'Minecraft' star Dream meets his screaming fans for first time


Online, Dream is known to his fans by his voice, a Minecraft avatar and an image of a lopsided smiley face. In a digital-attention economy, where appearance is currency, Dream’s anonymity and massive fame were unusual. — Screengrab from YouTube

Minecraft celebrity Dream, 23, who showed his face for the first time ever to more than 50 million fans across the Internet on Tuesday, got to meet some of them in person at Twitch’s annual convention in San Diego on Friday. Hundreds of his screaming followers queued to get a glimpse and photograph the cyber superstar.

Dream, whose real name is Clay and last name is unknown, seemed overwhelmed by the the reception.

"Good,” he said, when a moderator asked how he was. Shrieks followed. "I just said ‘good.’” More shrieks. "I’m shaking,” he said. "I love you guys.” The shrieking continued.

The Minecraft celebrity rose to fame meteorically during the pandemic. In his videos, which regularly receive more than 20 million views, he has mastered the art and sport of playing Microsoft Inc’s computer game, the best selling of all time, in which Lego-like characters can create any object or environment with simple blocks.

In his most popular videos, Dream is outrunning a band of superstar YouTubers and Twitch streamers by magicking solutions to obstacles out of innocuous bricks. Other times he alters the game’s code to generate strange, funny videos like "Minecraft, But Gravity Flips Every Minute” or acts out theatrical plots with his friends on his own server.

"I feel like I’ve done everything you can possibly do in that game,” Dream said in his first face-to-face interview.

Online, Dream is known to his fans by his voice, a Minecraft avatar and an image of a lopsided smiley face. In a digital-attention economy, where appearance is currency, Dream’s anonymity and massive fame were unusual. He says it may have helped more than it hurt; he compares himself to Spider-Man, who could have been anyone under the mask.

As his channel grew, Dream, who says he quit a job at Apple Inc and had US$20,000 (RM92,750) saved, spent more of his days inside his house at his computer, creating and managing content, editing videos and playing games.

"I’d wake up, go on my computer, get off my computer and eat, get on my computer again, then hop in bed and maybe watch some TV or something,” he said. That was his life for three years while he pursued success in the volatile content-creation industry. In 2020, he became YouTube’s top "breakout” star, earning 12.5 million subscribers.

Still, Dream’s growing notoriety could not be kept entirely separate from his real life. Fans knew the sound of his voice and that he lived in Orlando, Florida. For him, that was enough to generate concerns that people might recognise him.

"Even if it’s 0.0001% chance, it’s not really worth it,” he says. "I’d rather it be my moment.”

"I’m going to go to a different state to go to the dentist,” he said. "I went with my mom to go to the movies and eat dinner for the first time in a long time - I went to Georgia.”

Dream’s moment was attendant viewing. To prepare, he says, he wanted to look the best he could, even hiring a makeup artist. In a video titled "Hi, I’m Dream,” he removes a white smiley-face mask and greets his fans. "I feel so awkward talking to a camera for the first time!” he says smiling - a handsome kid with fluffy brown hair.

The video trended across social media, with fans and haters alike posting live reactions and memes. His devotees were ecstatic. Others wanting to get in on the moment scrutinised everything about his appearance, from his jawline to his camera angle. #HESUGLY trended on Twitter.

"I got texted by so many friends of mine being like, ‘Are you OK?’” he says. "I was like, well, yeah, when you have 30 million eyeballs on you, a million, two million people are going to be making jokes or mean or are not great people. When you take that big of a pool, there’s going to be a portion.”

At his TwitchCon panel, called "Dream & Friends: The Ultimate SMP Reunion,” he and fellow Minecraft celebrities were asked about everything from their favourite vegetable to Breaking Bad characters. Countless fans were disappointedly turned away from the 400-capacity room. Those who had waited to ensure a spot inside brought handmade stuffed animals and letters as tributes.

"I went to my room and started bawling.” He was overcome with emotion. It wasn’t that there were too many people, he says. "I’d never felt this feeling before-happiness but with overwhelming ‘Wow, this is real, this is my life.’” His Mom helped calm him down.

What motivated Dream to reveal his face was his excitement to enjoy real life with friends, some of whom he only knew online and they had no idea what he looked like.

The online celebrity has a lot of ideas about what shape his life will take next. Generally, his content will still focus on gaming, but he is interested in "incorporating gaming into real life.” He joked about maybe beating Minecraft on an airplane. – Bloomberg

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