According to one of the versions, the term “tilt” first appeared among slot machine connoisseurs. Pinball, familiar to many, used to be a must-have machine at any gambling club. Players, who got angry that the ball was going in the wrong direction, tilted the gaming device to set it on the right track. Often this was accompanied by the player’s loss of self-control. After that, the “anti-tilt” function was integrated into such slot machines, which, when tilted, blocked the levers.
The widespread popularity of the term arose when tilt was added to the poker players’ vocabulary, where the word “tilt” meant a state of anger and fury caused by a bad movie or a series of defeats.
Cambridge scientists, together with cognitive psychologists from the University of Helsinki, figured out that players experienced the most negative emotions during a loss in winning situations. For example, if the mathematical probability of winning was 90% or more but ended with a set of failures. After losses like this, the probability of errors rose to 30-60%, depending on the player’s experience.
Tilt includes all kinds of emotional manifestations. The player can experience either incredible joy and fear or excessive excitement in this state. Any excessive manifestation of emotions can interfere with making the right decisions and building a strategy.
Simply put, it is a state of emotional upheaval: defeat due to being unlucky is perceived as an injustice, forcing the player to use an aggressive game style to achieve justice. Scientists say that ultimately, this leads to self-disappointment and a loss of focus on achieving the goal.
Olga Morozova, a researcher at the Institute of Psychology of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Moscow Center for Video Game Research, explains: “Negative events and defeats will provoke various kinds of unwanted emotions; it is difficult to avoid it. It is impossible to simply turn off the reactions of your own brain and body in response to ongoing actions. Therefore, tilt cannot be 100% avoided. Psychologists discuss this problem in terms of this condition and its consequences, not its prevention”. Some are more prone to this condition, while others manage to pull themselves together faster. The reasons lie in physiology and psychology.
Experienced gamers are less prone to tilts, as they have already been in similar situations during training sessions or a match. While the brain of a novice poker player or e-sportsman panics and looks for a way out of a problem, a professional player has a pre-prepared behaviour model that they can easily implement.
Tilt is a kind of feeling of powerlessness, which is most often observed in team games. The victory equally depends on each gamer, who must fulfil their 20% for the prize. One of the teammates’ mistakes can lead the whole team to tilt. Participants begin to follow opponents’ actions instead of their own game performance. Respectively, they stop playing more consciously and do not notice their mistakes.
Tilt is quite common in “Dota”, “CS: GO”, “Fortnite”, and other e-sports disciplines. Some lose their positions at the initial stage of the game due to the competitors’ peaks, while others lose their temper due to the fact that they are not able to hold the lane or use the skill. Others could be upset because of the failure during the last game and could not get into the right mindset, transferring the tilt to the next match.
If the player has thoughts that there is a possibility of losing because of their teammates when just starting the game, such a team will be much weaker, and there are practically no chances for its success, which means this person is experiencing tilt. During this period, the e-sportsman stops growing as a player, looking for problems in external aspects, and is not able to assess the situation throughout the game correctly.
In poker or other one player games, the loss of concentration happens due to emotional exhaustion. The condition of a poker player can be influenced by various factors which can be not related to the game at all. For example, alcohol, stress, fatigue or a negative attitude. All of the above can cause unconscious play and a decrease in concentration.
How do you know if a player is experiencing tilt? They will lack a strategy and game plan, act too emotionally, have a great thirst for victory, and make impulsive and thoughtless decisions.
Many people are wondering how to pull yourself out of tilt. For example, you can change what you do at that particular moment. If the game does not bring pleasure but happens automatically, the player stops noticing their mistakes. In this situation, they need to switch to another activity to get distracted for a little while and then come back to a conscious game. Another way to overcome tilt is to analyse how you played and see and accept your own mistakes. Accepting mistakes will give you an opportunity to be more prepared for the next games.
Experienced players give recommendations on how to get rid of unnecessary tension and fear of opponents. To do this, focus on specific personal tasks instead of the desire for victory. Psychologists say that the ability to enjoy the game process is one of the key secrets. Often, a gamer is not so much concerned about the fact of triumph as the feeling that they and their teammates have worked 100% to achieve the result. The only way to avoid tilt is to do your best and not to judge opponents strictly for their mistakes.
The causes of tilt can vary. It can be either a large and/or long-term loss or winning a huge amount and/or a string of luck. In other words, a downstrike or an upstrike and a significant skid or loss of money.
Winnings can make the player fearless, and they may begin to be overly self-confident, while losses, on the contrary, make them doubt their skills and drive them into depression. In both cases, the result is the same. The poker player plays in an unusual style and makes many mistakes and decisions that they would not have made in their usual emotional state.
There are two types of tilt:
Explicit tilt can be easily noticed. It manifests itself in the obviously wrong actions of the poker player at the gaming table. For example, they might bluff all-in against another player or an opponent who seems to have a strong hand. Having identified that you are definitely on a tilt, you should immediately stop the game and direct your efforts to combat your unstable emotional state that affects decision-making.
Hidden tilt is more difficult to identify, making it even more dangerous. If you suspect that you may be on tilt, take a break. You can ask a friend, colleague, coach, or other experienced poker players to look at your game from the outside and assess the likelihood of tilt to finally dispel your fears or confirm them to take the necessary measures.