This Twitch Streamer Is Being Held Hostage By His Viewers (and There’s No End In Sight)

Ludwig Twitch Stream
Courtesy of Twitch
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Twitch has always been one of the strangest corners of the internet, but it has always been one of the most fun. And thanks to the antics of one of its top streamers, Ludwig Ahgren, Twitch might be the most fun corner of the internet to hang out in right now.

Ludwig has been hosting a sub-a-thon non-stop since March 14, which can be likened to a Twitch streamer volunteering to be taken hostage by their viewers. Everytime someone pays for a subscription to Ludwig’s Twitch channel, 10 seconds are added to the remaining amount of time his stream has to last. And because the timer is displayed on stream and everyone can interact in chat, they can coordinate to keep the sub-a-thon’s flame burning bright. Ludwig started this sub-a-thon on Sunday, and thanks to his 1.7 million followers and 71,000 monthly subscribers, he has been streaming non-stop since. (Yes…even while he sleeps.)

More impressively, the timer showing his remaining time has continued to get bigger each day, even as it runs down a second at a time.

  

Who Is Ludwig Ahgren?

If you’ve gotten this far and you’re still wondering what the heck is going on here’s a little background.

For those unaware, Ludwig is one of the top variety streamers and content creators on Twitch and YouTube. The 25-year-old has been creating content for the past three years, and has been doing it full-time for the last two.

Ludwig got his start as a commentator for Super Smash Bros.: Melee tournament, and once he graduated from Arizona State University and moved to L.A., he got into creating content for his own channels.
Ludwig was motivated to stream full time after he was fired from a series of jobs, and it paid off in 2020 when his viewership started to grow at a rapid rate.

While much of Ludwig’s content has typically revolved around video games (he loves speedrunning Mario 64), he has diversified include non-gaming subject matter. This includes, but is not limited to, spending tens of thousands of dollars during online auctions, hosting Twitch-sponsored game shows and ranking every item on the Taco Bell menu.

After becoming obsessed with Chess, Ludwig became one of Twitch’s biggest chess streamers, attracting the same kind of attention that professional chess players were getting on the platform. (Ludwig is decidedly average at Chess.)

But with this sub-a-thon, Ludwig appears to be taking a jump from successful Twitch streamer to possibly becoming a household name in the coming months.

  

So What Has Ludwig Done During This Sub-A-Thon?

Ludwig isn’ the first to take part in a sub-a-thon, and others have lasted longer, but thanks to his extremely active and devoted community, Ludwig’s 5-day stream has taken on a life of its own. Not fully realizing what this would turn into at the time, I loaded up his channel on Sunday, March 14 and watched him play Pokemon for awhile as his timer hovered around 24 hours. I assumed that he’d be finished streaming by Tuesday morning at the latest.

But on Monday morning that timer was not only holding at 24 hours, it had grown to 26 hours.

On Friday, his meme-addled chat pushed that timer up to 69 hours, 42 minutes and 0 seconds, and it spent most of the day hovering around that number. By Monday afternoon, 8 days after the start of Ludwig’s sub-a-thon, the novelty of running the timer up had started to wane amongst Twitch viewers and the timer dropped to a mere 54 hours.

Since Ludwig’s sub-a-thon started, he has racked up more than 77,000 new subscriptions, and now has more than 105,000 subscribers. That not only makes Ludwig the most-subscribed to streamer on Twitch right now, but he is on pace to become the second most-subscribed to streamer of all time. (Ninja is #1 with more than 269,000 subscriptions.) And because he gets a cut of every paid subscription that comes his way, Ludwig is getting paid handsomely. At one point during his stream Monday, Ludwig estimated he was making $50,000 dollars a day during this sub-a-thon.

While some of these subs have come from existing subscribers re-upping for a fresh month, Ludwig was only pulling in 30,000-40,000 subscribers a month before this which means he has grown his base by more than 200% during this sub-a-thon. What’s more, the majority of these subscriptions aren’t being gifted to viewers from a small base of fans with deep pockets. Most people are buying subscriptions for themselves (or using their free Twitch Prime subscription to contribute to Ludwig’s captivity).

