Passion for games is the only requirement to become a gamer… In theory.
In practice, despite its claim to be “accessible territory” for all types of gamers and tech enthusiasts, the world of competitive esports proved not to be accessible to all gamers.
During both live meetings and online sessions, there are many pitfalls, often already identified by the industry (but never addressed and rarely discussed).
This is how Permastunned Gaming was born.
Founded in 2019 “by gamers with disabilities, for gamers with disabilities”, Permastunned is officially the largest esports team for people with disabilities.
The collective was first imagined by Belgian gamer Alexander Nathan, also known as “Cristal1337”.
“It always bothered me that people with disabilities were underrepresented in the professional Dota2 scene,” Alexander writes on the Permastunned Gaming website.
Alexander has congenital muscular myopathy and is a keen gamer who specializes in online multiplayer battle arena. dota 2 (a 2013 sequel to defense of the ancients).
He founded Permastunned Gaming with three other players and streamers (“Yakobis”, “Shattovv” and “Adante”) in January 2019, with the initial goal of forming the first dota 2 team composed solely of disabled players.
Learn about Permastunned Gaming on page 195 of the Guinness World Records 2023 book.
Much more than a competitive team, from the very beginning Permastunned was dedicated to more than “just” participating in events or streaming content on Twitch and YouTube.
Every day, as part of their philosophy, they also promote more inclusive practices in the gaming world.
They raise awareness of the structural deficiencies suffered by a large part of the community (Microsoft and Xbox estimate that there are nearly 400 million gamers with disabilities worldwide) and help create a better and more level playing field for all.
Alexander started playing games on his Play Station 1 around 1994.
His muscular condition limited his sporting options, and although he played soccer, Alexander has spent his life playing video games.
He then founded Permastunned, and within three years, Alexander recalls, a relatively limited project shot “in the best possible way.”
“People from all types of gaming rallied around the cause, making Permastunned Gaming the largest esports organization by people with disabilities, for people with disabilities,” Alexander said.
The global collective grew and expanded, and today numbers 33 members from all corners of the world.
Each player on the team has their preferred field, from shooters (such as surveillance 2 either Obligations) to MOBAs (multiplayer online battle arena games, which find one of the pinnacles of the genre in League of Legends).
dota 2, Magic Arena: The Gathering, surveillance 2 Y CS:GO are just a few of the games that Permastunned Gaming players excel at.
They also offer merchandising and their list of content creators includes Streamers and YouTubers.
While, on paper, esports should be the epitome of accessibility, competitions, conventions, and even gaming present some challenges that prevent inclusion.
One example among many is that most tournaments at the moment do not allow teams with adaptations.
While the concern is valid and prevents cheating, it poses an insurmountable barrier for players with disabilities.
“I think society is a bigger obstacle than the esports ecosystem.” – Alexander Nathan
The lack of alt text, subtitles, and infrastructure in locations further prevents players from fully enjoying the gaming experience.
One of the main challenges is getting esports recognized as real sports, as Alexander told Esports Insider: “[…] Most governments have not yet recognized the value of esports and consequently there are rules and regulations in place that could prevent players with disabilities from advancing their sports career.”
And the future of esports?
“I would like to see more professional disabled esports athletes,” says Alexander.
A positive and more inclusive change that Alexander and Permastunned are certainly encouraging with their ongoing efforts to raise awareness and express the need for more accessible gaming venues and platforms.
In that sense, being a part of Permastunned was definitely an “eye-opening experience” for him.
“Permastunned gave me a sense of community, belonging and direction.”
“For the games, I focused more, which allowed me to improve my skill level faster,” says Alexander.
“Regarding my life, in general, advocating for people with disabilities in esports has pushed me to be politically active. I have learned a lot about disability philosophy, sociology, accessible infrastructure and what it means to live with a disability in different cultures.
“While there is always room for improvement, I think we have reached a point where most people, regardless of disability, can find at least one or two games they can play without necessarily being considered losers. “, He says.
Oftentimes, playing online also means finding a community of friends for life.
Inside and outside of the competitive environment, Alexander is extremely happy with his team and very proud of the world record and recognition they achieved.
“It shows me that we are making a difference in the world,” he said.
“I’m not sure if I would try another record, but it would be amazing if we could get all of Permastunned Gaming involved.”