Anyone who plays online games has felt it at some point or another. If you are a League of Legends player, you already know what I’m talking about. You’re fifteen minutes into a game, and the enemy team is steamrolling you. Each lane is losing, you have no vision control of the map, and you are presently being ganked by four of the enemy players. The other? That one is your lane opponent. You can’t help it. Things aren’t going your way this game, and you begin to lose hope. Your focus wanes, and your performance and decision-making ability take a nosedive. You are “tilted”.
What is “Tilt”?
This feeling of frustration is commonly referred to as tilt and has roots in embedded the early days of gaming in pinball machines. When players got deeply engrossed in the game or frustrated, they would tilt the machine from side to side to influence the direction of the ball on the table. Some pinball machines would then discourage this behavior by flashing a message on their display reading “TILT”. This term then evolved and found its way to poker tables, where it became colloquially defined as emotional upset, mental confusion, or frustration in which a player adopts a less than optimal strategy, usually resulting in poor play”.
Why do I care about tilt?
Tilt can have a variety of negative effects, and should be avoided as much as possible. Here is a non-exhaustive list of why you should try your best to avoid tilt.
Tilting often results in “Flame”
Flame is a method of venting frustration in the form of verbal abuse toward others. Imagine your teammate leaves a teamfight and marches towards the enemy middle tower, dying in the process (another manifestation of tilt, often referred to as “griefing”). For some, a gut reaction to seeing this may be to open up the chat and start typing out an essay explaining to them why that was the wrong play, oftentimes including a palette of colorful language. Clearly, this behavior from both parties is not conducive to healthy team collaboration, and this will only cause the tilt to spread to other teammates. Your bot lane may have been perfectly fine on their own and having a blast, but seeing this behavior can put a damper on the game and cause them to start to tilt, creating a feedback loop of tilt, flame, and griefing.
Tilt negatively impacts your ability to climb the ranks
As denied earlier, when you tilt, you are frustrated and/or angry and adopt a less-than-optimal strategy. In the middle of tilting, the hormones adrenaline and cortisol spike. This makes you more impulsive when making “fight, flight, or freeze” decisions. When making one of these decisions based on emotion rather than critical thinking, it is very easy to drive that decision to the end of the game, putting blinders on what may be other optimal plays.
This not only directly affects the outcome of the game but also your ability to learn and improve at the game, as some of your focus is diverted from what you are actively working on to improve your play to your frustration, further dampening the rate of your climb.
Tilt can bleed into the rest of your day and overall emotional wellbeing
Probably most important of all, Tilt can have a negative impact on your mental health. After a particularly frustrating game or series of games, it is very easy to take that frustration and carry it with you over the course of the day, or even the entire week. That said, it isn’t fair or healthy to you and others to let the outcome and emotions from one play session negatively affect your day-to-day life.
So how do I avoid tilt?
We have discussed what tilt is and why it should be avoided, but we have not yet explored methods to limit tilt or potentially eliminate tilt altogether.
1: Disable Chat
I personally choose to disable chat with enemies or chat altogether most of the time whenever I play online games. The most common manifestation of tilt is flame, which as mentioned, can cycle into a negative feedback loop, affecting not only your play but also the play of your teammates. Furthermore, sometimes enemy players will flame either you or your teammates, using this as a form of psychological warfare to tilt you and affect your gameplay. If you often find yourself being the deliverer of flame, this feature will also restrict you from typing into chat, so you don’t spread the tilt yourself.
Disabling chat can be a double-edged sword, however. Although you are eliminating flame, you are also eliminating potential collaborative communication. For this reason, I often go through phases of having chat disabled and chat enabled. If I start to sense that I am becoming tilted, I disable chat. If I’m having a lot of fun with the game and want to strategize with my team I will enable chat. If your game of choice offers a feature to enable or disable chat, try it out and see if it helps you combat tilt.
2: Analyze your gameplay
Any ESports coach can testify to the value of analyzing your games to help you recognize your weak points and improve at the game. There is; however, another advantage to analyzing your games.
3: Identifying tilt
When you start to be conscious of when and how you tilt, it becomes much easier to break out of the mindset before it is too late. In watching your replays, you can actively analyze each decision you make, and ask yourself “Was this decision made out of critical thought, or out of emotion?” Over time you will start to notice a pattern of what sort of events cause you to tilt. For me, I tilt a little bit when I take bad trades in League of Legends. In recognizing that, not only am I recognizing what makes me frustrated, but I’m also identifying something to improve. If I learn to make better trades, I avoid making bad trades more often. If I make bad trades less, I tilt less. Win-win!
4:Take a break
As tempting as it is to go from the defeat screen to queuing up for another game, it is important to understand when to step away and take a breather. A good rule of thumb is after a losing streak of three games, take a break. Get up, grab a snack, go outside, or play something else. The most important thing is to take some time to let tilt subside before jumping into another game. Instead, when you come back with a fresh mentality, you will be performing at your peak.
5: It’s only a game
As cliche as it sounds, recognize that at the end of the day, it is only a game. Yes, it can be frustrating when you lose, but losing is part of the game, and games are meant to be enjoyed. After all, you can’t win ‘em all.
To wrap things up, getting ahold of your emotions can be one of the most valuable skills when playing a game at a competitive or semi-competitive level. Tilting is an insidious detractor from improving your play and your mental health. Identify what you do when you tilt, what makes you tilt, and what you can do to limit or eliminate your frustration.
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