If you’re reading this, you probably already know a little about Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). But do these essential security and privacy tools help or hinder gamers?
There are a lot of myths circulating regarding the way VPN usage affects gaming, with many people claiming that VPNs offer marginal benefits while slowing down performance. However, while there might be some truth to the accusation about speed – in some cases – VPNs may well have a constructive role to play for gamers.
After reading this blog, you might rethink the way VPNs interact with multiplayer gaming. Or you might stick to unprotected connections, and carry on regardless. Either way, it’s important to set down the facts about how VPNs and gaming work together, so let’s get stuck in and provide a quick run down.
Why Would VPNs be a Poor Fit For Gamers?
Before we talk about the potential benefits of using a VPN for gaming, we need to assess exactly how running a VPN will affect the way games perform. For those who don’t know already, VPNs create encrypted “tunnels” between gaming devices such as desktops or smartphones, and the wider internet – including gaming servers.
Traffic is routed through third-party servers, which anonymize the IP address of users, making it almost impossible to trace the content of their data packets, or what they are doing online. This comes with a slight cost in terms of connection speed, but when using the internet normally, and with a good VPN installed, that cost isn’t disruptive.
So why would that differ for gaming? The answer is that it wouldn’t. And in some cases, the extra processing required to implement encrypted tunnels can add enough latency to make gaming very difficult, if not unworkable. Servers can also go down suddenly, ruining your connection, or cause packet losses between your device and multiplayer servers.
Do Performance Issues Ruin VPNs for Gamers?
You might think these problems would spell the end of the story, but thankfully that’s not the case. If you choose a solid VPN, they will maintain low ping servers that are optimized for gamers and devote sufficient resources to their server banks to ensure that downtime is minimized. This VPN review site offers a good spread of industry-leading providers to help you get started.
VPNs vary considerably across the world (and servers within a single VPN provider can also vary), so gamers will want to hunt down providers that automatically hook them up to the lowest ping, most stable options. Providing they do so, speed and reliability don’t have to be killer issues when combining gaming and VPNs.
Open Up Content Libraries with a Solid VPN
Let’s assume you’ve found a VPN you can rely on, and which delivers excellent speeds. What benefits will that have in terms of your raw gaming experience?
One of the most important reasons to combine VPNs and gaming is simple: freedom. As you’re probably painfully aware. gaming platforms like PSN are increasingly offering region-specific content.
This means that they screen IP addresses to ensure that individuals in certain areas can only access specific games. For some people, that can mean that releases are delayed, or even denied entirely – and VPNs are an effective way to prevent that kind of restriction.
Regional censorship is also a problem in some parts of the world. For instance, the blood an guts action of the Witcher 3 was dramatically scaled back in Japan, while PS4 rogue-like RPG Omega Labyrinth Z was completely blocked by UK censors. Again, VPNs can work around regional blocks, opening up a wider spread of gaming content.
Can VPNs Actually Increase Gaming Speeds?
In some instances, it’s even possible that using a VPN can enhance your ping speeds, delivering smoother multiplayer action.
This sounds counter-intuitive, but there are good reasons to anticipate a speed boost. Data packets transmitted via a VPN can often take a shorter route to game servers than they would via your normal ISP.
Then there’s the very real, but still shadowy issue of ISP throttling. It’s not technically legal, but we know that many ISPs limit speeds of data-hungry users (and gamers are almost always included in this category). VPNs make it very, very tough for ISPs to get a handle on your data consumption, rendering their throttling efforts futile.
So, while you won’t always experience a turbo-boost from VPN usage, it’s definitely a possibility.
VPNs Can Make Gaming Safer
There may also be advantages attached to anonymizing your IP address while using multiplayer servers. Most obviously, this severs the link between the address people see when they dig into your online details and your actual physical location.
In the past, there have been instances of targeted harassment by gamers against women and younger players, as well as stalking by enraged players (and we’ve all seen those kinds of players close up). Displaying your actual IP address is also an invitation to hackers or phishers. But a VPN can instantly divert them to easier prey.
The same applies to unsecured wifi networks. If you play games on your smartphone in public, but don’t use a VPN to shield your IP, you’ll essentially be broadcasting your identity to everyone within range. So gaming unprotected carries numerous privacy risks and ones that can be easily remedied.
Find a Reliable VPN to Supplement Your Gaming Life
We’re not claiming that VPNs are going to revolutionize the way you play online. Their speed benefits are real but can be exaggerated. Privacy isn’t guaranteed, especially if VPN logging practices aren’t watertight. And geo-restrictions can sometimes be tight enough to repel even high-quality VPNs.
However, as VPN providers improve, and gaming companies seek to maximize their revenues, it makes sense to have a look at elite providers like ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, or NordVPN. Most offer free trials, featuring all of the full version’s functionality. So be sure to give them a try. As we’ve seen, the benefits can be very real, so what have you got to lose?