A Streaming Marathon Made It Easy To Treat My Body Like Garbage

Illustration for article titled A Streaming Marathon Made It Easy To Treat My Body Like Garbageem/em

Of the past 72 hours, I spent nearly 24 of them streaming Wolfenstein games. I am very tired, which makes it slightly ironic when I say that the whole thing was an eye-opening experience for me.

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Much digital ink has been spilled over the blood, sweat, tears, and (sometimes) drugs that go into lengthy marathon streams by professional streamers. Sitting for countless hours and remaining dialed-in the entire time, frequently at the expense of bodily needs like rest and nutrition, can take a toll. Earlier this year, a streamer died after a series of especially grueling streams. On and around platforms like Twitch, there’s an ongoing discussion about how to balance physical health with a culture that’s permissive and sometimes downright encouraging of frequent marathon-length streams. You’ve gotta grind if you want your stream to take off, then grind more if you want your viewers to stick around. If it comes at the expense of your health, though, is it worth it?

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Previously, I figured it was a matter of priorities—that building healthy habits around streaming simply came down to mind over matter. Forgive me, for I was an incorrect doofus. The biggest thing I learned while streaming for tens of bleary-eyed hours this weekend is just how easy (and even tempting) it is to just shoo away those pesky hunger, ache, and exhaustion signals your body sends you.

Games are already absorbing, but streaming turns that up to 11. You’re constantly multi-tasking, between playing the game, narrating, interacting with chat, and panicking every time the viewer count goes down. My other senses, I found, kinda went into hibernation. Time passed, but it didn’t really occur to me until my room was pitch black. The temperature changed, but I didn’t feel a thing. Heck, I didn’t even realize I needed to use the bathroom until my insides felt like they were about to go bursting out of my damn bellybutton.

After going for ten straight hours on Saturday (immediately after a similar session on Friday), I stood up and realized I felt faint, likely because I hadn’t eaten all day, had relied too heavily on caffeine to keep me going, and had failed to take breaks because I was worried my tiny audience would sprint out the door while I wasn’t looking. Before standing up, though, I legitimately didn’t notice how I felt. I thought I was just fine—better than fine, in some ways. Lengthy streams can be exhilarating if you’re playing a great game and have a good crowd. Why take a pit stop when you’re feeling like a million bucks?

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On Sunday, toward the end of the single longest session of the whole weekend (protip: don’t put the longest session at the end, Nathan Grayson, you idiot), somebody in chat asked me how my legs were feeling. “Great!” I responded. Then my calves proceeded to do that thing where they feel as though they’re about to roll up like window blinds. So yeah, that was a lie. I had just three hours left before my self-mandated stream end time, though. The end was in sight. I couldn’t have just done something entirely reasonable like stopping for a handful of minutes. That would have been crazy!

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The weird thing is, even in the immediate aftermath of it all, feeling achy, wiped, and weak, I didn’t realize just how much I’d let my health languish over the weekend. Only when I started putting it all down on paper did I realize the extent to which I subconsciously decided my body was a worthless tube of meat keeping me chained to this imperfect physical realm. Let’s run some numbers. From Friday to Sunday, I:

  • Consumed around 2,500 calories. Total.
  • Exercised only once.
  • Went for zero walks (though I did go out after streaming on Saturday and Sunday).
  • Showered only once (sorry, world).
  • Subsisted mainly on coffee, which is a diuretic, instead of water, which keeps people from dying.
  • Ate more Cheetos than I have in several years, which is to say more than zero.
  • Sat without moving for around 10 hours on three different occasions.
  • Slept for a total of about 15 hours (because all the caffeine, which I needed to stay focused, kept me up after I was done streaming).
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To be clear, I don’t think I was ever in any real danger, because this was always gonna be a self-contained three-day thing. I see now, though, how easy it is to absent-mindedly wander into a self-destructive sinkhole while streaming for long periods of time. It wasn’t just easy for me, either; it was fun. I want to do it again soon. I guess, then, I’m kinda writing this post for myself, as a reminder of precisely what not to do in the future.

Kotaku senior reporter. Beats: Twitch, streaming, PC gaming. Writing a book about streamers tentatively titled "STREAMERS" to be published by Atria/Simon & Schuster in the future.

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DISCUSSION

I don’t stream but I have come to the realization now that I work a desk job. I sit at a desk for 10 hours then go home and sit at my desk for 4 hours then go to bed. I am very sedentary now and the only solid meal I was eating was breakfast. I am trying to improve. But I know its a work in progress. Let’s all try to take better care of ourselves before we do that “Just one more” loop of destruction.