Tilt and how it’s helping you lose more games.

Oct 12, 2015

Author’s Note

This article makes direct reference to the Blizzard titles Hearthstone and Heroes of The Storm. However tilt is not only a factor in these two games. In fact many of the solutions of tilt found below are applicable to nearly any competitive activity be it online or in your day-to-day life.

What is tilt?

Before we really get started we should really define what we mean by “tilt”. Tilt, or tilting, is a term originally used by poker players referring to the state of mental confusion or frustration that leads to sub optimal plays. Tilting should not be confused with frustration itself, but rather the effect that anger, fear and frustration have on your gameplay. Failure to identify tilting can quickly spiral out of control because each bad play you make as a result of tilt leads to further frustration and more mistakes. Tilting isn’t something that only affects beginners. In fact many professional players make poor plays out of anger and a belief that the game has become “unwinnable”.

Becoming angry or frustrated leads to even the best players making mistakes.

Becoming angry or frustrated leads to even the best players making mistakes.

Why does tilt happen?

Tilt is a by-product of the way your brain reacts to possible threats. The threats your brain reacts to on a day-to-day basis are usually physical but it also reacts in the same way to the threat of not reaching Legend or losing your Hero League game. The brain is unable to tell the difference between a life threatening event and a game loss and goes through the exact same set of motions for either. Firstly, you’ll start to feel angry or afraid. In games like Heroes of The Storm this might be anger at a mistake your teammates have made or the fear that you can’t win. Perhaps your team didn’t initiate at the right time or they were nowhere to be found when you needed them the most. In Hearthstone your anger might be a result of your opponent’s RNG, luck based elements such as critical hits and random effects, lining up in a seemingly perfect and impossible way. No matter the cause, once your brain notices these perceived threats adrenaline begins to take over and the rational part of your brain begins to shut down. Unfortunately the rational part of the brain is one of the most important when it comes to playing video games and without that it’s no wonder you’re on your 8th loss in a row.


Fear of losing Hero League games is a leading cause of tilt in Heroes of The Storm.

Fear of losing Hero League games is a leading cause of tilt in Heroes of The Storm.

How can I tell when I’m tilting?

Simply losing a game isn’t enough to know that you’re tilting. Sometimes no matter how perfectly you play, you lose. Perhaps your opponents played characters that counter yours or perhaps they were just better players then you were.  When you lose three or four games in a row that’s usually a good sign that tilt might have been a factor in at least some of those losses. However 4 or more games into a loss streak it is often too late to fix the problem, so how do you know that you’re titling before then? Here is a list of the most common symptoms to watch out for:

  1. Over extending.

This is one I think we’ve all been guilty of at least once. Things start to go wrong and we get desperate. Overextending can mean different things in different games but typically it means leaving a safe position when the reward doesn’t outweigh the benefit.

For Hearthstone this might be playing out your whole hand when already have control of the board. Playing lots of minions is likely to get you punished by AoE spells and gives your opponent a chance to regain tempo, a chance he wouldn’t have had if you kept backup minions in your hand to refill the board.

For Heroes of the Storm this term usually refers to chasing after low health heroes fleeing behind towers. Even if you survive the towers, you might find yourself ambushed by his allies. Remember that a fleeing hero is not gathering experience or contesting an objective so forcing him to retreat is almost as good as killing him.

  1. The Blame Game.

Another obvious sign. You start to make excuses for why you’re losing. It’s because we have someone AFK. It’s because I have bad draws. It’s because… You get the idea. Playing the blame game is dangerous because it prevents you from realising your own mistakes and rectifying them in the future.

  1. 3rd time lucky.

Without the rational part of your brain you’ll find yourself falling for the same mistakes repeatedly. Last game you didn’t clear a paladin’s board when you could have and he played the Quartermaster. Next game a similar situation happens and you make the same mistake. That’s a good sign you’re tilting. This one ties in very closely with the last two. You over extend and you get punished but instead of realising that you messed up you blame your team for not being there to protect you. Next time an injured hero runs away you chase again only to end up dead and the cycle continues.

  1. Expecting to lose.

How many times have you started a game and heard someone say “GG guys they have X we can’t win” or tuned into a stream and heard the streamer say “He’s playing X class, it’s a 60/40 matchup we can’t win”? While it’s true you might be at a disadvantage the easiest way to lose is not to try. Players on tilt often adopt a loser’s mindset as it’s easier to accept a loss if you weren’t trying than it would be to lose when you’ve played your best.


Players on tilt often over extend leaving them vulnerable to cards like Flamestrike.

Players on tilt often overextend leaving them vulnerable to cards like Flamestrike.

Can I prevent tilt from happening?

The high variance on a card like Ram Wrangler can lead to some frustrating losses but it’s important not to let it get to you.

The high variance on a card like Ram Wrangler can lead to some frustrating losses but it’s important not to let it get to you.

Preventing tilt is hard, and for most people almost impossible. Tilt is being caused by a part of your brain that has protected humans for thousands of years. You can’t just shut it down. So how do we stop it? We have to stop caring about winning. Your brain is reacting in these ways because of the significance you’ve placed on reaching Legend or improving your MMR. This is especially important in a game like Hearthstone where RNG can have a significant effect on the outcome of one game. Instead of obsessing over the result of an individual match it’s important to focus on your overall success throughout the season. Over a much larger time period the effects of RNG are greatly reduced and your individual skill will shine through. When you begin to stop caring about individual loses and can laugh off the ram wrangled King Krush the rest of your games will go a lot more smoothly.

How can I cure my tilt?

Much easier than preventing tilt is curing it once it’s begun to happen. The first thing to do is identify that it’s happening. Realise that you’re feeling angry and frustrated and do not try to recoup your losses just yet. Instead accept that you are tilting and do one or more of the following:

  1.      Take a break.

The most obvious thing to do is take a break. Watch TV, read one of the great articles here at GWW or even go outside. Whatever you pick just make sure that you’re relaxed and away from the source of your frustration.

  1.      Play something else.

If you don’t want to take a break completely you could always play something else. My personal recommendation would be to play something with a single player mode. Taking your frustrations out on the citizens of Skyrim is always a great way to calm down. Whatever game you do end up picking it’s important not to go from one competitive ladder to another or you’ll risk making things worse.

  1.      Address your mistakes.

Once you’ve calmed down you can take a look back at what went wrong. Heroes of the Storm has its own inbuilt replay system for you to review. Identifying your mistakes and realising what you should have done differently is a great way to prevent them happening again. Fewer mistakes means less potential triggers for future tilts.

  1.      Warm up.

It can be hard to pinpoint exactly when tilt has ended so to make sure you’ve fully regained composure you should warm up before jumping back into The Nexus. Do some quick matches with friends or try out a new hero. The important thing is that you play in an environment that you can enjoy and relax in without worrying too much about the end result.

Final thoughts

Having read this article I’m sure that you can all look back and identify one time in your gaming career that tilt has affected you and I hope that now you’re more aware of it you’ll all be able to improve your play by minimising its effects in future. Outside of winning more games, preventing and dealing with tilt also helps to minimize toxicity and improve multiplayer environments for the whole community. I’m eager to hear your own experiences with tilt and your methods of combating it in the comments section below. Who knows, perhaps someone reading those tips might be on your team next game.