Curve shifts, cheaters, Inferno/Mirage, nothing makes sense, yet everything does? It’s been a super-silly ride so far in Premier Mode, and as someone with nothing at stake, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying it.

CS2’s blursed launch has scarred much of the Counter-Strike community, and for a good reason, with many features and tools still missing from the latter-day Global Offensive experience. While we can take solace in the fact that CS:GO also launched in a pretty miserable state, and I continue to have faith in Valve getting it right – hell, I’m having a great time with CS2 as-is, being the overwhelmingly average player that I am – even the biggest Gabe Newell stans must admit that Premier Mode remains a massive mess, to the extent that it loops back around to being pretty damn good fun.

As someone who occasionally peers over to the walled gardens of Dota 2 land, I’ve long been envious of the transparent leaderboards at the highest levels of play and how those performances trickle into the competitive ecosystem. A player could make their name by grinding the in-game ranks and show up on the top of the charts to bolster their skills. In Global Offensive, best we could do was VertiGlobals and actual pros fleeing to ESEA and FACEIT.

The soft launch of Premier Mode in the waning days of CS:GO and making it the main competitive outlet for CS2 seemed like such a good idea.

Shame nothing came of it.

I will leave the whole tick-rate discussion to better-informed arachnologists, but on the surface, there’s nothing going against the notion of treating the in-game competitive mode as a real outlet for esports play. We see it in Riot’s games, too – it just takes a dedicated setup. While Counter-Strike has decades-old infrastructures and community sentiment to take into account, too, it was hard to see Valve’s video about Premier Mode as anything less than a boisterous statement about the new shape of top-level CS.

Like so many others, I’m surprised by Valve’s surprise over Premier Mode’s popularity. What else are you supposed to play right now in CS2, and wasn’t it the only format with a proper ranking ladder? Even last month, we heard rumors of upcoming rewards for future seasons, and the system may still find a way to coexist with FACEIT in a way that makes sense for pros and casuals alike. But the way things are, it’s at least been an entertaining mess.

Where to start? The open beta was a beautiful calamity, having to win ten matches with wildly varying player quality across the teams to get on the board. It was a period of headshots and reports in equal measure, and it took much longer than it should have to get something non-provisional, only for it to get wiped soon thereafter with the I-suppose-we-should-call-it-a-1.0-launch, where we all had to do it all over again.

Except even that didn’t really matter because Valve soon shifted the bell curve, ushering in a golden age of +500 points per win. The gigantic penalties for losses and departures also further skewed the stats. So we’re still getting silly teams and nonsensical carries, and one defeat wiping out three victories and vice versa.

And, of course, all roads lead to Rome, or in this case, Inferno and Mirage. Luckily, I’m an Overpass/Vertigo ban kind of guy, even if I have the occasional mean T side in me when it comes to pushing into toilets. I guess I’m just not that keen on construction sites.

Thing is, I’m genuinely having fun with CS2, more so than with Global Offensive. (I suppose that makes me the ultimate casual?) Normally, I’m quite conscious of my rating in competitive play, and while I never felt like not playing to protect it, I do tend to put way too high a stock in it when gauging my opponents. A 100 points up? Gonna be a struggle. A 100 points down? I’m the biggest loser on the planet if I don’t win.

But here, in the wacky realm of Premier Mode, like, who cares? The system keeps getting changed every few weeks and it is continuously out of whack. Besides, I’ve always been a middling Counter-Strike player, and it’s not like a thousand hours here or there will change it at this point.

Perhaps it’s a part of getting older, part of having other things to focus on in life, part of not being so tuned in to all the Skinner boxes around me, but the early-release CS2 days and hovering around the 50% mark on the rankings has perhaps been the most fun I had with the franchise to date.

It’s like in Whose Line Is It Anyway: the points are made up and the score doesn’t matter. And for someone like me, who actually gets this reference, the game is all the better for it.