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Understanding and Conquering Tilt

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Understanding and Conquering Tilt

Whether you’re a casual player or trying to compete amongst the best, you may have experienced streaks of wins or losses that affect your mental state. Typically when you have a streak of wins you have a positive reaction and are put in a subsequently positive mental state. Likewise, an extended period of losses tends to put you in an unfavorable mindset that will affect your play. This is known as tilt.

What is Tilt?

Simply put, tilt is a mental state where emotions cloud judgement and cause players to take suboptimal lines of play. This is generally a result of losing several games in a row, or even hitting a streak of bad luck. Tilt affects a large number of players, and beginners are particularly vulnerable to its effects, getting tilted easily and having trouble staying rational when they are tilted.

There is a difference between playing poorly and making a poor decision because you’ve let emotions cloud your judgement. Tilting is not when you make a mistake because you misread the situation, or make a poor play because you don’t know any better. Tilt is when you make these bad plays because your emotions interfere with your ability to think clearly.

Tilt originated as a poker term for a state of extreme emotional frustration and confusion that causes you to play poorly.

What Causes Tilt?

There are a variety of causes to tilt, one person may be deeply affected by one situation while another person may not be bothered at all. Each person has a different trigger, or something that causes them to tilt, which makes it difficult to pinpoint an exact cause for the phenomena. I’ll explore a couple potential things that cause tilt in the next section and offer some solutions to each of these situations.

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Solutions To Tilting


The first step to reducing tilt is recognizing it. This is important to do, both ahead of time to prevent going on a tilt in the first place, as well as in the moment, to be able to reduce emotions and regain your composure. One of the biggest things you can do to stop the negative effects tilt has on you is to prevent tilting altogether. In order to do this, there are two extremely important things to keep in mind: Bad things can and will happen; and  there are somethings that simply cannot be controlled. Each game has its own variables based on randomness that cannot be altered and the recognition of these unpredictable factors is crucial to preventing them from affecting your state of mind. In Hearthstone this can come in the form of unfavorable card draws or the target your Boom Bots hit. In  League of Legends, your teammates may play irrationally, possibly due to their own tilt, which loses you the game. Or your Counter Strike may lack call outs due to someone’s lack of a microphone. The important thing to note in each of these examples is the fact that you personally have no control over these situations. This is the first step to preventing tilting all together.


An additional step to prevent tilt is to psychologically prepare yourself for the inevitability of negative events and occurrences in your games. By doing this, you can prepare for the emotional and mental stress that comes along with horrible draws or unfavorable RNG. By doing this, it allows us to stay focused, perform well, and most importantly, stay positive. When it comes to competition, your mindset is a large factor in your performance. By expecting negative events to happen occasionally, we are able to focus entirely on those things that we can control and prevent becoming distracted. You don’t need to tell yourself “Don’t worry. Everything is going to be alright.” You simply need to realize that bad things happen, whether in or out of game, and focus on controlling what you can, rather than something you cannot personally alter. Preparation is the most important tactic in softening the blows of these emotional attacks. When you are tilted you are essentially allowing your anger, frustration, and irrational responses toi take hold of you and prevent you from performing to the best of your ability. Staying calm is the only rational strategy to react to tilt and prevent it from creating further conflict in your games.

Next time you queue up for a game, prepare yourself for this inevitability. Put yourself in the position to remain calm and perform as best as you possibly can. Expect your card draw to be unfavorable, or all of your knife juggles to miss crucial targets. By preparing yourself for the worst, you are set to succeed in any scenario. If for some reason you find yourself falling victim to tilt, there are a variety of things you can do to combat it:

Take a Break

Another thing you can do is take a break. This is both a common and effective strategy to increase performance, not only for those who are susceptible to their emotions affecting their gameplay. Extended gameplay without breaks can alter your state of mind, and subsequently your performance. Whether you take a break by watching a favorite T.V show, playing a different game, or even going on a walk; it will allow you to escape the negative prison that you have created in your mind. By stepping away, you will be able to look at the situation from a different perspective and remove yourself from the midst of what is causing you to be in a negative state of mind. When you’re in-game you may not realize that your judgement is being clouded. Finally, taking a break not only allows you to reset and relax, it is also healthier than continuing to play.

On the same note as altering your mindset through taking a break, you can re approach the way that you look at the game and opt for a different strategy or an alteration of your current strategy. There are a couple ways to do this, from minor changes to your play all the way to taking an entirely new approach altogether.  If you have the capability to record yourself, I would highly suggest you do so. This will allow you to analyze your mistakes after the event occurs, rather than putting all of the weight on you in the moment when your time is limited. By looking at replays you will be able to get a sense of what you could have done as well as what to prepare for next time. When you’re in game, you often miss the little things that could have been done to yield a better result, and looking at things from a spectators perspective makes these things much more obvious.

If you are not finding success with a certain style of play even after doing post match analysis, it may be time to utilize a new strategy for new results. This can be done by changing your playstyle to one that is not similar to your previous one. By switching strategies, it allows you to stop repeating the same steps as earlier and prevent further failures. It lets you stray from your previous path and reset your mindset. This can be just as important as taking a look at your mistakes, as it allows you to look at the game from a different point of view and critically analyze something that you may use in the future, or one your opponents may use, which will allow you to further prepare for future competition.

Relax and Warm Up

After solving your tilt, it’s extremely important to prevent your state of mind from becoming the same as it once was.  Upon your return to your game, you must relax. After your break it’s a good idea to warm-up, whether that is through video review or normal games. This will allow you to slowly acclimate yourself with the game again, especially if you took an extended break. Without the stress and tilt that you previously faced, it will allow you to do more and think less about the negatives, resulting in superior results.

“One idea I taught was the importance of regaining presence and clarity of mind after making a serious error. This is a hard lesson for all competitors and performers. The first mistake rarely proves disastrous, but the downward spiral of the second, third, and fourth error creates a devastating chain reaction. Any sports fan has seen professional football, basketball, and baseball games won and lost because of a shift in psychological advantage.” The Art of Learning – Josh Waitzkin



Tilt is something that happens to the best of us, and its frequency and intensity can vary from person to person. It’s a simple process of performing poorly and letting your emotions get the best of you, which in turn affects your performance for the remainder of your negative state of mind. The inevitability of these events means that it lies on the players themselves to manage their emotions and prevent them from taking over. Only then will you be able to climb back up the ladder after a series of losses, and prevent these streaks from happening in the first place.

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Written by Chase Geddes

All images and videos used in this article is the property of their respective creators/owners.

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