On Tilt and Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Seneca on Tilt

Seneca, lamenting about his teammates.

Tilt is a mental state where players take suboptimal lines of play because they get emotional, angered and aggressive after losing several games in a row or hitting a streak of bad luck. Most beginners particularly tend to get tilted early and usually have trouble staying rational and in control of their decisions.

While emotions can be helpful, as competitive gamers we usually want to stay as rational, reasonable and logical as possible. This is difficult, but for starters in competitive games, we’ve found a simple and elegant solution that can help you get your mind back on track, keep your emotions down and stay philosophical.

philosophical

Many authors, especially poker players, have written on the subject and have come to great conclusions on how to avoid tilting. Particularly, Dan Harrington in his Harrington on Hold’em series or Jared Tendler in The Mental Game of Poker. Tendler especially identified several different kinds of tilt. Like Running Bad Tilt, Injustice Tilt, Hate Losing Tilt, Mistake Tilt, Entitlement Tilt, Revenge Tilt and Desperation Tilt. You can check out his explanations here. Most of us have felt these feelings and emotions before and he offers some great solutions in dealing with them.

However, one thing that all of these forms of tilt share though is one simple notion:

Bad things that you have no control over, can, and will, happen.

Take a typical game on the ladder for example. No matter what game you are playing, Counter-Strike, League of Legends, Hearthstone or else. There is always some amount of randomness involved. Wether you get “unlucky” by having yet another afk teammate or by getting more and more bad card draws, these things typically do not lie under your control and can have significant impact on your chance of winning the game. They are stressful and can lead to anger or, consequently, tilt.

Now, we can’t change who our teammates are and we can’t change our card draws or whether we get a lucky critical strike. What we can change though is our expectations.

This is where our friend Lucius Annaeus Seneca comes in. He proposed something very interesting.

He thought that what stresses us out most are things that take us by surprise.

It is not the [Dr. Boom] on turn 7 that stresses us out, because we have seen him so often. It is not the minute 3:00 jungle-gank that makes us anxious in League of Legends, because it is there pretty much every game. It is also not the AWPers in mid on Dust2 because we have encountered them many times. We are prepared.

We can use the same reasoning when dealing with tilt as well. Next time you go into a game. Expect your teammate to fail some time. Expect to get an afker or two a couple of times a week. Remember that everyone has bad draws from time to time. The universe isn’t out to get you and no one is particularly more “lucky” or “unlucky” in getting leavers or bad teammates.

Most people tend to tell themselves and assure others in every-day situations with: “Don’t worry. Everything is gonna be fine.” But Seneca, and maybe even Stoic Philosphy, is proposing something very different and very unintuitive. To calmly tell yourself:

Maybe not everything is gonna be fine.

Just by psychologically preparing yourself for uncomfortable and stressful situations, we have also prepared ourselves for the emotional and mental stress that bad teammates and horrible draws can do to our performance. That way, we can stay mentally focussed on the important decisions and don’t distract ourselves with things we can’t control.

The best thing to soften the blow of these emotional setbacks is to be prepared. Anger and frustration are essentially irrational responses to these problems and the only rational strategy is to stay calm about the fact that things regularly go wrong.

Thanks for reading.

I quoted a lot of this from Alain de Botton’s excellent book The Consolations of Philosphy. So if you are interested in a more philosophical mental approach to gaming and maybe life in general, check him out, it is an excellent read.

Kai

My mom said my eyes would turn into rectangles from playing too much PC. Joke's on her though, they are in glorious 16:9 now.

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