-play shooter here - Mr Teh insists that nothing comes close to the adrenaline rush he gets from Counter-Strike, especially when the team pulls off a tough round.
"That roar from your teammates and the crowd when you win that round; that feeling is pretty great," he said.
His team leader, Mr Alvin Tan, echoes the same sentiments. "No one is really a superstar in the game. The game requires all of us to play at our best," the 26-year-old business development manager said.
The various game formats and ability to play with different teams across the world add to the challenge and variety, said Mr Tan.
"There are players from Brazil and Vietnam. Some of them are pretty decent and we learn things from them," said another team member, who wanted to be known only as Syafiq, 21.
The Counter-Strike franchise faces the challenge of being fragmented. There have been five releases of the game since the original version in 2000, with the most recent being Counter-Strike Global Offensive.
Yet, Counter-Strike Online remains popular, especially among those who grew up with the franchise, said IAHGames' Mr Wong.
"Many prefer the experience that the traditional 1.6 engine provides and the MMO features that distinguish itself from the Counter-Strike franchise," he added.
With a sequel, Counter-Strike Online 2, coming out later this year, Mr Tan believes the franchise is not going away any time soon.
And neither is his team.
"No one is married yet and we're still carefree. So, there's still time for us to play," he said. "And as long as there are new platforms and events, we will definitely still be playing."
This story was first published in The Straits Times on Aug 21, 2013
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