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A still of a the popular Minecraft YouTuber, Dream, without his mask on. He has brown, tussled hair and a soft smile. Image: Dream/YouTube

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Why Dream kept his face hidden — and why he revealed it

Everything you need to know about the massively successful Minecraft streamer

Dream, a massively popular YouTuber known for creating Minecraft content, took what might have been one of the biggest and most important steps of his career on Sunday night. No, he didn’t have a brand partnership or make content with some celebrity. Rather, he did something that sounds simple: He showed his real face to his millions of followers. The strange part was, they’d never seen it before.

Before Sunday night, Dream had only been seen by the world through his avatar, which consisted of a white mask with a black smiley face drawn on it. The reveal has made a big splash, and since he posted his unmasking video, his name started trending on Twitter; at time of publication, the video has over 29 million views.

The moment was remarkable, but it was also quiet and awkward. He sat alone in a dark room with black walls and a single bed. Despite having spent hundreds of hours editing and releasing video content and becoming one of the most-viewed content creators on YouTube, Dream looked slightly uncomfortable about being on camera — after all, it was happening for the first time. As he reached behind himself to point at a sign in the background, he pointed the wrong way because as he explained it, he wasn’t used to the way the video mirrored the feed. In this moment, he just seemed like a normal kid. But the reveal was a huge deal to his fans, who’ve been waiting years for this.

Who is Dream?

Dream, whose real name is Clay (last name unknown), is a 23-year-old American YouTuber known for creating content featuring the survival sandbox game Minecraft. Unlike Twitch streamers, who narrate games as they play them, Dream is largely known for his heavily edited videos, in which he layers cartoonish sound effects and music on top of his game footage. He’s a co-founding member of a collective of other Minecraft content creators called DreamSMP; the group carries out role-play scenarios that have overarching narratives, making their videos feel more serialized and dramatic. Dream launched his own channel in 2014, but it took off roughly three years ago after he published a video about trying to find PewDiePie’s Minecraft seed. Today, his most popular form of content is “manhunt” videos, in which he tries to beat the game as quickly as possible while someone else tries to hunt him down and kill his character.

Dream has quickly risen to become a YouTube sensation, going from 1 million subscribers to over 30 million subscribers on his main account in less than two years. In 2020, he was named YouTube’s top breakout star of the year, after which he shot up to become the No. 2 creator on the entire platform. That year, he co-founded the DreamSMP; the DreamSMP group of creators and their Discord server have since become a sort of an incubation chamber for some of YouTube’s top talent, since each creator who has participated has grown a massive audience in their own right. All this top talent comes together and essentially uses Minecraft as a playground for whatever stories they want to tell and act out.

Dream and the rest of the members of DreamSMP have also inspired one of the biggest and most prolific fandoms of the late 2010s and early 2020s. DreamSMP isn’t just a popular YouTube channel — it pulls from a complicated web of general fan activity, living through memes on Tumblr, chatter in Discord servers, video edits that take off on YouTube and TikTok, and fan art on various platforms. In 2021, a fanfic about a fictional romance between Dream and fellow DreamSMP member GeorgeNotFound became the highest-rated fic on fanfic platform Archive of Our Own. Dream and the DreamSMP regularly trend as topics on Twitter. Dream and his roommate Sapnap, who regularly joins him in content, are the fifth and eighth most tweeted-about creators on Twitter, respectively.

After Dream catapulted to fame, it wasn’t long before the creator had to deal with some major blowback. In 2020, he was at the center of a cheating scandal, in which a moderation team overseeing Minecraft records came together and published a 14-minute video and research paper that summarized a two-month investigation into his speedruns. The paper showed the extreme improbability of some of the runs due to randomized elements of certain items in Minecraft, leading some to accuse Dream of cheating in speedruns.

At the time, Dream vehemently denied the allegations, and to this day, he hasn’t admitted to any cheating. He talked about the controversy more recently in an interview with YouTuber Anthony Padilla, where he said he regretted his immediate reaction: “I handled the situation horribly. When it originally came out, my response was, You guys are idiots, blah blah blah.” When asked how he thought he should have handled the situation, Dream said, “I should have shut off all my devices for a couple days and been like, OK, let me not react with emotion.”

To this day, Dream deals with ongoing issues tied to the larger fandom as well. Specifically, fans argue that he hasn’t done enough in the past to intervene and stop his fans from harassing other people online.

Why did Dream reveal his face?

According to Dream, he showed his face because he wanted to meet up with friends, like the streamer GeorgeNotFound, and get out into the world. Now that his fans know his face, he can do meetups as a creator and do more work in real life, away from his desk. In his interview with Padilla, Dream also mentioned that showing his face would open him up to doing new kinds of content as well, like collaborations with the popular YouTuber Mr. Beast, or making TikToks.

Why is Dream revealing his face such a big deal?

For years, fans have been trying to figure out what Dream looks like. That mystique, coupled with his massive following, fueled a sort of self-supporting hype machine of voracious fans who wanted a big reveal. Imagine: You have the breakout star of a generation who is the second most popular creator on a massive platform and a huge source of entertainment. For all intents and purposes, he is one of the biggest celebrities of his time, except fans never get to see his face. But now, all those fans don’t have to guess anymore.

In addition to that, the creator knew how to milk the face reveal for all it was worth. Prior to revealing his face to the general public, he built up to the reveal by showing his face on video to major creators first, after which people posted reaction videos. In addition to other well-known DreamSMP members like TommyInnit, major influencers like Addison Rae posted videos reacting to the face reveal. Both the preexisting intrigue and the media circus drummed up a ton of hype. TikTok was filled with excited fans who expressed how “proud” they were of Dream’s face reveal, and also people who just wanted to get in on the fun for seemingly no reason. On the flip side, some people on Twitter started a hashtag to make fun of the creator for his looks.

Why did Dream want to hide his face?

In the interview he gave to YouTuber Anthony Padilla, Dream explained that he actually didn’t plan to be an anonymous YouTuber at the start. He had begun by designing a simple avatar inspired by a matching Discord picture his ex-girlfriend had made. But then, he started making videos and his account took off. “It just all blew up so quickly and became a part of the fan art and community. It wasn’t a calculated move, it just happened so quickly,” he said.

Although Dream framed the decision as sort of serendipitous in his interview with Padilla, he had other thoughts to share about it in his unmasking video. He talked about the mask as a way for people to see themselves in him, even if he’s ascended to a celebrity-like level of name recognition now. The mask let him serve almost as a vessel, allowing everyone to project a side of themselves onto him.

“This channel is living proof that anyone can do anything. Anyone can be under the mask, and I don’t want my face reveal to take away from that fact,” he said. “Because it’s true, and it can be. And you can do it if you want to. Dream could have been anyone from anywhere.”

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