Ludwig Ahgren, a Twitch streamer with nearly 2 million followers, has never been one to shy away from stunts. His latest is especially audacious, albeit probably not great for his long-term health: He’s running a “never-ending” marathon stream powered by subscriptions. Each subscription adds another 10 seconds to the total amount of time he’s required to stream. Sunday night, he went to sleep with 18 hours left on the clock. When he woke up on Monday, viewers had kicked in enough subs to boost it up to 27 hours. There’s no end in sight.
That was not all that happened when Ahgren decided to snooze at the risk of losing precious viewers. Instead, he gained them, becoming the top stream on all of Twitch and trending on Twitter while unconscious inside a blanket cocoon. Since the subathon kicked off on Sunday, Ahgren has rarely dropped below 30,000 concurrent viewers, exceeding 50,000 on a couple occasions.
The stream itself has consisted of fairly standard stream activities. Ahgren plays games like Mario Odyssey and Pokémon. He hosts movie nights for his viewers. He talks to his moderators. In between those kinds of activities, he takes bathroom breaks, works out in his garage, and sleeps. What makes the stream interesting is that aside from his bathroom trips, he does all of these things live — even going so far as to shower on stream (while wearing shorts) recently.
There’s an undeniable intimacy to it, relative even to regular streams on Twitch, which can span upwards of 8-12 hours but ultimately cut out certain unglamorous moments of day-to-day life. Perhaps for the better, there are portions of streamers’ lives you just don’t see. But if you want, you really can just spend your whole day with Ahgren.
Streams that don’t stop develop communities that don’t, either. The whole thing has felt spiritually reminiscent of 24/7 GDQ (Games Done Quick) speedrunning events, where memes bud from other memes, which quickly contort into further memes. There’s a similar sort of reliability to Ahgren’s stream, as well. No matter what time of day you tune in, his stream is up and running, and you’ll see many familiar faces in chat. It’s only been running for three days, but it already feels like comfort food.
Three days, of course, is an eternity in broadcast time for a single streamer, but Ahgren isn’t flying entirely solo. When he goes to sleep at night, his moderators take control, turning the stream into a YouTube watch party where viewers submit requests and share their favourite videos with each other. It’s basically a big, bleary-eyed slumber party where everyone’s just vibing. There’s a subversive glee to it, as well. Viewers are watching somebody dominate Twitch while unconscious, which doesn’t feel like it should be possible. It’s like being in on a massive joke that you can also directly control with money.
“I fell asleep on stream last night and became the most watched streamer on Twitch,” Ahgren tweeted after waking up on Monday. “What the hell is even that?”
All the while, viewers are contributing subscriptions, adding 10 seconds to the clock at a time (d0wn from 20 seconds, originally), collectively building the total out by hours. As many have observed, Ahgren is literally making money by sleeping. It’s great for his bank account, but even so, viewers still hold the strings from which his fate dangles. Many memes centre around what happens every day when Ahgren wakes up: He glances at the clock, finds that his viewers have added an ungodly number of hours to it, and stares at the screen in groggy protest.
Even Twitch has taken notice of Ahgren’s new daily routine.
“Goodnight, @LudwigAhgren,” Twitch said from its official Twitter account on Tuesday night Australian time.
— Twitch (@Twitch) March 16, 2021
While there’s been some confusion around it, Ahgren is allowed to sleep on stream. Twitch does not expressly forbid sleeping; streamers can’t just leave their broadcasts unattended.
“It’s the streamer’s responsibility to ensure that anything shared on their account abides by our policies,” a Twitch spokesperson told Kotaku in a statement. “Our Community Guidelines do not prohibit sleeping on stream, however we expect streamers to take proper precautions to ensure their stream and chat are being monitored and attended to. Any content that breaks Terms of Service or Community Guidelines, whether shown accidentally or on purpose, can be reported and actioned on, including removal and account suspension.”
