The Psychology of Being on Tilt

tiltI am your average League of Legends player. I play with my friends and often make groups with strangers if we have had a good game together. I usually will do everything I can to benefit the team: Roam down from top to gank mid, place a pink ward in the tri bush for my bot/top lane if I am the jungler, make sure the buffs are safe/warded if Im support, etc. That being said, it is a team game, and there are often games where it seems you and your team won’t be able to pull it together and win.

This in itself is ok, since it’s a competitive game, you have to accept that you will win some and you will lose some. But sometimes, a game goes beyond just having bad communication. Every League of Legends player at some point will run into the issue of having a team that is really difficult to enjoy playing with. In cases like this, there are other problems than just player skill. One or more members on your team, including yourself, might be “On Tilt.”

Intro to Tilt Theory

Being “On Tilt”, for those who haven’t heard the term, is basically having a mental block towards playing League. This can range from frustration from past games, something from your personal life that’s clouding your judgment, your landlord knocking on your door to collect rent, etc. Sometimes you know you’re on tilt, and sometimes you don’t. The main problem with being on tilt is that it can often affect your other teammates’ experience of the game, as well as your own.

I have read a lot about people’s experience of frustration with video games, but there is one topic I haven’t seen talked about much, especially pertaining to League of Legends. This is the idea that once you’re in a League of Legends game and something goes wrong, you’re sort of trapped for the next 20 minutes to an hour.

iWKad22Sometimes in a game, you are the culprit. Maybe you’re telling your team things you shouldn’t. Maybe you’re refusing to gank a lane because of something they said in the Champion Select Screen. Maybe you’re even saying verbally abusive things that have nothing to do with League of Legends. Whether you’re the one on tilt or not, the problem remains the same. You’re basically trapped in a room with 4 other people, often these people are strangers, and either some of you or all of you have it out for each other.

In real life, if you were in a grocery store and a stranger was yelling obscenities at you and trying to steal things from your cart as you put them in (Like a top laner trying to steal your level 1 Blue Buff), you would probably do something about it. Most clear headed people would do something to remedy the situation, or just leave the market. When you’re playing League of Legends though, the fear of being reported for leaving early, or the penalties Riot Games can hand out for leaving games early, is often enough to make you stay in the game. Once you hit the accept game button when searching for a match, you are all in this together now, for better or worse.

Personal Experience

“If you aren’t the one on tilt, try to not get involved in fights your team is having.”

One of the worst examples I have ever witnessed myself was in a ranked series game, playing Vladamir mid, and there was a Teemo top. Instead of going top like he called, he came to mid and went invisible in my lane in a spot where he would not be in danger, but could soak up experience. This prevented me from leveling up as fast as the enemy laner, and teemos laner could free farm all game. When I saw this happening, I realized the intent right away, and moved to top lane. He followed me doing the same thing all game, up until the point we lost. He didn’t say a word all game, and my team was demeaning him and swearing at him all game. They were even typing “report teemo for trolling” in all chat, so that the other team could see it. The other team capitalized on this and starting insulting the rest of my team. The game became very hostile very quick.

When this happens, do not let them provoke you. Like a warrior on the battle field, show no fear. Always remember, like the brother in law you always want to avoid at Thanksgiving dinner, this too shall pass. In a little while, you’ll be able to join matchmaking again and find the seemingly perfect team that leads to an enjoyable game. And like your brother in law on Thanksgiving, just try to be friendly and supportive and positive to your team no matter what happens. Never let them make you give up, and always try to get your team to work together if you can. And hey, if things get really bad and it seems there’s nothing you can do, there’s always the mute button.

Sometimes though things can really get to you. It can be almost impossible to have a good game. Before you start a League game, just check in with yourself. If you feel irritable or that you might be on tilt, for the sake of your team, maybe do something other than video games for a while. Walk your dog, do some work, play an instrument, or whatever gets you to a better state. Video games can be a fantastic way to open your mind, but sometimes they can be detrimental to it when coupled with a negative emotional state.

If you’ve already joined a game and you’re on tilt, the solution is a lot simpler than when it’s your ally: Just try to bring yourself back to a state of calm. Even if you’ve already started an expansive fight between your team members, if they haven’t muted you yet, just bite the bullet and say you’re sorry. Say you were on tilt, but you’re good now, and try to enjoy the rest of the game. Tell your team that we can definitely win, we have the late game. Tell them that if we combine our ultimates correctly, maybe we can win the next team fight. When I have seen someone apologize in a League match and try to rally the team, it has often been a big enough morale booster to catapult a surely lost game into an amazing comeback.

This has been a short venture into Tilt theory. Just remember, everyone on your team is a human being. Its sometimes hard to see their humanity though the screen and thousands of miles of cables that lead back to them, but never forget this fact. Just because someone is saying some horrible things to you in a match doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you, or anything wrong with them. They might just be having a bad day. Maybe subconsciously they feel like taking it out on you will make them feel better. Whatever the case may be, if you want to enjoy League of Legends more, all you have to do is stay calm in the face of adversity.

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by zachsherman, on April 15, 2016