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BBC documentary “Just Boys IRL” follows Dota 2 friends meeting, travelling for the first time

The reality series highlights mental health and relationships as five gamers are brought together for the first time.

A still from the first episode of Just Boys IRL.
A Meeting Of Restless Minds: London | Just Boys (via YouTube)

The real-life effects of Dota 2 go well past money won, rage quits and time spent. For five young men from Europe, it means bonds forged and a documentary filmed.

Just Boys IRL: 5 Gamers Go Interrailing is a BBC 3 documentary following five friends that, before filming, exclusively knew each other online. The filmmakers brought them together for the first in real life to take a trip across Europe. They were given an interrail ticket — meaning, they could travel anywhere in the continent — and spent fifteen days together in summer of 2016.

“We applied as we think our friendship is a very modern idea of an online based group of friends,” Cameron, one of the featured friends, explained on an announcement post on Reddit.

Off the bat, in the first episode, four of the five boys were very open about their mental health issues, talking medicine, therapy and how Dota 2 fills the gap. As they set their eyes on Amsterdam, one player, Sam, even talks about a weed-induced panic attack, a symptom of depression and anxiety not often discussed.

While they hit it off to boot, their friendship is tested as the trip goes on. No real spoilers, but emotions are rampant as they move through the world — and the world moves around them. (The good news is, within the Reddit thread, Cameron and others chime in to share that they still play every day.)

The subject matter may hit close to home for many Dota 2 players, and hardcore gamers in general, as mental health is an issue frequently touched on in the Dota 2 community. Threads frequently pop up on the game’s unofficial subreddit, with everyday players venting their real-life issues and how these intertwine with their Dota 2 habits.

Less frequently, but with similar caliber, are incidents of Dota 2 bringing friends together, whether done as a continuing thank-you or a farewell to the community.

Just Boys IRL cracks open plenty of these issues at once, hopefully allowing for such discussion to become even more frequent and impactful in the Dota 2 community — and hopefully the wider gaming community.

Just as importantly, it’s a touching coming-of-age journey with emotional highs and lows, and it feels genuine and true to the boys’ intentions, situations and emotions. It shines a positive, realistic light on how gamers just want to live and have fun, whether online or with one another.

The full series is available on YouTube, and will be available on the BBC iPlayer on April 4.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you or anyone you know is struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, you’re not alone.

Officially for “Just Boys IRL,” BBC 3 has included a list of mental health resources for those who may need them in the UK. For readers in the United States as well as internationally, we have included others below.

United States:

Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741741 from anywhere in the USA, at any time, about any type of crisis —

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 —

The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386 —

Outside US:

The International Association for Suicide Prevention lists a number of suicide hotlines by country —

Befrienders Worldwide —