In this guest article, esports psychology coach Edgar Chekera explains why ’tilt’ occurs in gaming, why this can make you feel frustrated and what you can do to overcome it…

Let me paint the scene for you. You are playing a very, very important FIFA match. Winning will decide whether you finally achieve your long awaited goal of getting promoted to Division 1. But if you lose or even draw this game, you will remain in Division 2!

You think to yourself: “I have worked too hard to stay in this division.”

It is 2-2 and you’re nearing the closing moments of the game (there are 10 in-game minutes left). You’re on an all-out attack. Your right winger places a through-ball from the gods that goes past the opponent’s back line and nestles securely to your striker’s foot.

It’s now a 1-on-1 between your striker and their keeper. You aim to the keeper’s right where there’s a greater opening…you feel the vibration of your controller, see you’ve hit the post and have lost the possession.

“UNBELIEVABLE! THAT SHOULD GO IN!” you scream.

How many times can you remember feeling so infuriated with a game, that you felt frustrated, or helpless, or angry? Maybe you felt like you had to turn it off?

But do you know why you tilt? This blog will outline one view of the processes that lead you to tilting – and what can help reduce the likelihood of you tilting.

Have you realised that it is far easier to tilt when you are stressed? This should be obvious, but being in a stressful situation is normally a precursor to being tilted.

Interestingly so, being in a stressful situation is a precursor for a lot of emotions (e.g., happiness, hope and anxiety).

Put simply, we tilt because of the meaning we give an event. When we are in a stressful situation, if we view what occurred as ‘an offense against me’ and view that something outside of me is the guilty party, then we’re likely to tilt.

Furthermore, have you noticed that not all players will tilt from the same situation or experience? This is because one person may give it a meaning that leads to tilting, while another one may take a more laid-back approach and say “it is what it is” (which may lead to more calmer emotions).

The meaning we give a situation is key!. But we don’t simply create this meaning and start tilting out of thin air – there is a process that occurs.

Allow me to use the first paragraph to highlight why we tilt when playing.

Like I mentioned before, we tilt in stressful situations. Meaning it’s hard to tilt in situations that aren’t stressful. In order to feel stress, we make judgements of the situation, including whether the situation is personally relevant and meaningful to us.

In the case of the example outlined above, the FIFA match is personally relevant as the success or failure of the match will impact our personal goal of getting promoted.

Additionally, we judge the likelihood of our success. Following hitting the post, we may judge success as less favourable due to not scoring in the closing minutes and losing possession of the ball.

Now that we’ve experienced stress, we make some additional judgements that lead us to getting tilted. One judgement that is very important in explaining why some people get tilted and others don’t is accountability (i.e. who is to blame?).

It’s very easy to be angry and frustrated if we blame what has occurred on somebody or something else. In this case, we may blame the game. When we hit the post we may have thought: “That should have gone in, shots like that should always go in and this is the games fault”.

Other judgements that may result in us getting tilted include whether we believe we have options to help us cope with this situation.

In the case of being tilted, we may think we aren’t able to cope with missing such a vital goal and losing possession of the ball in the final minutes of the game.

Finally, we make judgements of future expectations. We may judge that we have now lost the game, even though there are still minutes in the game, and will never get promoted to a Division 1 team.

 

So what can be done to reduce how often we tilt?

In a nutshell, we need to change the meaning we give situations. To change the meaning we give situations, we change how we judge certain aspects of the situation.

More importantly, we need to take greater accountability and responsibility for the unfavourable situation we are in. For instance, we tilted earlier partly due to blaming the game for what happened. But we didn’t consider that the shot selection (e.g. executing a finesse shot as opposed to a low-drive shot) or the power behind the shot was too high.

Understanding there are things we do that lead to certain situations – and that we need to be accountable for them – can help simmer us down.

Other changes in judgements also include understanding we have more coping options than we think. In this case, 10 in-game minutes (plus injury time) can afford us time to regain possession and go for one more well devised attack.

We may also re-establish the future expectations after missing the shot. For example, even if you do lose the match, you will still be able to battle for promotion in the next season.

 

Summary: why we get tilted

  • “This is an offense against me” meaning we give a situation
  • Judging this situation as personally relevant
  • Judging the likelihood of success is low
  • Blaming something or somebody else
  • Judging our coping options as low
  • Having negative or low future expectations

 

More info/about the author

Edgar Chekera is an esports psychology coach that runs PSYCH-CHEK. He has worked alongside Fnatic, Excel, Manchester City, AS Roma and Hashtag United.

For more esport psychology content, make sure to visit Psychology Today where Edgar writes about the mental demands and psychology behind being in the esports arena. The most recent blog – What Does It Take To Be an In-Game Leader – is out now.

“Have you noticed that not all players will tilt from the same situation or experience? This is because one person may give it a meaning that leads to tilting, while another one may take a more laid-back approach and say “it is what it is” (which may lead to more calmer emotions).

 

“Understanding there are things we do that lead to certain situations – and that we need to be accountable for them – can help simmer us down.”