The world of video games has seen some big changes in recent years. Not so long ago, the best games on the market featured 2D graphics and blocky, bumbling characters. Now, games are on a par with movies in terms of their stories, photorealistic graphics, detailed environments, and rich, expansive worlds.
The game has quite literally changed for all the players out there who enjoy saving Earth from alien invasions, guiding colorful characters around fantasy worlds, or helping their favorite sports teams win the biggest prizes. But one thing that even some of the most hardcore gamers tend to overlook is the many ways in which a VPN can improve your gaming experiences.
A VPN for online gaming? It might sound like a crazy idea at first. After all, the latest online games require the fastest possible connections for the best possible experiences, and even the best VPNs out there will affect your all-important ping. However, even though there might be a couple of downsides, VPNs can offer protection, access to geo-restricted games, and even the possibility of making your games run better overall too.
This guide to online gaming with a VPN will show you some of the many uses that gamers might have for VPNs, the pros and cons of getting a VPN for gaming, and how to find the best possible VPN for your online game experiences.
What Is a VPN and How Does it Work?
A VPN is a Virtual Private Network. When you connect to a VPN, it makes a virtual encrypted tunnel from your computer (or another connected device) to one of many servers operated by the VPN provider. All of your data then travels through this secure tunnel, which masks your identity and protects your connection.
Do Gamers Need a VPN?
So does the average online gamer really need a VPN? Well, if you want to play online games safely and securely, the answer is a resounding yes. There are cheats and hackers out there in many popular online games who can target individual players, launching DDoS attacks to kick you out of the game or even try to hack into your account.
There’s also the fact that many internet service providers actually control or ‘throttle’ your internet speeds when gaming, which can lead to laggy connections and interference in your favorite games. A VPN can get rid of this by preventing your ISP from tracking or controlling your online activity.
Not only that, but if ever you’ve wanted to buy games more cheaply, access game content that is only available in certain regions or countries, or get into game servers that are usually restricted to users in specific parts of the world, a VPN can help you do all of this too. In short, a VPN can both offer protection for your online gaming and unlock a lot of extra doors around the gaming world.
Advantages and Uses of VPNs for Gaming
- Avoid DDoS Attacks – Many gamers fear falling victim to a DDoS attack. A lot of game cheats and hackers use these attacks to boot players off servers and out of games entirely, but when you have a VPN installed, you’ll never have to worry about this issue.
- Buy Cheaper Games – A VPN can even help you buy games cheaper by accessing game stores in other countries and buying titles for less in specific regions. Usually, these stores would block you off, but with a VPN, you can get around any geo-restrictions.
- Unblock Games and Content – Sometimes, games may be released earlier in other countries than your own, or even blocked off entirely in your part of the world. A VPN will let you appear to be in other countries, right from the comfort of your own home, gaining access to exclusive, region-locked content and games.
- Avoid Speed Throttling – As mentioned earlier, some ISPs will actually limit your speeds when they see you doing data-intensive activities like playing online games. With a VPN, your ISP won’t be able to see what they’re doing and will be unable to control you.
- Access Any Server – Many online games have servers set up in different parts of the world and restrict access to those servers depending on a user’s location. With a VPN, you can change your location to anywhere you like, accessing servers in other parts of the world to play with friends and bypass region locks. You can even use this to play in gaming tournaments organized in other parts of the world.
The Possible Pitfalls of an Online Gaming VPN
VPNs for online gaming clearly have some big benefits and almost seem too good to be true. Well, unfortunately, nothing is perfect and there are some possible issues for you to be aware of before diving right in and loading up a VPN for your next big gaming session:
- Ping Time – Ping is one of the most important words in online gaming. It basically refers to the amount of time your gaming device takes to communicate with the game server. The longer the ping time, the more lag you’ll have in-game, so every gamer wants the fastest possible ping available. Since some VPNs can slow down your connection, your ping time may increase.
- Connection Speed – By the same token, since VPNs can have an impact on your connection speed, simply downloading games and updates, finding other online players, and chatting with your friends in-game can take a little longer and be a little slower. However, this only applies to lower quality VPNs that have a negative impact on your connection speed. Many of the best online gaming VPNs out there won’t affect your speed in any noticeable way.
Will a VPN Affect My Speeds?
This is one of the first questions any true gamer has to ask before deciding whether or not to invest in a VPN. The answer is: it depends. It all depends on which VPN provider you choose to go with. Some of them have huge server networks all over the globe and may even have servers close to you or close to the game servers, which can actually lead to slight increases in your speeds and improvements in ping time!
However, at the same time, there are some other VPN providers out there with smaller networks of servers that may actually lead to a rise in ping time and slower speeds in general. This is especially true if, for example, you’re a player in the US using a VPN to access a Japanese server in order to download some Japan-exclusive games or content. The further away the servers are, the longer your ping time will be. It’s simple logic.
What Are the Key Features of a VPN for Online Gaming?
The most important features of a VPN are usually security and privacy, but when it comes to gaming, the main factors you need to pay attention to our speed and the locations of the servers. Gamers need to prioritize fast VPNs with lots of servers in key locations to let them enjoy the same great experiences when playing online and access gaming content from around the world.
Can Free VPNs Work for Online Gaming?
While there are plenty of free VPNs out there, we can’t recommend them for online gaming. Most free VPNs have limits in place in terms of how much data you’re allowed to use each week or month. Since even a single hour of online gaming can use many GB of data, it’s just not feasible to use a free VPN for this purpose. However, if you want to try out a free VPN on your computer for other uses, like hiding your IP address or accessing geo-restricted sites, you may do so.
Can I Use Gaming VPNs on Consoles?
Yes, but it can be a little complicated and it all depends on which VPN provider you use. Some of the best VPN providers actually offer tutorials and guides to help you set up your consoles, like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, with VPN protection. There aren’t console-specific VPN apps at the moment, but you can find ways to set up a VPN on your router, for example, and then connect the consoles to that router so they enjoy VPN protection.
Can I Use Gaming VPNs for Mobile Gaming?
Yes, but once again, it depends on the VPN provider you choose. Many of the best modern VPNs out there come with mobile apps that can work on both Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, letting you play games with added protection and access games or servers that might normally be locked off to certain parts of the world.
How to Choose the Best VPN for Gaming
If you’re interested in getting a VPN for online gaming, we recommend first taking some time to read through reviews, compare your options, and look at the pros and cons of the best gaming VPNs out there. Be sure to consider the servers, speeds, and compatibility options of each one, as well as security and privacy, features too before making your decision.