Dream's Minecraft speedrunning controversy explained

Image via Dream
Image via Dream

Better known as “Dream” online, Clay broke 15 million subscribers on YouTube in December 2020. That same month, Dream was stripped of his Minecraft Speedrun Leaderboard record because officials found that he cheated by modifying the game.

Dream has been creating Minecraft content on YouTube since early February 2014. Despite that, he seemed to have been stuck in a rut of one thousand subscribers until his breakthrough in 2019.

His channel is one of the fastest-growing in the history of YouTube. Dream has amassed over 10 million subscribers in a little over a year. Although his growth is shocking, it's not surprising that the young creator carefully studied YouTube and Reddit algorithms, which contributed to his success.

He is currently most well known for his survival-multiplayer streams with creators such as Jschlatt, GeorgeNotFound, and SapNap. Dream is also known for his Minecraft speedruns. He's renowned for having incredible luck in these speedruns, but that's precisely where the trouble began.

Dream's controversy

A graph detailing Dream's bartering statistics (Image via Minecraft Speedrunning Team)
A graph detailing Dream's bartering statistics (Image via Minecraft Speedrunning Team)

Accusations of Dream cheating aren’t new. Accusations began a couple of months before the controversy began, in October, shortly after Dream took the number five spot on the Minecraft Speedrun Leaderboard.

The claims were made through (now deleted) tweets from a fellow speedrunner who reported seeing unusually high RNG drops on the speedrun that took him to the number five spot on the leaderboards.

Those deleted tweets were the pebbles that fell before the avalanche. Two months later, a video was released on the Geosquare channel, accompanied by a twenty-nine-page long paper from the moderators of Speedrun.com. Both contained a statistical analysis of a two-month-long investigation into the legitimacy of Dream’s speedruns, as well as a barrage of statistics and experiments done solely on Dream’s RNG luck.

The basis of a Minecraft Speedrun comes from luck. What those would call “luck” is the simple term for what speedrunners and those analyzing the game’s mob drop data would call “RNG.”

For example, players need Blaze Rods and Ender Pearls to craft the eye of the Ender, which is an item crucial to completing the game.

Before the 1.16 “Nether Update,” players would need to obtain these two items by killing Blaze and Enderman and hoping they would drop one of the two items. Now that the 1.16 update has introduced Piglin, that isn’t the sole case anymore.

Players can now barter for Ender Pearls with Piglin, which is much more optimal for speedrunners. Though it’s still based on RNG whether or not Piglin will trade for Ender Pearls, the method of going around to groups of Piglin was less time-consuming than hunting down Enderman.

Normally, the odds of Piglin dropping pearls are extremely low. The chances of one dropping stand at 5%. Blaze’s chances of dropping Blaze Rods sit slightly higher at a 50% drop rate, making them more prone to a more favorable 50-50 chance.

In their paper, both the statistics of Dream’s Ender Pearl bartering and Blaze Rod collection were specifically analyzed. It took six of Dream’s live streams to conduct their investigation.

Investigators found that he was collecting 211 blaze rods out of 305 mob kills in Dream's runs. This, statistically, brings his chances to just under 70% (compared to the normal fifty-fifty chance).

The verdict of Dream’s chances of legitimately acquiring that luck was described as “unfathomably small.” It was a one out of a trillion chance that he would successfully get the drop he was bartering for in both cases.

With this much information and statistical analysis done, it was able to back up the decision to remove Dream from the leaderboard.

Dream's response

(Image via Dream)
(Image via Dream)

Dream denied these accusations of cheating and fought back against their conclusions for some time. His initial response to allegations of him cheating began with him counter-arguing three main points.

Firstly, he argued that there's no valid reason why he should cheat since he's already successful and popular as a streamer.

Secondly, he argued that his knowledge of coding and ability to change simple parameters in the game code isn't wide enough for him to do that.

Thirdly, he claims that the data being used in the report were cherry-picked to make him look like he was getting better drop rates.

These responses came in the form of tweets, videos, and even hiring an anonymous third party to debunk the information presented in the study and look over a larger control sample of Dream’s live streams.

This action resulted in a counter-argument being formed, stating that there were holes in the study the moderators had done. That Dream’s lucky drop rates were higher than stated originally.

Even with this counter-argument presented to them, the moderators have still stuck to their decision to keep Dream off the leaderboard.

Dream has also accepted the team’s conclusions without admitting fault. It seems like both parties are in a stalemate. The moderators aren’t budging on their decision to remove Dream from the leaderboards, and Dream hasn’t made any more attempts to counteract that decision.