Stoicism: Learning How to Tilt Less from Greek Philosophers

Mar 20, 2016

Stoicism is a philosophy centered around the idea of being as rational as possible, even when faced with difficult circumstances. The stoics weren’t against emotions; they were against letting impulsive emotional thoughts create errors in judgement. Although none of the famous Greek stoic philosophers ever had the opportunity to play League of Legends, we’re going to apply some of the underlying concepts of stoicism to the game to see if we can tilt less often. It’s very unlikely we can permanently cure ourselves of tilting. As long as we deeply care about the game, losing streaks will suck. Even still, we can reduce how often we find ourselves tilted, we can spend more time being happy.

Who Your Teammates Really Are: The Big Picture

One ant may be carrying more than the other, but he still needs his friends to complete the job.
One ant may be carrying more than the other, but he still needs his friends to complete the job.

Your average League of Legends match is created when 10 players, who presumably all want to win a game, queue up at the same time. All players enter champion select with that shared desire to defeat their opponents. This is a fact often forgotten as soon as an ally makes a mistake in game.

The reality is that not all players are created equal. You are certainly better than some players you play with, and worse than others. However, you haven’t been paired with your teammates randomly. Matchmaking ensures you are put on a team with players who perform just about as well as you on average. Whether they over-perform or under-perform in the game they share with you, on average, they win just about as many games as you do.

angry gamer
It’s not uncommon for players to enter a game with emotional baggage accrued from a long losing streak. That doesn’t mean its over. Nobody is ever perma-tilted.

And then there’s the baggage that players bring into games with them. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a bottom lane duo who is riding a massive win streak. If you’re unlucky, the same duo may just rage quit if your mid laner gets creative enough with his insults.

Putting it all together: your average teammate will want to win, and probably has comparable win-rate to your own. Every player will enter the game with baggage of some sort, and that baggage may make them more prone to tilting, or it may come in the form of boosted confidence.

Now that it’s understood that everybody in on the same page, let’s talk about how to establish a shared focus with your teammates.

“What Can We Do to Win This Game?”

Now What

First, do nothing inconsiderately, nor without a purpose.” – Marcus Aurelius

When you are faced with any kind of adversity in life, typically the worst thing you can do is absolutely nothing. Doing nothing forces you to dwell on your unfortunate circumstances. You can replay the negative event over and over as many times as you want, but it won’t change the situation you are in. You can avoid drowning in your negative thoughts by taking action.

Garen FB
Giving first blood to Garen Bot isn’t the end of the world, it’s just extremely embarrassing. Photo via Team Dignitas.

Traumatic events in League of Legends consist of giving first blood, losing lane, getting camped, failing a gank, and any other minor event that gives the enemy team an advantage. The secret, stoic way of dealing with these events is to ask yourself “what can I do to win the game in this position?”. There is no better question to ask yourself at any point in the game. Asking this question drills down on what’s important by reminding you that if it doesn’t help you win the game, you probably shouldn’t waste time doing it.

By asking your team “what can we do to win this game?” after getting aced in a close game forces everybody to reset and draw up a plan to getting back on track. Don’t expect your genuine question to be answered with sincerity right away, but if you insist on on a serious answer, you might be able to have a constructive discussion.

Knowing your win condition is essential to winning games at the high level. It’s a question that LCS teams ask themselves regularly. The game, just like real life, becomes more satisfying if you are always working towards a goal.

Give No Value to Non-Productive Comments

Stick and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Here’s what stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius had to say on the topic: “If you are pained by any external thing, it is not this thing that disturbs you, but your own judgment about it. And it is in your power to wipe out this judgment now.” 

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When an angry teammate tells you that you are boosted, you know it’s not true. Why give any value to a random player’s opinion on your play? It doesn’t make any sense. The truth is, you naturally feel insecure about yourself after making an uncharacteristically bad play. Your teammates have likely only played with you in this single circumstance. They don’t have a sufficient sample size to accurately critique your skills.

It doesn’t make sense to give weight to negative comments made by tilted teammates. It doesn’t make sense to respond to these comments either. Neither of these actions will bring you closer to winning the game.

Playing League of Legends Like a Stoic


By focusing only on what is most important we can prevent ourselves from getting lost in the details. We can remind ourselves, and even our team, on what’s important by asking; “what do we need to do to win this game?”. When we make a mistake, because we will be making many mistakes, we’re not going to let a negative comment put us out of our game. We’re not going to reply either. Neither of these options puts us closer to winning the game. Instead, we will return our focus on what we need to accomplish to win the game given the new post-mistake circumstances.

The battle continues.

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Jamie Jacobs
Jamie Jacobs is a bot lane main who once won 17 consecutive Janna games. His favorite champions are Thresh, Kalista, and Bard. Jamie writes about competitive League of Legends and the professional gaming scene every week at Esports Edition.
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