On Sunday afternoon around 2 p.m., Ludwig Ahgren, a Twitch streamer in Los Angeles, turned his camera on and began streaming. He hasn’t stopped.
Over the past five days Mr. Ahgren has maintained a near constant livestream of his life. He plays video games, chats, cooks, eats and sleeps, all on stream. In the evenings, he hosts movie nights with his viewers. Mr. Ahgren lives with five roommates and his girlfriend, and some of them also play a role on camera, helping him cook or working out together.
He even streamed himself in the shower (with shorts on).
All of this is part of what is known on Twitch as a “subathon.” A subathon is a short period of time when a streamer will engage in certain activities or stunts to accrue paid subscriptions to his or her channel. Some streamers set numeric goals. For instance, if they reach 2,000 new subs, they’ll eat something spicy on camera or play a particular game for fans.
Mr. Ahgren, 25, structured his subathon so that every new subscription adds an additional 10 seconds to a clock that dictates how long he’ll stream. When Mr. Ahgren set things up this way, he imagined that he’d be streaming for 24 hours max, maybe 48. Five days later, his subathon stream has blown up and become the top stream on Twitch, driving tens of thousands of new subscriptions daily as fans pay to see how long he can go. He has gained more than 40,000 new subscriptions since he began streaming.
“The weirdest thing is every time I wake up, it feels like it gets bigger and bigger,” Mr. Ahgren said. “Last night, I went to bed with 30,000 viewers and 60,000 subs. I woke up and I was at 70,000 viewers and 70,000 subs.”
That’s because as Mr. Ahgren sleeps, an army of fans works overtime to maximize his subscribers. They chat and play YouTube clips and videos for one another to keep the channel entertaining. Mr. Ahgren’s name has trended on Twitter twice in the past week, both times while he was asleep.
“At night, the rest of us do his content for him,” said a 21-year-old college student who goes by Happygate and acts as one of Mr. Ahgren’s moderators. “We try to keep everyone excited and highly motivated to see this go on as long as possible.”
“The sleep streams have been really interesting,” said Stephen Seaver, 15, a high school student in Georgia. “Basically what happens is his mods” — that’s short for moderators — “get on a Discord call and they’re calling and talking the entire time, shilling out of their mind for subs. The idea is that it’s funny, while he’s sleeping the timer is going up.”
Sleep streams have become popular throughout the pandemic on Twitch and TikTok, where fans say they enjoy the late-night pop-up communities that sleep streams facilitate. Creators like them because they’re able to make money literally while they sleep.
“I fell asleep on stream last night and became the most watched streamer on Twitch,” Mr. Ahgren tweeted on Monday. “What the hell is even that.” Later Monday evening, Twitch wished Mr. Ahgren “Goodnight” from its official Twitter account.
Twitch, which has been owned by Amazon since 2014, has seen a rapid surge in popularity over…
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