People often play videogames to unwind from stress or to improve their skills and outperform opposing players. However, like in sports, underperforming can give rise to profoundly negative affective experiences. Gamers describe the phenomenon of tilt as a compounding cycle of performance failures and negative emotions. Playing videogames for mood-repair and competitive-gratification motives has been found to predict tilt frequency cross-sectionally (Bonk & Tamminen, 2022), but no research has yet examined gamers’ day-to-day experiences of tilt and emotions.
The purpose of this study was to examine the motivational antecedents, emotional correlates, and psychosocial costs of experiencing tilt in gamers’ daily lives using ecological momentary assessment. Gamers (N = 82) were recruited online and completed up to 7 daily surveys for 7 days (nresponses = 749). Generalized estimating equations with exchangeable correlation structures were used to account for the clustered and non-normal nature of the data. Playing videogames for competitive gratification motives was found to be a stronger predictor of tilt intensity (b = .20, p < .001) than mood management motives (b = .11, p = .017). Of all assessed in-game emotions, tilt intensity was most strongly associated with experiencing anger (b = .69, p < .001). Higher tilt intensity in a gaming session also predicted more negative post-game mood valence (b = -.12, p = .008) and lower post-game general well-being (b = -.005, p = .015).
Though playing videogames is generally enjoyable, these findings highlight the potential psychosocial consequences when frustration and failures interact giving rise to tilt.