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'Terrorists' no match for video game wizard

By MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

To some it’s a video game, but to Jimmy Williams, Counter-Strike is a competition to see who is best.

Williams, 17, of Federal Way, and four teammates play the strategy and “shooter” game that pits two teams against each other. The good guys are an elite military unit and the bad guys are terrorists. The good guys have to rescue hostages and kill the terrorists in various environments, while the bad guys are trying to keep the hostages and eliminate the good guys.

Pong it is not.

Light years away from the Stone Age Atari game that is considered the beginning of video game madness, Counter-Strike is detailed, quick and one of the most popular video games around. There are Web sites and chatrooms on the Internet devoted to it, and “gamers” talk about their favorite strategies, trouble-shoot technical problems and gab about accessories.

“It doesn’t get boring,” Williams said, explaining Counter-Strike’s appeal.

Two weekends ago, Williams and his team were in Long Beach, Calif. with 300 other players to determine who was best in the U.S. and will take the challenge to the world stage next month.

That’s right. Video game competitions are international events. You can even make money at it. The winners at the world competition will get $50,000 in purse money.

Williams, a senior at Todd Beamer High School, has snagged more than $6,000 in local competitions. His team was ninth in the nation last year.

The Long Beach competition was sponsored by computermaker Samsung and the World Cyber Games. The international competition is in San Francisco and will have 60 countries facing off against each other.

Williams won’t be representing Old Glory at the world competition. His team was eliminated, but a few Washingtonians from Edmonds are moving on after playing Project Gotham Racing 2 –– a popular racing game –– on the XBox game system.

Counter-Strike takes advantage of the horsepower of desktop computers and the interconnectivity of the Internet to work its magic. Your “team” doesn’t have to be in the same room as you or even the same county. Williams’ teammates are from around Washington and Oregon. The U.S. Counter-Strike team going to the world competition is from California, Texas, New York and Virginia.

Williams’ team plays together almost every other day. He said he puts in at least 20 minutes each day to keep his skills honed.

While many teams they compete against employ strategies –– and some are elaborate –– Williams said his group’s plan is fast and loose. They’ve played as a team long enough and have the experience and skills to zip through rounds and work together well. They are also good at reading other teams, he said.

The teams play in rounds. After six rounds, the teams switch sides –– if they were the good guys, they become the bad guys –– and then play another six rounds. Whoever has the most Ws at the end of it all wins.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565, mhalliday@fedwaymirror.com

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