2020 has been a tremendous year for Dream, a Minecraft personality who gained millions of followers so quickly that YouTube named him the number one breakout star of the year. Dream is also number two on the list of overall top YouTube creators of the year. All of this attention and acclaim has sprouted from his wildly popular speedrun videos, where he competes against other Minecraft players to complete the game as quickly as possible, sometimes setting records while doing it. But now, the very people who keep those records are contesting them.
Video game records are officiated by speedrun.com, which keeps tracks of the various categories and runners who vie for spots. In mid-December, the moderation team overseeing Minecraft records came together and published a 14-minute video that summarizes a two-month investigation involving a 5th place run submitted by Dream earlier in the year. It is meant as a primer on a much longer document, which is formatted as a research paper that breaks down all the high-level math the team did to verify Dream’s speedrun.
Thank you for the totally unbiased, 2 month, 29 page “investigation” into whether a 16th place run had “too good luck”, that was then made into a clickbait Youtube video by a head moderator (what a shocker)
— dream (@dreamwastaken) December 11, 2020
So, what’s so controversial here? The team took a series of six livestreams where Dream gets incredibly lucky in a way that many deem if not impossible, then at least extremely unlikely. Without getting bogged down in the details, the gist is that in order to get to the end of Minecraft, you need two specific items. The quickest way to get one of the items is to trade with Piglins, in-game creatures who will give you something random when you barter gold ingots. There is only a 5% chance that a Piglin might give you the specific thing you need to craft the item necessary to trigger Minecraft’s ending. The second item has slightly better odds, with a specific mob having a 50% chance of dropping said object after being killed.
In the handful of livestreams, Dream is shown successfully bartering for the key item 42 out of 262 times, whereas 211 of his overall mob kills dropped the second necessary item. In the video report of the livestreams, the team concedes that a small data set may not bear out the actual chances of the results — just because you flip a coin 10 times, for example, does not mean you’ll get exactly 5 heads and 5 tails. But then the team went ahead and actually accounted for any potential bias, and even giving Dream the benefit of the doubt statistically speaking, the odds are, in their opinion, incredible. They are so lucky that even compared to other lucky runs — which all top runs are, in some way — Dream’s odds are well above those of his contemporaries.
Did Dream Really Cheat?
“If nothing else, the drop rates from Dream’s streams are so exceptional that they ought to be analyzed for the sake of it, regardless of whether or not any one individual believes they happened legitimately,” the paper reads.
And what, exactly, are the odds? For the trades, there is only a 1 in 177 billion chance of getting as many successful trades as Dream did. Giving him some leeway and attempting to account for some bias, the team still ended up determining the chances are 1 in 82 billion for the barters shown during the run. The mob drop rates that Dream had during his livestreams, meanwhile, come in at only 1 in 113 billion chances of occurring. Basically, the moderation getting one set of odds like the above is already unlikely, so having two extremely lucky outcomes like this puts the subsequent record-setting run even more into question. While they cannot prove it, the moderation team believes it’s possible that Dream is running a modified game of some sort.
Dream, for his part, has tried fighting the accusations. Ten days after he completed the livestream, the moderation team asked for the files that could show what was active in his folders when the run was completed. Dream provided the files as asked. Even so, the moderation team alleges that the files could have been changed during that 10-day time gap, which Dream himself says is likely the case as he changes his game up depending on what he’s streaming. The moderation team also alleges that the original files containing the settings for the run were deleted by Dream, but Polygon cannot verify what was given at the time. Dream has made a file public and available to download for anyone curious. But critics allege there are other means of altering Minecraft drop rates that do not involve mods.
I provided everything the mods ever asked for to them, so this is false. I also never said that I “delete them frequently”, and Geosquare has admitted this and apologized. The only time I was ever asked anything regarding my mods folder, was 10 days after my speedrun.
— dream (@dreamwastaken) December 14, 2020
While the video that caused all this ruckus has only been live for a few days as of this writing, the fight over the legitimacy of the run has been going on for weeks now. During that time, Dream has posted a variety of responses, calling the investigation nothing more than clickbait meant to rack up views, especially given Dream’s visibility and popularity. Dream further poses that the investigation was apparently flawed enough that some of the moderation team was threatening to quit over it, but Geosquared told Polygon that this isn’t true.
“All moderators voted unanimously in our decision and no one is threatening to leave in protest,” he wrote in a Twitter message. “From everything we know that is unsubstantiated or complete hyperbole.”
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