He‘s been holding up for almost a week. Ludwig Ahgren, a 25-year-old American from Los Angeles, streams himself nonstop on Twitch, a livestream platform widely used by gamers. Viewers pay him to continue, and for now, the end is out of sight.
The followers, who can chat with him via Twitch, see Ludwig (and sometimes his roommates) gaming, cooking, eating and sleeping. In the evening he keeps movie nights and even in the shower (with shorts on) he leaves the camera on.
It’s called a subathon on Twitch. Normally, it‘s a short period of time when a streamer makes up something to get paying subscribers for their stream. For example, a streamer can promise to eat something sharp with every 2000 new subscribers or play a particular popular game.
After three days of streaming, Ahgren said his previous record was at 16 o’clock:
Then there is the subathon with the declining clock, which Ahgren started when he turned on his camera last Sunday. For each new subscriber, there will be ten seconds on a countdown clock indicating how long he has to stream. He thought it might take 24 hours, 48 tops.
By now, we are a week further. The clock is still over 55 hours and new seconds are still coming. The number of subscribers has risen from several tens of thousands to almost 100,000, which is lucrative, because every new subscriber pays $4.99 a month, half of which goes to him. His channel now has the most subscribers on the platform.
Dutch videostreamer Rick Brothers, who has been streaming on Twitch for over 100 hours, knows what it feels like. “It was surprisingly hard for me to be live for several days in a row, because you‘re on all the time. Except for sleeping it was actually a big monologue that keeps you against a moving wall of text messages.”
“Even if I had to pee, I was busy doing so as soon as possible, so that viewers would not have to look at an empty chair for too long. It’s especially those little moments of rest that you miss very much, like in bed when you wake up, scrolling through some apps for fifteen minutes or watching a series in silence while you‘re eating.”
“After 100 hours, I told you never to do it again, because I was really disappointed how tiring it was, but my viewers ask when I want to try before the 200 hours.”
So it is certainly not the first time that someone has been streaming on Twitch for a very long time, and the idea of the clock has also been used before, says game journalist Len Maessen. “But it happens often that someone has a crazy idea. If you come up with the right trick at the right time, it can suddenly go hard. This is typical of Twitch, the users are hugely pushing each other.”
Even when Ahgren sleeps, an army of fans continues to keep the stream going. They chat and play YouTube clips to keep it interesting. Up to two times, Ahgren was trending on Twitter in the US while he was asleep. “We keep everyone as motivated as possible to keep this going for as long as possible,” says one of the moderators to The New York Times.
Meanwhile, Twitch, a platform owned by Amazon, does not get worse from it either. It was already in the elevator by corona, but since the beginning of the first lockdown the ratings are shooting up, Maessen knows.
“It certainly went from record to record in the beginning. They benefit from creative and interesting ideas that some streamers have.” In addition to commentary games, there are more and more things to see: from users flying a virtual plane together with Flight Simulator to the kind of channels where streamers share their entire lives.
Ahgren, who has now streamed a sum of five zeros, will wake up with mixed feelings every morning, suspects Maessen. “He has become a kind of prisoner of that clock, but it yields him a lot and he is always motivated by the fans to continue. The question is how long? He had planned a visit to his girlfriend’s family for the next few days, I read. But he can‘t just stop without disappointing subscribers, so there’s some social pressure on it.”