Is There Such A Thing As A Retirement Age In CS:GO esports?
Topic: CS:GO Retirement Age
Top-level sports are notorious for short career lengths, with the average football player retiring at around 35 years old. It makes sense, since physical abilities usually start decreasing and risk of injuries increases. However, in the world of CS:GO, we almost never see players above 30 competing in the Tier-1 (highest level tournaments) scene, despite gaming being less physically demanding. Why is that? Is the retirement age a myth or a fact?
For a lot of gamers, it’s obvious why the retirement age is so low. Tactical shooters require incredibly sharp reflexes, and neural capacities lower as time passes; studies indicate that decline in performance starts as early as 24 years old! (Study Source) Not only that, but there is also a real risk of injury. When you spend years sitting and moving your hands in specific ways, problems will arise, such as carpal tunnel (wrist nerves getting damaged), inflated thumbs, strained muscles and back pain. This is serious stuff!
The Warriors That Persevere Throughout The Years
Is aging as bad for gameplay as people make it out to be, though? Despite playing for years and being almost/over 30 years old, some pro players like Richard “shox” Papillon do not feel that they are unable to perform well anymore. In an interview published in gaming news website “Dexterto”, shox expressed that his “personal goal is to break the age limit(...)”. (Source: Dextero Shox )At 29 years old, he is still considered as one of the best players in the French scene and won IEM Winter days ago.
Another player, Marco “Snappi” Pfeiffer, 31, is still performing on a top level with the beloved Finnish team ENCE, stated that he doesn’t feel affected by age and that veterans like Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg could last potentially up to 40 years old in the scene. If some players are still actively playing in Tier-1 events after 30 years on earth, why do other players retire earlier on?
What Impact Does Attitude Have?
One could argue that it has to do with pure skill, which will indeed determine the durability of one’s career. Someone with mediocre performance will eventually fall behind the competition, always changing and evolving. However, some CS:GO fans and analysts offer a different perspective. What if it wasn’t because of reflexes or muscle strain? What if it had to do with mentality?
As time passes, the maps, gunplay and strategies change. Most of the time, what worked in 2013 will not work in 2021. Pros like to develop their skills and preferred playstyles down the line, but new stars and frequent updates can menace some, and if their capacity to react to change isn’t present, they will start to be outplayed. This might be why some players previously hailed as legends are nowadays struggling to play at the same level, despite only being a few years older than the average competitor.
A Simple Equation
One good example of that situation is the legendary AWPer Kenny "KennyS" Schrub. Once upon a time, from 2014 to 2016, he was widely considered as one of, if not, the greatest players of all time. Two major changes affected his weapon of choice, notably the 2015 update that lowered the speed of scoped movement and more recently the 2020 update that lowered the crouch acceleration. While KennyS did end up winning a Major after the March 2015 update, DreamHack Cluj-Napoca 2015, the update still negatively affected his performance, and he has been on a downhill since the long-gone days of French domination. He was eventually benched from his team G2, thus leaving him as a substitute, after a dismal performance that lasted for years and was aggravated by the changes to the crouch acceleration.
The French sniper is only 2 years older than the best player of the world, Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev. They both use the same weapon, yet KennyS has more experience. So how come s1mple is winning awards left and right, but KennyS is warming the bench? They didn’t adapt the same way. One had trouble adapting their playstyle and critiqued the update, while the other switched up the gameplay to keep being the best of the best.
It is important to note that KennyS is still a great player. He proved that he still has the capacity to play well by replacing nexa for IEM Winter, managing to go up to the semifinals, losing to Vitality, the rivals from the same country. He also isn’t the only one who’s been having trouble; a lot of teams struggled during the online era, and by the time LANs started again, the damage was already done.
So, to answer the question of the beginning: Is there such a thing as a retirement age in CS:GO? Not exactly. While it is obvious that getting older will cause players to lose certain abilities, and that the risk of physical/mental stress will force an end to some careers, there isn’t a “Best Before” date that applies to everyone. Each player reacts differently to change, an important factor in the longevity of a team. Some will retire at younger ages, whereas others keep going on well after the start of their 30s. The difference might not be fixed abilities, but in the mindset.
Dexerto - kennyS
vpesports - f0rest