Propaganda Data Slate: Salthammer, or How To Recognise Tilting
Hello and welcome back to The Kitchen, with me The Chef, and today we’re looking at the first of the Community Topics, the ideas and topics that you bosses have asked me to rant about, and this article is raised by Kev Bates (Thanks Kev!)
It’s something that comes up often on social media, forums and even comments here on TT – Salt, or to use the alternate “professional” term, tilt. Specifically we’ll look at some of the ways these can happen, some of the psychology behind it, and possible ways to get over it. But first I want to talk about the terms themselves. For the purposes of the article I’ll use salt and tilt interchangeably, but it’s good to know the distinctions between the two, and I will also give an explanation for why I am trying to lean towards referring to it as tilt, rather than salt.
But surely it’s just good seasoning?
Getting salty, or tilted, essentially means when someone becomes agitated, frustrated, angry or otherwise short, be it in or out of game. This often leads to a more hostile game, poor strategy and decision making, or even just outright giving up on the game. One person getting salty can sour the experience for both players, as it can no longer become enjoyable to continue playing in such a game, especially if those feelings overshadow or dominate the rest of the game, or your memories of it.
And when someone gets salty, people are quick to notice. Amongst friends, you might casually take someone aside or whisper in their ear about their rising blood pressure, and try to help them calm down. Or depending on your friends they might goad you on even more, as it’s not malicious but rather fun and banter. Conversely they might even be a bit surprised by the reaction, as even the calmest of person can be liable to an outburst of salty behaviour. Strangers can equally have the same reactions, though the reaction is more likely to poke and exacerbate the situation, be it for their own benefit or amusement, and often far removed from the situation themselves, especially if it is in an online conversation or a conversation about an online game.
All these flavours and you choose salty
Now you’ll notice I used “professional” at the beginning when I first referred to tilt, so let me explain what I mean by this. By this, I refer to gaming and sports (particularly esports) which have a far greater audience and scope than Warhammer and wargaming in general – Tilt is a common phrase used in poker (where it originated from), up to the professional level, and is discussed at length within esports. However with the rapid advancement and presence that Warhammer is making in streaming, live events and other internet based resources (ourselves included), there is a certain expectation and desire to see Warhammer reach these same vaunted levels of other streamed and live events. Sell out arenas, global championships watched by tens of thousands round the world, sponsorships of professional players and teams, not to mention cash prizes that go into the 5 or even 6 figures! Some of these are happening already in Warhammer and massive headway is being made, which is testament to the amazing work put in by event organisers and attendees across the world. But to see Warhammer really elevated to where a lot of people want to see it, there’s still a long way to go.
There’s definitely a lot of people who want to see the above, this huge professional stage. And yet we still see the phrase ‘salt’ used in a negative and frankly, unprofessional sense. This is reasonably fair of course, it is generally negative, and it does tend to elicit an equally negative reaction from other players or observers. However I would argue that if competitive Warhammer wants to take it to the next level, even within casual play in order to enhance everyone’s gaming experience, we should look at the other trendsetters of the genre for how they refer to it and deal with it.
So why do I make note of the distinction between salt and tilt? Well, in my opinion it boils down to salt being a more pejorative term – it’s overwhelmingly negative and used as a put down, or to belittle or otherwise make the person experiencing it seem immature. Tilt is also still mainly negative, however it is considered more as a psychological facet of the game that can be both utilised and overcome. It could be considered that doing so is an important part of the game, especially at a professional level. Rather than it being glossed over or laughed at, it is used to improve one’s own game and enhance your play. No one likes getting salty, playing someone salty, or watching people get salty. And whilst it is something that is bound to happen to pretty much anyone, by having the negative connotations attached to it, the terms become even further scorned and shunned. I am not advocating we accept salt, especially extreme saltiness. Rather that we turn our attentions to how it is part of the game in some capacity and how to overcome it, just as other professional events and games do.
