Video gaming and multiplayer games in particular are enjoying a boom in players at the moment, contributed to by the rampant success of battle royale games such as Fortnite and PUBG. The fact that millions of people are taking part in online matches hasn’t gone unnoticed by VPN companies, who have decided to tap into the latest fad.
According to their marketing, such a service gives you the upper hand over the competition because having the right settings will reduce lag and ping, effectively promising a smoother connection. Eliminating latency by introducing a middleman server and forcing the data to travel through extra loops sure sounds like a bold claim, it’s like stating that eating cheeseburgers will help you lose weight. Nevertheless, it’s a myth that definitely deserves a closer look.
The Ugly Truth
It’s a buzzkill but we need to debunk this urban legend right at the start: VPNs won’t make your connection faster, nor do they eliminate any natural latency issues that can occur during your game sessions. The whole point of the system is to reroute internet traffic through one of the VPN company’s servers, encrypting the information and changing your IP address as the data leaves the virtual tunnel. But it also means that an active VPN connection can only slow your connection speed and even increase your latency as the traffic is forced to make a lengthy detour before reaching its destination.
Some users claim that they don’t feel the strain while using a VPN. This is due to the fact that they have a lightning-fast internet connection that means the slowdown is negligible. The side effect that you experience while being protected by a service depends on your base net speed but it won’t change the fact that VPNs will only add to the lag and there are no settings that could elevate that.
VPNs Can Still Be Useful
With that said, there are a few rare cases when a VPN does indeed improve your gaming experience. For example, if your internet provider throttles your internet speed – and in China that’s a common occurrence – then ditching your local IP address in favor of a foreign one will pull the wool over your ISP’s eyes. In this case the VPN helps you exchange a significant local restriction for a much smaller VPN one, so in other words you will ‘gain’ speed.
Connecting to a virtual private network also helps you reclaim access to your favorite game after an IP ban, not to mention the ability to purchase and activate games on Steam that belong to another region, like Russia. Still, it must be said that using a VPN alongside a multiplayer game can be risky business and if you do so then you risk losing your account should the company find out.
So Is a VPN Worth it for Playing Games?
In the end, the claim that VPNs are capable of negating ping and improving your latency while gaming is very deceptive. As Obi-Wan Kenobi would say: “It’s true… from a certain point of view”. Virtual private networks are useful for bypassing regional restrictions, encrypting and protecting your data and getting rid of unnecessary bandwidth throttling imposed on you by an ISP. On the other hand, your online gaming sessions will suffer from it, even if just a little bit. Still, it’s always recommended to subscribe to a professional service whether playing games or not. The internet is full of potential dangers such as malware, trackers, and spying software and so even when doing non-gaming activities an extra layer of security certainly won’t hurt.
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