Esports as an Equalizer: A Chat with Permastunned Gaming

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Esports as an Equalizer: A Chat with Permastunned Gaming

Together, Martins ‘Shattovv’ Jeremy, Florian ‘Caddelane’ Schorner, Jacob ‘Yakobis’ Stanley, Marc ‘ZaW’ Werner, and Marek ‘Marard’ Ardamica make up Permastunned Gaming. A professional Dota 2 team with a pretty unique outlook on the game, and life in general.

And if you’re wondering about their name, yes, it’s a pun. Each member of Permastunned’s roster has a physical disability. But don’t imagine for a second that holds this team back.

We spoke with the squad about everything from their favourite heroes in the current meta to accessibility in esports.

The Origins of Permastunned

“Our team is still relatively young,” says ZaW, the teams offlaner. “We found each other about three months ago?”

“We started playing in the joindota league in May,” Marard says, who plays for the team in mid, “but we played together before that.”

“We’ve been playing together since the start of 2019,” Yakobis, their position four adds.

Even though Permastunned is a young team professionally, all of its members have been playing Dota 2, and video games in general, for most of their lives.

I discovered the WC-3, Mod Dota Allstars, 11-12 years ago with my best friend,” ZaW says. “It quickly became our favourite game, and, for the most part, we only played Dota.” After a serious sporting accident left him paralysed from the shoulders down, his best friend had the idea to build an apparatus for ZaW which would allow him to use head to left and right-click on the computer. “We immediately started playing Dota again,” he says, “and I never stopped.” ZaW enjoys the competition from the fan side as well. “Esports replaced normal sports for me as a spectator.” He says, “I hardly watch normal sports anymore.”

Marard also found that Dota 2 helped him after his return from hospital. He first caught the game watching another streamer and felt like the game could help him find some purpose and inspiration. He was passionate about improving at the game.  “My starting MMR was 1094,” he says. “I dropped to 964 then I saw a friend who streams playing Tiny mid with Shadow Blade. So, I tried it too.”  After several months, his MMR began to climb and peaking at 4K. Impressive as this is, Marard can’t play many solo ranked matches in a day, he simply doesn’t have the energy for that. Sometimes, he worries about dropping down and the climbing back, but that is part of his reason for competing with Permastunned –  to keep improving.  “Dota is something more than a regular game for me,” he says, “It is the game I feel I want to be good at and can be good at.”

 “I grew up watching Football & ESPN with my dad,” Yakobis explains, speaking about what drew him to esports. “But I've been into DOTA esports since Ti3 just because of the plays the pros could pull off. Now the ever changing meta and gameplay keeps me constantly interested in what picks work best at the highest levels.”

“I always wanted to be the best in the things that I do,” Caddelane says, before adding “I know that this is not realistic, but the competitive nature brought me to eSports nevertheless.” Caddelane plays position 5 for Permastunned, but he originally came into the esports scene with the game Crossout. In Crossout, Caddelane competed professionally in 4v4 tournaments and scrims. After this experience, he knew he wanted to dedicate himself to playing a game professionally: “At the time, I was playing Dota 2 for 3 years, and just decided; I want to try to be professional there.”

Shattovv, Permastunned’s captain, loves the competitive aspects of Dota 2 at the professional level too. “Dota is the best esports game,” he says, “Incredibly high skill ceiling, but has an extreme importance on team play.”

Dota 2 as a Treatment

But isn’t all about the fun of the game. Dota 2 and esports provide a valuable form of treatment for players like the guys from Permastunned.

“I have a hemiplegic cerebral palsy,” Caddelane explains. “Esports and playing games, in general, are a form of treatment for me. It keeps my brain challenged and my right side of the body, or, at least, my arm and hand do get better motor skills, it also helps with maintaining it. So, esports is really important for my health condition.”

“As a BKA amputee, it’s much harder for me to play something like basketball at a high level than someone able-bodied,” Shattovv adds. “When I am in Dota, I am on an even playing field. I don’t have an excuse when I play badly other than myself making mistakes.” BKA stands for a “below the knee” amputation.

