Many, many, many YouTubers and streamers have attempted to deny cheating accusations over the years, but at the end of 2020, Minecraft sensation Dream took the cake by getting into a war of graph-filled, math-heavy statistics reports with Minecraft speedrun moderators who deemed his runs impossible. Over the long weekend, however, he suddenly confessed.
Dream is the 21 year-old namesake of Minecraft role-play mega-server Dream SMP, which also features Twitch stars like TommyInnit, GeorgeNotFound, and Tubbo. He kicked off 2020 with a high-stakes “Manhunt” YouTube series that turned him into a household name among Minecraft fans, only to cap off the year by vehemently denying cheating accusations that arose from a series of contentious late-year speedruns. Six months later, on May 30, he confessed that he did in fact cheat, but swiftly added that it was an accident.
“I ended up finding out that I had actually been using a disallowed modification during ~6 of my live streams on Twitch,” Dream wrote in a since-removed Pastebin post. “At the time we were just starting to record videos on [Minecraft version] 1.16, and we had just hired a developer to help with coding mods for videos because me and George had no experience with mods, only plugins. One of the mods that they were working on was an overall recording mod, that I have used in every video (with updates and improvements) since around the speedrun controversy.”
This Minecraft modification, Dream went on to claim, increases the spawn rates of crucial enemies and items—namely, Endermen and Ender Pearls—so as to cut down on boring farming runs during other, non-speedrun videos. According to Dream’s version of events, he ended up finding out that this mod was, in fact, active during his December speedruns, even though he originally thought it was not.
“When the drama first started I cared more about defending myself and being right [than] about figuring out what was actually going on, and I shot myself in the foot by doing it,” Dream wrote on Sunday. “I felt really terrible for the [Minecraft speedrunning community] mods because I dragged them through the mud even though they were mostly right.”
Back in December, Dream reacted to Minecraft community speedrun moderators declaring a Minecraft 1.16 run “too unlikely to verify” by insisting he was innocent and decrying the investigation of multiple runs (and 29-page statistical analysis) that led them to draw that conclusion. He then posted a since-removed video response along with a 19-page report allegedly written by a Harvard statistics expert and practicing astrophysicist which ultimately came to the conclusion that Dream just got lucky. This despite the Minecraft speedrun mod team’s initial estimation of 1 in 7.5 trillion odds that anybody could ever have the kind of luck Dream did across multiple runs. So of course, the Minecraft speedrun mod team retorted with yet another statistical analysis of its own, because how else do you win a Stats War?
“Despite these problems being in Dream’s favor, the author presents a probability that still suggests that Dream was using a modified game,” the Minecraft speedrun mod team concluded at the time. “Hence, our conclusion remains unchanged.”
This back and forth resulted in months of argument and uncertainty, as well as ample harassment doled out to dissenters by dedicated Dream fans. On Sunday, Dream said that he regretted it all and apologized.
“I think the whole situation was extremely shitty overall for everyone involved, and I wish that I could go back and do things differently because it was some of the worst weeks of my life and still impacts me every day,” he wrote. “I’m sorry to anyone that I let down or disappointed.”
He further pointed out that despite his fanbase’s penchant for death threats, he hasn’t just quietly let them run rampant. “Someone needs to make a compilation of all the times I’ve disavowed hate and toxicity and told people not to hate on others, and specifically called it out on Twitter, livestreams, videos, podcasts, and reply it to anyone that continues to push the narrative that I let it happen,” Dream said on Twitter.
But of course, it did not end there. Amidst critics expressing astonishment that it took six months for Dream to confess while his fans swarmed on all who aroused their ire, he went live yesterday evening with a two-hour Twitch stream during which he further addressed the situation and pushed back against criticism.
“Don’t try and discredit my accomplishments,” he said in response to the idea that this controversy is why he’s popular, during a stream that topped out at over 200,000 concurrent viewers. “Trying to use that to say, ‘He gained 25 million subscribers from being a cheater,’ it’s like no, no.”
He’s probably right on that point, as Dream’s rise began before his speedrun records. His Minecraft “Manhunt” series on YouTube and eventually Dream SMP propelled him onward and upward. What matters is that it happened fast. Dream became a breakout sensation in 2020, going from nameless obscurity to multi-million follower counts over the course of just a few months. By the end of 2020, he had nearly 15 million YouTube subscribers and almost 3 million Twitch followers.
Then he dropped the ball. The question, at this stage of the Too Online Era, is how to clean up the mess. Creators are absolutely responsible for their audiences, but at this point, it’s worth asking how much control they actually have when audiences can swell to inconceivable sizes overnight and are spread across multiple diffuse platforms—YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, TikTok, etc—with no consistent mechanisms for administering rules or consequences at a scale of millions.
Just as these platforms are terrible places for audiences to recognize that they’re crossing several football fields’ worth of lines, they also offer creators a unique combination of immense pressure—that puts them immediately on the defensive—and easy outs when the time comes to face the music. While Dream held court on Twitch, chat flew by at blinding speeds with messages like “WE LOVE YOU” and “people are mean and jealous.” Dream, though still contending that he made a mistake, seemed to feed on that energy, saying that some of his critics “want to hear what they want to hear” and won’t be happy until he confesses to being “manipulative” and “a horrible person.”
“I know that I’m a good person,” said Dream toward the end of his stream. “I don’t care if you think I’m not.”
Other streamers and YouTubers have been greeted with similar audience reactions after doing far more questionable things. It’s a pattern that seems bound to repeat itself for the foreseeable future, as long as platforms function the way they do. This has caused some streamers to look inward.
“Sometimes I swear a streamer could come on here and confess to murder and most of their community would just be like ‘It’s okay uwu you’re valid,’” Twitch partner Coruscating said on Twitter. “I think this is just something you have to be aware of as a streamer. Your community is probably full of people who support you unconditionally which means they aren’t always going to give the best advice. Don’t just surround yourself with ‘yes men.’”