Whether you’ve heard the word from other gamers, used it yourself, or are in fact one of the many gamers who experience tilt on the regular, this is a term worth unpacking, as it affects almost all of us at some point in time and affects our overall gaming success. Let’s get into it.

So, what is tilt?

As Urban Dictionary says, tilt is a term used often in video gaming (but has also long been associated with poker), calling it the “emotional state” that follows from doing the same thing over and over again and having it yield negative results. They also describe it as an “emotional breakdown” from the “frustration of your hard work not resulting in the success you so desperately crave.” Other sources add that the descent into tilt and seeing the increasingly negative results actually causes you to make poorer, overly aggressive choices, resulting in even more negative outcomes. And some also accredit the term to when the level of frustration and anger makes you literally tilt or lean over your keyboard while you rant and rave at the game—but we know no one has ever possibly gotten that angry . . . right?? (Don’t worry, we have to.)

The term actually originated from pinball machines back in the 1970s and 80s. Because everything was mechanical, it was easy to manipulate the movement of the pinball by physically tilting the machine when you saw that the ball trajectory wasn’t going the way you wanted. However, the machines had sensors built into them, so when they would detect physical tilting, they’d sound alarms and flash big, block-lettered “TILT” lights at you. If you did it too much or for too long, the machine would in fact lock your paddles and torpedo your game altogether. Talk about frustrating.

How to avoid tilt

Nowadays, a common term among gamers and eSports athletes—and more specifically, League of Legends players (although you can experience tilt while playing any game)—we don’t want it to become a more common experience. So, we’ve laid out some key steps to take either when you feel yourself starting to tilt or just to avoid it altogether.

Try to keep your perspective

You may love gaming, and you may be trying to make a career out of it (or perhaps you’re already there!), but it’s really important to keep some perspective. It is just a game. We don’t mean “just” in the pejorative sense, but in the sense that there are other things that have greater and far worse or more serious consequences than when you’re gaming. If you lose or have a losing streak, it’s going to be okay. You can play again, you can win again. And you will.

Know that you have to lose to improve

You know how it goes—you improve by failing. You learn from failing. You learn from a loss. So, when you lose, instead of getting upset about it, try to think about what that game loss is teaching you. What move did you not do correctly? Were your reflexes not quick enough? What skill did you need to have done better? Take that knowledge, go practice, and make yourself a better gamer.

Mute trolls or negative commenters

Negativity from other players will never do you good. Not before, during, or after play. Especially if you’re already nervous or insecure, or are very eager to win and improve, the negative comments from trolls will only feed your nerves and insecurity and make the likelihood of you improving decrease exponentially. Just turn them off. You don’t need to see or hear their comments. They are not there to help you.

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness might be the perfect antidote to tilting, and it just so happens that we just wrote a post about what it means to be a mindful gamer and how to start practicing mindfulness on your own. It’s all about being present, aware of what’s going on around you and how you’re feeling, and warding off negativity, so you can stay healthy and non-reactive. Getting in those deep breaths and regular meditation sessions will help you become more mindful at all times and then recognize faster when your gaming starts to go off-kilter.

Go into games feeling your best

When you feel great as a baseline, you’re much less likely to have a temper flare or sudden angry rage. So try your best to make your baseline good all the time. Go into your games having eaten properly, with enough water to stay hydrated throughout; have healthy snacks on hand; workout before you play. In general, take care of yourself. When you feel good and level, your head will stay good and level, too.

How to come back from the edge

Despite all our good intentions, sometimes we still topple over into tilt territory. When that happens, catch yourself early and do the following . . .

Take a break, step back, and breathe

The best, quickest, easiest thing you can do is step away. Take a break. Really take a good, long break and some deep breaths to help calm you down. Go do something else that has nothing to do with gaming. Get your mind off of the game and away from the mistakes you’ve just made. Reset.

Focus on yourself

Remember that only you got yourself there. It’s so easy to blame our teammates or other players or say there’s something wrong with the game. But the truth of the matter is that you are the common denominator in your downward tilting spiral and your losses along the way. Only you. Focus on yourself and what you did wrong in the moment, and see what you can take away to avoid the situation in the future.

Examine what got you to that point

When you’re ready and calmed down, try to think about how the game went, step by step, move by move, play by play. What did you do at each turn? What did you see or not see that set you off in the wrong direction, both physically in the game and mentally? Try to think through what steps your brain took so that you can start to recognize those mental leaps if they happen again.

Tilting happens to the best of us, but if you employ these tools, we promise it’ll start to happen less frequently. And then, my friends, your gaming will keep getting better.

Stay calm and Win Well.