For Marard, playing with Permastunned is important for his emotional well-being too.

“I mentioned before Dota is not ordinary game for me and I need purpose to play,” he says. “Playing in this team is my purpose, my motivation.”

The opportunities on the horizon for teams like Permastunned is something that ZaW, in particular, is looking forward to seeing come to fruition.

“Of course, we know that with a disability, you will never be as good as in professional sports. [like basketball],” he says. “But when it finally comes to the point that enough people have found each other, who want to compete against each other, as is the case with the Paralympics, I would be very happy to see a league for people with disabilities.”

Permastunned Refuses to be Clifteezy-d

As players with pretty unique requirements, have they found obstacles in their ability to engage with, and participate with the wider community? We asked the guys to share their thoughts about accessibility in the esports scene.

“The industry actually provides good help,” ZaW says, “There are accessibility features in settings, and also certain hardware that makes it easier to play.”

“It’s hard to say,”  Marard says. “Organizations have no reason to do special things because there aren’t many disabled people who attend big tournaments.” He adds that right now, he doesn’t think there are enough teams for a tournament focused around players with disabilities like the Paralympics. He also points out that the requirements for attending tournaments as a player, or spectator, would vary depending on the individual case.

“Adante [one of Permastunned's CS:GO players] for example, he doesn’t have fingers on his hands. He has only two thumbs on each hand. He is in disadvantage in playing games or doing things with his hands. But he can walk without any problems so he wouldn’t have as much trouble attending tournaments. For me, on the other hand, it would be really hard,” he explains. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy and scoliosis, Marard plays Dota 2 in a lying position on his right-hand side. He also requires artificial ventilation to help him breathe. Sitting up in a chair and using a mouse and keyboard to play at a tournament isn’t something that’s possible for him.

Still, he is excited about the prospect of attending as a spectator in the future.

“It would be really hard because of my condition,” he says. “I think there is a possibility for me to visit Katowice. However, I would need to get some kind of pass that allows me to go to the backstage and rest there.” He explains, “It is pretty long drive for me, 2 hours’ drive from my city and it would be hard, but it would be worth it.”

“Playing with Permastunned has shown me challenges other people have when it comes to gaming,” Shattovv says. “I think everyone’s situation is unique, which can catch developers off-guard.”

“Since you never really see against whom you play on the PC or on the console, it is only natural that many do not even know that you can still play very well and a lot of video games with acute or severe disabilities,” ZaW adds.

But that is where the team believes the team can step in.

“Permastunned can help with that connection between gamers with disabilities and the industry by raising awareness,” Shattovv says. “I want the team to regularly compete in events and open qualifiers for fun. I’d like to see the CS:GO team (Permastunned’s other professional esports team) do the same, and hopefully, we can create teams for events in other games as well.”

“My biggest goal is to attend a LAN event,” Caddelane adds. “I imagine, getting on stage and playing vs. a big team would be a whole new thrilling experience. Raising awareness for disabled esport athletes is one goal of our team. Esports gives disabled people a new opportunity to compete with abled people on even playing ground.”

“I'd love to play, even as a show match, in a Summit or Dreamleague event,” Yakobis says. “I've been following each organization for five-plus years and the talent at each event is really dedicated to Dota's growth in esports.”

Of course, it would be nice if we play against teams that have heard of us before,” ZaW adds, jokingly, “Our opponents would certainly be surprised if we win against them, even though we are all disabled and still compete at their skill level!”

So, what’s been their favourite moment playing together as a team so far?

“First time we clicked as a team in a pub,” Shattovv says, “everyone’s making calls. End game scoreboard showed everyone had game impact/damage.”

“My best experience was the first JDL game we won,” ZaW says, “What was special about it was that, as a team where every member has a certain disability, we beat a team that played completely without handicap.”

“For me, I think it was learning, and practicing playing one role and multiple heroes on that role,” Marard says, “In this case mid.”