This does not mean that sleeping on stream isn’t a touchy subject. It hasn’t always been allowed, and though it became a trend last year, it’s still something that bigger streamers do relatively infrequently. Certainly, it’s amusing to watch somebody soar to new career heights while snuggling a plushie of Appa from Avatar The Last Airbender in a race car bed, but it also leads to thornier conversations around Twitch and Twitch culture. For one, Twitch is a platform on which success begets success: Sleeping on stream would tank the viewership of a less famous streamer, but Ahgren is already huge, so he can get away with it and even turn it into a gimmick. Then there’s the fact that Ahgren is a man doing this on a male-dominated platform.
“It’s so weird how differently folks react to a man sleeping on stream compared to a woman sleeping on stream,” streamer and musician Lara6683 said on Twitter in reaction to Ahgren’s endless subathon. “If a woman dares to make $US100 ($130) doing this, it is obviously very bad, but when a man tops out at 42,000 subs, it is very good and should be celebrated. Can’t be the sexism, though. Gotta be the content. Wait, the content is identical.”
Sure enough, if you look at some of the reactions to sleep streams by women like streamer and model Kaitlyn “Amouranth” Siragusa, you’ll find comments from men lamenting how “easy” it is to be “a good-looking female in this world.” According to Wired, others have professed to watching Siragusa sleep because they are “in love” with her, which is a whole other can of worms.
Ahgren’s endless subathon also revives concerns around marathon streams in general. Yes, Ahgren is getting rest, but spending most of your time streaming for days — or possibly weeks, at the rate this thing is going — is likely going to take a toll on your health. In 2015, popular streamer Jayson “ManvsGame” Love came clean about a drug addiction that allowed him to stream for 24+ hours at a time. In 2017, a lesser-known streamer, albeit one who’d done multiple marathon streams with little sleep, died during a 24-hour stream. Another streamer who almost died, Joe Marino, wrote in an essay for Kotaku about the pressures that landed him in the hospital with severe heart issues.
“I got here because I was trying so hard to make it on Twitch,” Marino wrote at the time. “It is a literal grind. For you to succeed, you need to spend most of your time streaming. Streaming is hard. You have to sit there and not move. Say you busted your arse all day to get 400–500 viewers and you need to go pee. What happens is people don’t have long attention spans, so when you get up, you will 100% lose a portion of your audience.”
Despite the risks, streamers still put themselves through marathons because high-profile examples have shown that it works. Ahgren is adding another one to the list. Viewers show up for feats of endurance, focusing on the here and now instead of considering the long-term consequences for the streamer. Streamers and moderators can make it stop, but they benefit from keeping it going.
In that sense, it could be considered heartening that Ahgren is pioneering a new kind of marathon stream, in which working out and sleeping are just as important as gaming and talking with chat. There is probably not a healthy way to stream for days or weeks at a time, but this is about as close as it gets.
That said, this comes at a time when creators (and start ups) are increasingly trying to monetise every element of their existence, with some even letting fans vote in polls to decide how they’ll live their lives on a day-to-day basis. After a certain point, it becomes so invasive as to border on dystopian.
“Creators are burning out, but their fans want more and more,” Jen Lee, the founder of a popular creator economy community on Discord, told The New York Times in a recent piece titled “For Creators, Everything Is For Sale.” “By monetising each aspect of their life, they can extract value from everyday interactions.”
The motivations underlying many of these schemes have been laid bare: Making content for endlessly voracious platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and Twitch is exhausting. It’s an endless grind that human beings cannot keep up indefinitely, so streamers and other creators have every incentive to push themselves as hard as humanly possible while they still can — in hopes that when they burn out once and for all, they don’t one day find themselves without any money.
Perhaps, though, Ahgren has stumbled onto something more sustainable. If nothing else, he’s making hundreds of thousands of dollars — so much that he’s asked his viewers not to use their stimulus checks on him, a person who already has quite a bit of money in these desperate times. And despite having to be “on” most of the day every day, he seems to be enjoying himself on stream, all things considered. Then again, he woke up this morning to more than 32 hours on the clock — the highest early morning number yet.
“How’s that timer looking, brother?” asked one of his moderators.
“Fucking terrible,” replied Ahgren.
Some days, I wake up and everything feels just OK. By the time I get down to my office, I have some water and take 12 of my 19 daily medications, check my blood sugar and check my email. My wife and two kids are upstairs, still sleeping. I don’t...Read more