If you’ve heard of virtual private networks (VPN) before, then you’re probably aware that they’re necessary for keeping your identity secure online.
However, there is a level of uncertainty over whether or not a VPN can actually improve your gaming performance. How can you know if a VPN service will actually provide fast connection speeds? Furthermore, if you’re connecting to another server, wouldn’t that raise your ping and latency?
These are common concerns, and they’re very understandable. That’s why we’re here to address them.
How does a VPN work?
First of all, there’s you and your device. Ordinarily, this is connected through the Internet Protocol (IP) to a server hosted by your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
This transmits data your device sends to a target website, which then provides the information you’ve requested.
With a VPN, you are instead connected through the software to a server within the provider’s network. Your information is encrypted on the way there, and then your chosen server is the one that handles your data transmission.
This makes you totally invisible while you’re online. Not only does it look like your requests are coming from a totally different place, but the VPN also hides your real location through its encryption cipher.
Okay, but what does this mean for gamers?
The VPN’s ability of making it appear as though you’re in a different location can be a godsend when someone decides to launch a Distributed Denial-of-service attack (DDoS) on you in petty revenge for no-scoping them.
As the VPN conceals your real location, the whiney loser on the other end of the server cannot target you and disrupt your gaming experience, causing you to lose a match, or drop out of a tournament entirely.
Concealing your location through VPN is also known as geo-spoofing. This can be extremely handy when it comes to accessing content that is not currently available in your location. (Although this can be used to hop across time zones to access new releases earlier, it isn’t advisable: Steam has been known to delay releases altogether to prevent this from happening).
Aside from all those goodies, a VPN simply keeps you private. It means you can game in public locations, such as a café or university common room, without falling prey to the risks of public WiFi’s notorious security flaws.
Will it boost my gaming performance?
That depends on a variety of factors. It depends on where you live, the amount of RAM you’re working with, the strength of your base internet connection, the strength of the VPN servers, and the specific server you connect to.
We’ll tackle this one step at a time. If you live in a metropolitan area with great broadband coverage—London, for instance—you’re more likely to have a stronger internet connection than if you live in, say, the Scottish Highlands.
If you do happen to live in the Scottish Highlands, however, then connecting to a London server could work to your benefit. Alternately, if you connect to a server closer to one of the game’s host servers, then that will reduce your ping time dramatically.
The same goes for your broadband package. As with RAM, this essentially dictates the rest of your gaming experience; poor RAM equals poor performance.
If you’re stuck with a standard, non–fibre optic broadband package, then there’s no way a VPN is going to be able to help you that much.
As for the strength of the VPN servers: that’s relative too. Mostly, that depends on all of the previous factors combined.
Your own experience with a particular VPN service may wildly differ from the experience someone else has, depending at least partially on their location, broadband package, and processing power.
With all of this in mind, though, it’s best to try a few different VPN services. Most of them have free trials available, so give them a bash, too.
Ending the Article:
As we mentioned, this is a highly subjective area, but with the right set-up, a VPN can massively boost your gaming performance.