When it comes to gaming, there are quite a few reasons to use a Virtual Proxy Network or VPN. However, because of the intensive nature of gaming, not just any VPN will suffice.
In this article, we will take a look at why using a VPN can be an advantage for anyone who wants to improve their gaming experience, whether it’s for a more secure connection or the chance to take on opponents outside your region.
What a VPN for Gaming won’t do
First of all, it is important to understand what a VPN for gaming will and won’t do. One common misconception is that a VPN will speed up your Internet connection (or lower your ping). This is not the case: most of the time a VPN will not speed up your Internet unless your ISP has pretty severe routing issues.
One example that users have encountered (in which a VPN considerably helped to speed a connection) is when an ISP was providing 80% packet loss and very high ping per ms because of a ruptured undersea fiber cable. During the month it took to fix the problem, a VPN could be used to route traffic in a different direction helping to bypass the problem.
On the whole though, this is rather rare and a VPN will not be useful for speeding up the internet for gaming. In fact, a VPN for gaming will (the majority of the time) slow down the usual connection speed of an Internet connection. Why? A VPN does the following to a subscriber’s data:
Encrypts data locally > tunnels data to a VPN server (via ISP) > un-encrypts the data > re-encrypts the data > tunnels encrypted data to the end point and back to the VPN server > un-encrypts the data > re-encrypts the data > tunnels data to the subscriber’s device (via ISP) > un-encrypts the data locally.
Compare that to what usually happens:
Traffic goes to ISP and then to website > then back to ISP and home.
Those extra processes take time and will actually slow down any Internet connection. In addition, some VPNs will do a much worse job than others. Reliable, industry-leading VPN services, have servers all over the world that are ‘tier 1’. That type of server means that a VPN will only slow down connection speeds about 10% or 20%. That is outstanding VPN connection speeds and the vast majority of VPNs will slow Internet connections far more.
In fact, it isn’t unheard of for VPNs (that claim on their website to be fast) to slow down Internet connections up to 90%. This is truly appalling, and will make gaming nigh-on impossible. That is why choosing a VPN for gaming must be very carefully thought out, if you don’t want to waste your money (so be sure to take free expert advice!).
If connection speeds are your main concern
The reality is that if speed is a problem for you, that is something that you need to discuss with your ISP. A few common reasons for high ping and packet loss are poor local infrastructure. If the Internet cables in your house are old or damaged, you could suffer severe Internet speed disruption. If the cables are connected badly to the junction box you could also suffer severe problems.
In addition, you want to ascertain that the junction box (splitter) is data rated and that you are connected to the very first junction box as the connection enters the house. These physical problems have the biggest negative effects on data speeds, and your ISP should resolve these issues first if you think there is a problem.
Beyond that, it could be a modem problem or simply the data package you are on. If your ISP is providing slow internet you may have to pay for better download and upload speeds. In the end, however, please remember that speed issues are ISP related and a VPN is very rarely a quick fix (that some liars make it out to be).
But I have seen a VPN claiming it will lower my Ping!
At times, VPN services mistakenly advise people that a VPN will speed up their Internet. They suggest this using the flawed logic that if you are 10,000 km from the gaming server – and the VPN is only 30 km from the server – then clearly 30 km will have less ping. However, the data still has to travel another 9,970 km to get to you, and the overhead of the VPN connection will very likely lower your speed overall.
Remember a VPN will speed up some people’s Internet if they have routing issues – but this is a minority (but it is worth giving it a go if you have slow net, and most good VPN providers have a money back guarantee for you to test them).
Why get a VPN for gaming?
By this stage in the article, you may have become disheartened. Why the hell would I get a VPN for gaming? You might be thinking. The good news is that there are definitive reasons to get a VPN for gaming. So, let’s take a look:
- DDoS attacks. When playing games in a tournament, it is commonplace for players to mount DDoS attacks against their opposition in order to freeze their ability to play. DDoS attacks can wipe out gamers’ chances of winning, sometimes for hours at a time.
A VPN is the solution because it stops an opposing player from being able to target your true IP address with a DDoS attack.
- Routing Internet in a more effective way. At times some ISPs will route traffic in a way that is counter-productive to your needs. Many websites will tell you to connect to a server as close to the server that you are playing on as possible. However, this is not always good advice.
Some VPN servers are faster than others, and some servers won’t help to route your traffic faster. For example, if you’re in North Africa playing a game on UK servers and your traffic is going to Netherlands > France > Spain > Morocco > and onwards to you: you might actually be better off connecting to a server in Spain than one in the UK. Why? This might result in your Internet being routed like this: UK > Spain > Africa.
There is no precise science to this, and all I can say is that it is worth looking at the possible routes your traffic is taking by looking at a map of the world’s internet routes. Then join various VPN servers to see if you can re-route your traffic effectively. Try a number of countries between you and the gaming server, as well as in the country where the gaming server is located. If one is faster – this is the one for you.
- Playing games against players that speak the same language as you. If you are living abroad, or are on vacation, your IP address may mean that when you join the gaming servers you have to play with or against people from that country. If you don’t speak the local language this can ruin your gaming experience.
By connecting to a VPN server close to where you usually live or in your native country, you can play against your old friends and people that speak your native tongue. This is an excellent reason to get a VPN for gaming.
- Find easier opponents. For people that want to increase their character’s multiplayer rank a VPN is also an excellent option. Some places in the world tend to have an easier standard of players than others. This can be a cultural phenomenon (some places in the world simply aren’t conducive to putting in as many hours of practice as others). By playing against opponents that live in a nation where gaming is less of a commitment, you may win more often and improve your overall ranking.
- Getting to play games first. There are times when games get released in some places a little bit earlier than elsewhere. For diehard gamers that want to start acquiring points (to be as high up in world league tables as humanly possible), every minute counts. By using a VPN to “tunnel” into the country where the game gets released first, players can pretend to be from that country and start playing the game as soon as it goes live.
Do bear in mind, however, that at times games may be released with different regions. This means that this tactic won’t work. In addition, it can be against rules (like Steam) so do a bit of research before you decide to play a game first. Having said that, many people do use VPNs for this very reason!
All in all, a VPN can be a fantastic tool for people who love online gaming. However, for the reasons mentioned in this article not every VPN is suitable. For playing games, consumers require a VPN that provides the very best connection speeds. Please bear this in mind when selecting a VPN, as many cheap VPNs simply aren’t suitable for the job.