“All of the time we spent together,” Caddelane says, “everyone is so supportive and gives advice. Bonding together and trying to achieve something as a team is the most wholesome thing.” He says, “Sure winning is nice, but the way to get there is even nicer.”

How about their feelings on the game right now? We asked the guys to share with us their thoughts on their favourite heroes in the current meta.

“Chaos Knight,” says Marard. “I play him mid, as nobody expects it. Chaos Knight can destroy a lot of mid lane heroes, gank efficiently, and needs some levels. So mid is ideal for these reasons.” Although, he admits, sometimes he struggles in late games because he often picks Chaos Knight no matter what. “I am very comfortable playing him, even against counters. However, in late-game, counters are really scary. Some of them you can’t counter with items. That’s why I like to have a second carry that will secure the late game.”

“Dark Willow has been my favourite hero this year, since she has huge item variability and can really bully well in lane with her attack speed as a support,” says Yakobis. “Being able to Shadow Realm is hugely powerful as an escape and initiation tool around the map.”

“That’s always hard to say,” ZaW says. “In public matchmaking, I usually play the roles that are left over. Usually, this ends up being position 5 or support. Then I usually play Shadow Shaman or Warlock.”

“Vengeful Spirit,” Caddelane says. “I play position 5 in our team, and I like the support playstyle that I can use with her.”

Beating the Assumptions One Lane at a Time

“I can’t speak for everybody that has my condition. But I don’t really get why people always feel sorry for me and my condition, I get that it seems hard for them and they assume that it’s a big hardship for me too. But it’s just a part of my life. I am used to my condition, and I accept it, so it does not really affect my psyche in any way anymore. People that feel sorry for me remind that I’m not normal in their eyes, while I feel as normal as a person can be.”- Florian ‘Caddelane’ Schorner

Permastunned are certainly smashing stereotypes when it comes to what fans imagine about pro esports players and people with disabilities in general. We asked the guys to speak to us candidly about what perceptions or assumptions people make about them that they’d like to change.

“When someone is talking to my mom who doesn’t know us or me they often think that I have mental disability too,” Marard recalls. “Autism, or that I am mentally on the level of a child. They’re pretty surprised that I am alright mentally,” he explains. “I don’t mind that, it doesn’t anger me at all. They’re not trying to hurt my feelings, and that’s nice if they ask me,” he adds. “To be honest, I am not surprised they assume that I have these kinds of problems. [For example] on TV when I see people who were born with some disability, I’ve never seen people who are ‘just’ in a wheelchair and have no other problems.”

“I can’t speak for everybody that has my condition. But I don’t really get why people always feel sorry for me and my condition,” Caddelane explains. “I get that it seems hard for them and they assume that it’s a big hardship for me too. But it’s just a part of my life. I am used to my condition, and I accept it, so it does not really affect my psyche in any way anymore. People that feel sorry for me remind that I’m not normal in their eyes, while I feel as normal as a person can be.”

“I am lucky enough that my disability doesn’t disrupt my day-to-day that immensely,” says Shattovv. “People always ask if it hurts to walk with so much concern, but the human body is amazing at adaptation. Some days are better than others for sure, but it’s a part of me for the rest of my life so I make the best of it.”

“So far I’ve only received positive feedback,” ZaW says, speaking specifically about his experiences playing in esports. “People are amazed that, although I can only play with my chin and my head, I can still play quite passably. That's why I would not want to change anything.”

You can keep up with all the official news from Permastunned over on their Twitter, or get to know some of the guys better by tuning into one of their Twitch channels and checking out their social media.

Marard: Twitch, Twitter
Shattovv: Twitch

Avatar of Eliana Bollati
Eliana Bollati
Eliana is a freelance editor & journalist from Australia with a passion for esports and video games. An avid player of video games for the better part of three decades, she began following professional esports circuits during the 2010s. She brings both a player and longtime fan perspective into her commentary on the professional scenes.