Well that’s just great…
Now getting tilted can happen for any number of reasons, be it poor luck, losing badly, receiving unwanted or unwarranted advice, contrary opinions, or even it being done deliberately in order to elicit a reaction. Occasionally you also see positive tilt, where the game is going so far your way that similar effects happen and mistakes occur that you don’t care about, but in the long run may cost you the game.
Regardless of the cause, the outcome is usually similar – a poor game experience that can be a slippery slope to get out of. However it happens, be it a key unit dies a turn earlier than expected, or an enemy list is just a hard counter to yours, a double 1 rolled for that charge and then it happened again with your reroll – whatever it was, this lynchpin, tactic, or list failed, and that’s it.
Overcoming this thought process and how it can impact your game is of course incredibly tough. You can mitigate it by having more than one strategy with an army, not relying on a single combo, or having a backup plan, but it still doesn’t fully ease the sting of an atrocious turn of luck. Understanding it is a dice game and luck is inherent to it is of course key as well, and is one of the best ways to get out of this mindset – such statistically unlikely outcomes are the result of variance, not necessarily bad play or strategy on your part. Another way that can go toward getting out of the mindset, although it is admittedly easier said than done depending on your situation, is to take a break from the game. Even just a 30 second step away from the table can help bring things into perspective and some calm back. Staring at a problem doesn’t make it go away after all.
An important thing to consider as well is how a reaction may be interpreted and the impact this may also have on your fellow players, which ties in nicely considering we touched on Fair Play and Codes of Conduct only last week. If you receive a bout of a bad luck, as frustrating as that is, is it your opponents fault? Should they be made to feel bad about their good fortune, or should you take it out on them? I myself am guilty of this – I was playing a friend in AoS a few months ago and it was just “one of those games”. I couldn’t dispel any spells, virtually every save I made failed, he was rolling hot and obliterating my key support units, and on top of that he double turned me. So he had some good luck, I had misplayed by not anticipating the double turn, and despite knowing what his army’s capabilities were, I deployed poorly and he capitalised on that with good play. But then coupled with the string of poor luck, it made me sullen, agitated, and actually very unpleasant – there was probably a months worth of your recommended allowance of sodium in that room.
No harm or maliciousness was meant by it all, and I of course apologised afterwards. But it’s so easy to get wrapped up in your own head, that you become ignorant to how you’re behaving and thus how you might be affecting someone else’s enjoyment – which is just as bad as trying to bend or break the rules to your advantage: you are depriving someone of their fun in a game. Hindsight is of course 20/20, so recognising when you are perhaps getting tilted is an important aspect of the game, not only so you can overcome it and get back into something that may still be possible to win, but also to aim towards upholding the social contract of enjoyment that all players involved are entitled to.
You live or die by the…well, the die
Now controlling what causes tilt is a different matter, and not really something that can be accounted for in most instances. A string of Beard Luck can absolutely swing an otherwise, on paper, balanced match up. And we’ve all had those experiences where someone pulls a Lawrence and passes 19. Out of 20. Saves. And then casually rolls the 6 for their Inured to Suffering to boot.
The luck of the dice, ironically, are actually one of the easier things to manipulate in game, and yet also the thing you have the least control of. There’s a reason why rerolls are so massively importantly in Warhammer games now – they lend you the mathematical advantage and the safety net to avoid the poor luck that can scupper an otherwise perfect plan. Now of course you can’t account for the opponent rolling well on saves or like, or you rolling so poorly it goes completely at odds with the expected statistics. We’ve all “Math-hammered” stuff, and a difference to what “should happen” can so massively shake your perceptions and your focus on the game. The times when a unit overperforms are forgotten in favour of when your models fail you so abysmally you must have offended some great deity who has now taken a personal stake in your odds.
Math-hammering, whilst useful in list building and general unit comparisons, are actually not all that great to rely on once you hit the battlefield. Statistics and averages are just that, and need more than one or two outings to give you the curve that the theory promises. Leaving the averages away from the table is certainly easier said than done, but getting caught up on how a unit should have performed will only help to put dampener on your spirits as your plans unravel before you.
