If you’re not tilting, you’re not trying.

TILT pinball machine

Photo: Dice.com cc

Tilting is a bad thing, right?  Well, essentially, yes, as it’s considered a penalty that the machine gives you.  But in some ways, if you’re tilting, that can be a good thing….I’ll get philosophical in a moment, but let’s clarify these two terms for beginners:

Nudging is using physical force to move a pinball machine with the intent being to manipulate the ball’s movement.  Nudging in pinball is perfectly legal.

Tilting is when a player has nudged the machine so drastically that it sets off a sensor in the pinball machine, known as a tilt bob.  The sensitivity of the tilt bob can be adjusted in each machine.  Typically in modern games, prior to tilting, the machine will give you a warning every time the tilt bob touches the sensor.  After a certain number of warnings (usually two), the machine will tilt. (Note: In older games you may not get a warning at all, and some really old games will end your game on a tilt.)


Tilting should be avoided because the player receives a penalty for doing so.  The penalty on most machines is that the player loses his/her turn and any bonus they accumulated on that ball.

Part of the art of pinball is learning to nudge a machine without tilting.  During play, skilled players will nudge a machine to save the ball from draining.  They’ll note how much force they can exert on moving a pinball machine before the machine gives them a warning or tilts.  In fact, if you hope to become good at pinball, you need to master nudging.

Competitive pinball player Matt Hess at Pinurgh 2014. Photo courtesy of Gene X Hwang, orangephotography.com.

Competitive pinball player Matt Hess at Pinburgh 2014. Photo: Gene X Hwang, Orange Photography.

So if tilting is a penalty, in which you lose your turn and bonus, then what could possibly be good about it?  Well, as the title says, “If you’re not tilting, you’re not trying”.  These are words to live by.  Let them echo in your head.

Here’s the argument:  If you want to become good at pinball, you need to learn to nudge the machine.  This will allow you to save the ball from draining when it otherwise would if you never nudged.  Nudging the machine though, is risky, because you could tilt.  Inevitably, if you’re nudging like you should be, you’re going to tilt.  Hence, if you never tilt, that means you’re not trying hard enough.  It means you’re not trying enough to save the ball at times.

Does this give you license to tilt like crazy?  Absolutely not.  If you’re tilting all the time, that means you need to take it easy and work on your nudging skills.  A skilled player knows how to move the machine in a way that minimizes the movement of the tilt bob, yet still is able to effect the balls movement.  We’ll talk more about this in another post.

One last tip for now about nudging and tilting:  A good practice is to “test the tilt”.  What this means is, say you are on ball one and you have little to no bonus built up.  The ball is headed straight down the middle (STDM) with no chance of saving it.  Rather than watching it drain, purposely nudge the machine hard enough that it will tilt.  Why?  Because this will allow you to learn the sensitivity of that machine.  Once you know how much movement you can get away with, you can use this knowledge in balls two and three to comfortably know just how much you can nudge the machine without tilting.

So get out there and start tilting!

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