Extra Credit 1: Tilt

Welcome back to Crit the Books, folks! We’ve got a first for our audience here – a Patron requested Article! Our request this time around, from a patron who would like to remain anonymous, was to write about tilt. Tilt is one of the most often discussed subjects in competitive gaming circles, but it’s not always ascribed to narrative games. However, Tilt and the effect it has on your play are absolutely huge when it comes to polishing your gameplay and sharpening your skills. Let’s get to learning!

Tilt is originally a poker term and is used to describe an emotional or mental confusion or frustration, often following a loss or an unlucky result. This disturbed emotional or mental state can often have a detrimental effect on a player’s skill, leading them to make unwise moves or play in ways that will not lead to them winning. There are many methods in which tilt can be caused, recognized, and dealt with. We’ll be looking into some of those methods, and I’ll give some personal anecdotes that might assist you in your own tilt adventures.

Before we move further, however, I want to clarify something. Many players who think of themselves as good players tend to think that they cannot be put on tilt, or that they are somehow immune to its effects. In my experience, they’re all wrong. Tilt is something that happens to everybody. We’re not machines! Trying to make yourself immune to it will only make it harder to notice its effects when it does happen. When you’re tilted, accept the fact and work through it.

Now that we’ve dealt with that tangent, let’s look at the things that can cause tilt. Tilting can be caused by any number of things, even outside of the game itself! Even something as innocuous as having a bad day can have a big detriment on your play. Inside the game, though, there are a number of things that can cause tilt. Maybe your deck just isn’t being nice to you and has put your best cards in the bottom half. Maybe your dice aren’t cooperating and are trying to set a new world record for consecutive number of ones rolled. Perhaps you went for a high-risk, high-reward strategy because it was your last out… and it failed. It’s not always variance and random chance, though – did your opponent have an option available to them that you missed, and it has turned the game in their favor? There are any number of ways you can get frustrated with a game, and these are just some of them.

More important than knowing how tilt can be caused, though, is recognizing tilt when it happens. The most dangerous enemy is one you’re not aware of and tilt is one of the most insidious hidden enemies there is. It can often cause you to play quickly and aggressively, throwing away a game that you could have won because you are frustrated. Sometimes it will cause you to overthink every action even when you don’t need to, leading to you running your timer down and eating up your time. Tilt can take even the right play and make it sound like a guaranteed path to defeat.

Identifying the mental patterns that you fall into when you’re on tilt can be difficult, because every person tilts differently. Oftentimes, a player will have different styles of tilt that they fall into in different scenarios. The trick is recognizing the habits you take on when you’re on tilt and identifying the thought structures that it creates. As an example, I’m very much a quiet tilter. When I’m on tilt, I go almost entirely nonverbal, especially in competitive games like League of Legends or Magic: the Gathering. “I’ll pass the turn to you!” becomes “Go.”. One of my friends is a very talkative tilter – when they’re on tilt, they’ll start talking about the different lines of play they could have chosen, and they’ll often ask their opponent what they did wrong. Tilt is most easily recognized by following your thoughts and your play, and asking yourself, “Where did I change? When did I stop caring about winning the game?”

Stopping tilt isn’t an easy task. There’s no other way to put it. If stopping tilt was easy, I wouldn’t be writing articles about it – and I’m far from the first one to do so! Getting yourself back into a good headspace after you’ve been slammed into tilt hell is another thing that everyone does differently. That said, there are some useful tips to help clear your head and get yourself back into the winning emotional and mental state. Each one of these helps different kind of players, and I think each one is useful in different situations.

The first method I’d suggest is “focus on the moment”. Oftentimes, what puts people on tilt is something that happened in the game, or something that happened earlier in the day. It’s not unusual for a frustrating result from your first match to put a downer on your play for the rest of the game. Put it behind you. Dwelling on the past is only useful for the lessons we learn from it, and you can learn those in retrospect. For now, focus on what is in front of you and the resources you have. Don’t let one misplay start you down a train of 13, and don’t focus on what you don’t have. Take the resources you have in front of you and craft a winning strategy with them. It’s not about “if”. It’s about “how”.

The second method is “Calm down”. Take a deep breath. It might sound small, but your emotions and mentality are interwoven with your physical state. Relax. It’s just a game. It’s not a win or die scenario – although if it is, refer to method one. Clear your head, close your eyes, and let yourself refresh your headspace. Accept that you were tilted – no sense in denying it – but move forward past it.

The third method, and perhaps the most difficult one for competitive games, is “Distract yourself”. Tilt can be like a snowball down a hill – it can collect momentum and get bigger just by existing, and it will try to do so. You’ll often tilt yourself harder the more you try to avoid tilt! Sometimes, you just have to walk away. Step out of the shop and grab yourself a snack at the 7-11 across the street. Step away from your desk and pop some popcorn. If you’re heavily tilted, drop from the tournament and go do something you’ll enjoy more than you will 5 rounds of increasingly tense matches. It’s alright to accept when you’re stressed and need a break, and the game will always be there for you when you’re in a better place mentally and emotionally.

Tilt can be dangerous, and I hope that this lesson will be helpful to you in avoiding it yourself. While I didn’t touch on it in this article, keep your eye out for an article about using your opponent’s tilt to your advantage. For now, though, try and look at your relationship with tilting. Do you go on tilt often? Do you find yourself losing because of it? Try to identify the habits you drop into when you are on tilt. Explore it. You’ll learn a lot about yourself as a player.

A big thanks to my Patrons: Alex, TicTac, and those who prefer to remain anonymous. If you enjoy my content, you can join that list at patreon.com/CritTheBooks. You’ll get other perks, such as early articles or the ability to suggest articles of your own!

Remember folks, gaming isn’t always about hitting enemies. Sometimes, you’ve gotta Crit the Books!

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