If you have your sights set on a lofty goal like placing top tables or even winning an entire event, a poor turn can cause this goal to fade away, even if the games not over yet, as things aren’t going according to your plan. Accounting for the fact that luck is involved, and that of course no plan survives contact with the enemy, can help out. Being flexible and able to adjust to the flow of the game will help you here, and is a sign of good generalship as well.
Don’t tell me what to do!
Aside from poor luck or a bad losing streak, the influence of your fellow players is also an important factor. Regardless of where or who I’m playing, I tend to play the game with take backs and advice on hand- if someone neglects a rule or action that I’m aware of, or has forgotten to do something earlier and wants to redo it, I’m fine with that*. Likewise I’m happy to let someone know of any potential stratagems or abilities that might affect their decision, this is not intended as a “psychological” thing, rather just ensuring that I’m fully open with my opponent. However there is a time and a place for this sort of thing.
In a friendly game, you’re more than likely good to go, especially if they’ve explicitly asked for advice before or during the game. If you are at a tournament, or if your opponent has become obviously annoyed or irritated by the unsolicited advice, consider toning it down. They may be interpreting it as you talking down to them, assuming they don’t know what they’re doing or what your units are capable of, or even trying to psych them out. And these are perfectly valid concerns, they should be respected if someone appears to be taking any talk or advice in a negative way, or if they ask you to stop. All you can do is understand it’s unwanted, and refrain from continuing to do so. However likewise if you are receiving such unsolicited advice, you should not explode or snap at your opponent – if it was genuine advice or talk, it might sour the game. If it was intentionally trying to get a reaction or psych you out, then you’ve done precisely what the opponent wanted you to do- begin to tilt, lose your focus, and come off your game, giving them an advantage.
In the interests of fair play, so that you aren’t unknowingly irritating your opponent, but likewise aren’t playing with omission of fair knowledge, or indeed just sitting in silence in what is meant to be a social game, I believe it’s always worth building that rapport with an opponent, in order to establish ground rules for how this should be played in game. Some people will want to learn from their mistakes and own them, so they improve for next time. Others may be having a rough day, or just weren’t aware of something, and their brain might be frazzled already, in which case a friendly reminder may swing their mood right around and lead to you both having a great game.
Better to dodge the hole than fall down it
So much of tilting is subjective, as only you know what will set it off, and it really depends on you as a person as well. There is no hard and fast way to avoid getting tilted, however what you can do is learn the signs of it, and ask yourself what will getting salty achieve? Again, certainly easier said than done – I’m here to start the conversation, not solve it all for you! But recognising saltiness in yourself and others can go towards making the change necessary to avoid it before you go down the slippery slope. And you will slip. It’s very likely to happen that something will tip you. It’s only through playing the games and having an open conversation with people that you can come to terms with it as well.
Of course we’ve all had games where it just seems everything is against you, to the point where it does feel like a case of throwing in the towel – this is afterall a game, and if a game isn’t fun, then why continue? Unfortunately, I can’t help you here (as I say I can’t solve all the issues!), as this is so specific to the individual on how they take losing, or what they can learn from it. All I can recommend here is that you consider what has made you tilt to this point, and consider is that style or encounter right for you, if this is what the outcome will be. What can you learn from it? What could have been done differently, or do differently next time? Are you able to hold your hands up and say “Actually I can feel myself getting down on this, are we able to just take a step back for a minute?”
Self-evaluation and improvement are incredibly difficult things and not something that will happen overnight. It is a slow and gradual process. But overcoming these feelings will not only help you in game by ensuring your focus and concentration, but also your enjoyment, as you’re no longer helping to defeat yourself. Take these negatives, and turn them to positives!
* Within reason here, but we’ll go into finer details and my opinion on etiquette when it comes to this sort of thing in a later article.
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