Martin StengårdBeing a Duchenne dad for me is always being beside my child and trying to support him in any way that I can.”
Martin Stengård has many strings to his bow. Following his pursuit of music as a student and retraining in the software development industry, he is now working as a full-time cyber security specialist. Above all this, however, he is the proud father of Sigge, his 15-year-old son who is living with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. For the past four years, Martin has been giving his all to support Sigge’s passion for online gaming and his journey into esports. This ranges from organizing and moderating Sigge’s video game live streams on Twitch, which has steadily grown to amass more than 10,000 followers, to establishing PARA.Ghost, an esports team that champions players living with Duchenne.
Sigge was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder at a young age. While children his age were out playing, he has always found it challenging to do the same due to his shy and introverted nature. Martin did not want to let Sigge’s Duchenne and social anxiety stop him from activities that children his age generally enjoyed. Martin advises, “Push your children to get them to try things that they’ve never tried before. If you are willing to take that first step, you will be able to see the things that you’ll need to take for the second step.” He wanted to help Sigge learn to manage social situations and give him the chance to practice his social interactions even if it means starting small and tacking little things. “I decided to introduce Sigge to online gaming. The collaborative culture of the online gaming community is known to encourage social bonds between like-minded individuals. It has certainly broadened Sigge’s social circle and interactions, and it has even given him a more positive mindset in life.” Sigge would do game live streams weekly, and Martin would always be there with him to moderate the chat room. Although Martin praises how online gaming has helped with Sigge’s social anxiety, he does feel that he has a parental responsibility to moderate the unpredictable nature of game live streams.
Here are some tips that Martin has to share for parents who want to support their child’s game streaming interest:
- Do have a conversation beforehand with your child about what can be expected and how to deal with the unexpected of game live streams (e.g. negative comments).
- Do educate yourself in online gaming and live streams, and the environment it embodies.
- Do consider being a moderator on your child’s game streams and be on the alert to any inappropriate language or behavior used on the chat rooms.
Sigge’s social anxiety improved significantly once they had established his esports team PARA.Ghost, which Martin manages. The team is made up of four other players who Sigge met on his game live streams. All five team members are living with Duchenne, but with different degrees of disability. The team has been receiving professional training for the past year and have been invited to prestigious esports events like the longest running pro gaming tour Intel Extreme Masters and one of world’s largest esports tournaments DreamHack. It has become a tradition for the team to compete with another esports team at DreamHack, where the competing team will have their hand and arm movements restricted with tape to mirror the limited mobility that the players with Duchenne have – and PARA.Ghost had won every single time since its inception. Martin tells us, “It is amazing to see the social progress that the players have made just by being able to physically attend all these different esports tournaments. And recently, Sigge spoke in front of 300 people at their DreamHack panel. He has become so comfortable speaking at such events now. Just pushing children out of their comfort zones does wonders.” Besides being the team manager, Martin has also started Para Esports, a non-profit organization whose goal is to engage with disabled gamers by supporting and developing esports assistive devices.
Through Para Esports, the organization under which PARA.Ghost now plays, Martin strives to support disabled gamers to engage in esports. Their moto is, “Different is The New Cool,” which aims to encompass anyone who has a functional variation, either physical or mental, including people living with conditions such as ADHD, social phobia and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Focused initially on events and tournaments in Sweden, the company has been expanding to enable players to travel safely to international tournaments. Ambitions for 2023 include attending IEM Cologne 2023, the second largest esports tournament in the world.
In order to manage the logistical challenges of enabling the teams to attend, including assistants, travel and accommodation, raising awareness of what these boys experience as well as raising funds are key priorities for Martin. To find out more about this inspirational company or to donate to their cause, visit their website. Martin and Sigge are planning a four-week visit to North America this summer. Visiting North America has been on Sigge’s bucket list for a long time. He wants to experience the continent’s nature and wildlife and visit the Seattle gaming headquarters of Counterstrike to meet the CEO and creator of the game that has changed his life for the better. Martin says that they have their North America adventure all planned out. Soon, they’ll be experiencing the Fourth of July celebrations, exploring the vast national forests of California, and admiring the beauty of Lake Tahoe from their base camp.