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THE REMARKABLE LIFE OF IBELIN [Chicago Critics Festival 2024]

Written By:

Martin Unsworth
The Remarkable Life of Ibelin

The Remarkable Life of Ibelin is a documentary about the life of Mats, a World of Warcraft gamer. The 25-year-old died from the degenerative muscular disease that kept him in a wheelchair most of his life, leaving his parents with immense regret that they could not offer him a ‘normal’ social life full of acceptance. Through his WoW account and blog, his parents and viewers can discover the place where Mats didn’t just escape into but thrived in and became a kind-hearted, loving, and beloved young man.

The story of Ibelin is the story of a generation. Those elders who, as young people, snuck into their private lives through bedroom windows are trying to understand the children who enter their screens for the same effect. The current wave of young adults escaped their households by diving into Discord servers, MMORPGs, Instagram DMs, and other digital spaces. The places children feel truly seen are now created online in social media spaces, audio chats, or sandbox and roleplaying games. How can they explain to their parents the significance of ‘ranking up’ in a game or the digital ‘wartime’ bonds they’ve created in FPSs with people they’ve never met?

Mats’ persona as Ibelin is a kind-hearted, loving adventurer. He shows such attention to everyone around him in ways that would be more challenging for Mats to express in real life. But his impact was real to the people who knew and loved him as he was, without having seen the adversity he overcame in real life. Rather than simply using the digital plane to hide, he used it to improve other people’s lives. Perhaps we all could more easily bridge the generational gap if we took a cue from Mats and Ibelin.

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