Speaking of Twitch Prime, I feel morally obligated as an internet troll to mention that all Amazon Prime members are also eligible for Twitch Prime at no extra cost. That means you get one free Twitch subscription to use every month on a streamer of your choice. If you’re as intrigued as I am to see how long this absurd exercise in postmodernity can last, please log on and smash that subscribe button.

And if you don’t have Amazon Prime, you are missing out on so many good things, including free 2-day shipping, original TV shows and movies, free books, free games and more. But more importantly, if you want to add to Ludwig’s self-imposed misery, you can sign up for a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime, link that with your Twitch account and add 10 seconds to his sub-a-thon with your free Twitch Prime subscription.

  

Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial

  

But I digress. If you’re curious what, exactly, has happened over the last 5 days, here is a list of things I have seen Ludwig do:

  • Play video games
  • Sleep
  • Watch YouTube videos
  • Make breakfast for his roommates
  • Host a game show (which is excellent, by the way)
  • Work out
  • Take a shower
  • Make chicken and ravioli with his girlfriend
  • Fix his race car bed (which is a prop from the film Uncut Gems that he bought in an auction)
  • Host movie night with chat
  • Create new content for YouTube

Essentially you’re getting a 24/7 feed of one person’s life. But because of technical constraints, 95% of his life has played out in one room. Thanks to Ludwig’s natural presence and charisma on camera, however, it’s strangely captivating to watch him talk his way through the game he’s playing, meme with his chat or try to work more normal aspects of his life into this Twitch sub-a-ton.

But in an ironic twist, the most captivating moments of Ludwig’s sub-a-thon have often come while he’s asleep.

While Ludwig is off in dreamland, his team of moderators takes over the stream  and chat amongst one another as viewers pick YouTube videos to play on screen. (This includes wonderfully bizarre memes, like Toad singing Sia’s “Chandelier.”)

And evolving into something of a meme itself during the first week, Ludwig’s viewers took to buying gift subscriptions for other viewers while he sleeps, so that the first thing he’s confronted with when he wakes up is that his timer is higher than ever.

If this sounds like a scene out of Jim Carrey’s 1997 movie The Truman Show, that’s because it totally could be. The only difference is that Ludwig is fully aware of what this has snowballed into. And in a surreal, meta twist, Ludwig and a few of his roommates hosted a Truman Show watch party on Friday night.

Alternating between excitement and amusement that his sub-a-thon has taken on a life of its own, anxiety over not knowing when this will end and guilt over this many people giving him so much money in what amounts to a overblown meme, Ludwig seems to be processing all of this in real time. On the whole, he’s adapted to this radical shift in living with aplomb, but he’s also had conflicted feelings about people giving him money to essentially perpetuate a joke.

On Sunday night before he went to bed for the night, he decided to cap the amount of gift subs a single person can buy at 100. Not only will those extra subs not count towards the timer, but he will ban the person from buying more gift subs until the sub-a-thon is over. Ludwig explained that he was uncomfortable with the idea of someone with limited income spending thousands of dollars on subscriptions to his channel.

While he’s expressed no regret over this sub-a-thon so far, he’s also said more than once that he will never do this again, because giving up this much of his life on a recurring basis just isn’t worth it to him. He’s also planning to donate a large chunk of this money to charity, as well as pay his moderators for their tireless efforts.

Given that we live in an era where people offer up so much of their lives for public consumption on social networks, it’s fascinating to see someone with a decent amount of self-awareness mentally navigate what seems to be a star-making moment and what it means to let a bunch of strangers control your life in an overt manner.

If you’ve ever spent any amount of time playing around on Twitch, I’m not sure you need many more reasons to hop on Twitch right now and watch this man simultaneously suffer and thrive at the hands of his chat. But if you’ve been resisting Twitch up until now, Ludwig’s sub-a-thon may be the perfect time to get a feel for everything it has to offer.

Because if 50,000 people all hopping into chat to wonder aloud how much longer this sub-a-thon can go doesn’t feel electric, then it definitely does when they start paying money to guarantee it doesn’t end.

  

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