You hear this everywhere – you should use a VPN for gaming to get a better experience. But just how true is that? Will the best VPNs for gaming really improve your experience? Or is it just an extra hurdle you don’t need to deal with? We’ll tell you everything you need to know in this article.
What Are the Perks of Using a Gaming VPN?
VPNs are software that hide your IP address and encrypt your Internet traffic. In short, they help you bypass geo-blocks, protect your Internet privacy, and secure your data against cyber threats. Of course, that doesn’t mean much given the context. So, let’s take a look at how a VPN improves your gaming experience:
It Protects You from DDoS Attacks
A DDoS attack is when someone floods your network with so much traffic that it’s forced offline. Basically, they disconnect you from the game you’re playing. This is a pretty common occurrence in games like Fortnite, Rainbow Six, and more.
When this happens, you’re often left waiting for an hour or two until you regain Internet access. It’s obviously extremely frustrating.
Well, a VPN can prevent DDoS attacks by hiding your IP. If a wannabe hacker can’t find it, they can’t use it to DDoS your network. Instead, they’ll just target the VPN server. That’s normally not a problem because pretty much all the top VPN providers equipped their servers with anti-DDoS protection.
It Stops Bandwidth Throttling
Bandwidth throttling is when your ISP decides you’re consuming too much data, so they throttle your speeds (slow them down). This can often happen while gaming because it’s easy to lose track of time and spend most of your weekend playing Dota 2, CS:GO, or Fortnite. If your ISP throttles your bandwidth while you do that, you’ll experience laggy gameplay.
If you use a VPN, bandwidth throttling can’t happen. The VPN encrypts your traffic end-to-end, meaning ISPs can’t spy on your data packets anymore. They won’t know you’re consuming data playing a specific game, so they won’t be able to throttle your gaming speeds.
It Might Reduce Ping
A VPN isn’t guaranteed to reduce ping, but it might be able to do it. If you connect to a VPN server in the same country as the gaming server, your traffic might take a more direct route.
For example, if you’re from Japan and play on a French server, your traffic might make different stops along the way: the US, Portugal, and Spain. But if you use a French VPN server, your traffic might go from Japan straight to the French gaming server.
It Lets You Bypass IP Bans
IP bans are sometimes necessary, but it’s also easy for a rude admin to abuse them – especially if you play on a private server instead of an official server. It’s not unheard of admins IP-banning players who are just better at the game than they are.
If that happens to you, a VPN can help. It hides your IP by letting you connect to the gaming server through a new IP address (the VPN’s IP). That address isn’t blocked, so you can start playing immediately after an IP block. If the admin blocks you again, you just connect to a new VPN server and rejoin the game.
The Problems with Using a Gaming VPN
Gaming VPNs are great tools, but they have their drawbacks:
The Speeds Aren’t Always Great
A VPN will always slow down your online speeds. It encrypts your data packets, making them heavier. So it takes longer for your device to exchange data with the VPN server – especially if your device’s CPU doesn’t have encryption/decryption accelerators.
The speed loss isn’t always very noticeable – it mostly depends on your original speeds. If they’re really fast, you should be fine.
The good news is there are things you can do to improve VPN gaming speeds. Here’s what always works for us:
- Connect to a nearby server. The closer it is to you, the faster data packets will travel between your device and the VPN.
- Use a lightweight protocol. Avoid OpenVPN because it’s pretty slow. Stick to WireGuard, IKEv2, and L2TP/IPSec instead. If you use ExpressVPN, you can use the lightning-fast Lightway protocol.
- Change the encryption level if the VPN allows it. Switch from AES-256 to AES-128.
- Game online with a VPN using wired connections, not WiFi. A weak WiFi signal can’t slow down your speeds.
- Use split-tunneling to only route gaming traffic through the VPN. If the VPN ignores extra data from web browsers, instant messaging platforms, and torrent clients, the encryption-decryption process will be faster.
Getting Early Access to Games Is Risky
Video games don’t always release at the same time worldwide. In some cases, you have to wait a few weeks or even months for a game to release in your region.
If you use a VPN, you can get early access. You connect to a server in a country where the game is already released and play it.
Sounds good, right?
Here’s the problem with that – you risk an account ban whenever you do it. Depending on the game or gaming platform’s Terms of Service, the act of using a VPN could be punishable. For example, people who used VPNs to unblock Fallout 4 on Steam early risked getting banned. Steam’s ToS clearly say that doing that is against the rules:
“You agree that you will not use IP proxying or other methods to disguise the place of your residence, whether to circumvent geographical restrictions on game content, to purchase at pricing not applicable to your geography, or for any other purpose. If you do this, Valve may terminate your access to your Account.”
The Bottom Line
Gaming VPNs are great, just make sure you use them right (stop bandwidth throttling, reduce ping, prevent IP bans and DDoS attacks). Don’t use them to get early access to new games, otherwise, you might get banned. Also, keep in mind VPNs can slow down your gaming speeds (only sometimes, though).
If you have more information to add to this discussion, please leave a comment.