VPN and Gaming: What Pro Gamers Hide from You
Whether playing casually or competitively in the gamer community, everyone tries to be the best out there. With the rise of competitive esports, rather than being just a hobby, it's turning for some people into a full-time job (We know this is your secret dream !). Pro gamers and even casual gamers often look for ways to improve their gameplay and to "GiT GuD." Whether it's with hardware like an advanced mouse or a mechanical keyboard or with software such as Aim Trainer for FPS gamers, one example of a product with controversy is VPNs, with many VPN companies claiming that VPN can improve their user's gaming experience, so what is the relation between VPN and gaming? And are these claims true? Let's find out together.
What Is a VPN?
VPN stands for (Virtual Private Network); it's a service that sends your data to access a server elsewhere in the world and allows you to function as if you're directly connected to that network.
Almost all VPN companies implement encryption of data to make sure the data used stays safe. Many companies offer a no-logs policy, meaning they don't keep any data stored of what you do while connected to their VPN service.
VPN and Gaming
Let us start with the more obvious VPN and gaming offline. Offline gaming is playing a game that doesn't require a connection to the internet to play. You might be wondering what role a VPN plays when it comes to offline gaming. Well, that would be by downloading the game through torrent.
As piracy is not a pleasant thing (unless you're watching Pirates of the Caribbean or Onepiece), many countries consider it a crime, therefore blocking access to torrenting websites. This is where a VPN service shines.
A VPN can mask your IP and encrypt your data, allowing you to torrent games offline. The no-activity log policy provided by many VPN services means there won't be records of your torrenting.
we do not encourage acts of piracy. Not all acts of torrenting are considered piracy. Games that have no copyrights or are part of the public domain can be torrented legally. Read more on torrent legality here.
Now with the more complex and controversial subject. The online gaming part is more complicated. Many VPN companies claim that using a VPN service can improve your gaming experience. The list of claims goes on and on. We will discuss the major points and talk about whether it's true or not, and highlight the most useful of which.
1. Geo-locked content access
As VPNs are used to get access to geo-locked streaming servers like Netflix, some use it occasionally to get access to games restricted to a certain geo-location. An example of this is when a game like Black desert online was restricted exclusively to Korean players only.
When Blizzard's battle.net got blocked in Iran due to the US sanctions, the only way for people there to play Blizzard games was to use a VPN to bypass this access.
Some governments block games altogether; Australia is a perfect example with a very long list of games banned for many reasons concerning violence and 18+ material in games. A VPN can be the solution you're looking for here.
China is slightly trickier; they have a ban on VPNs, in the form of The Great Firewall of China, while imposing curfew hours on minors playing games and certain games altogether.
Luckily, some VPN companies found a way around this, allowing players in China to bypass this restriction. To read more about VPN and gaming in relation to bypassing the Great Firewall of China, click here.
2. VPN and gaming content early access
This can be achieved using a VPN. However, this is a risky feat, and it's not recommended. When Bethesda released Fallout 4 in 2015, it was available in the Steam store one day earlier in Europe, Australia, Asia, and New Zealand than in the US Steam store.
Many fanatic Fallout players couldn't wait an entire day till they start playing. The zealous players used VPNs to trick Steam and download the game earlier.
Surprisingly (not), Steam did not take kindly to that and ended up blocking many of the users who had to wait extra time to start playing. Hence it is recommended to take care as the relationship between VPN and gaming companies isn't always the best.
3. Accessing gaming servers abroad
VPNs allow players to access gaming servers abroad. This can help if your local server is overloaded or if your local server doesn't have a high enough player count and queueing times are high.
However, in games where changing the server can be done inside the game, this shouldn't be necessary. Using a middle man to connect to a server while encrypting your data should typically worsen your ping rather than improve it.
4. DDoS attack prevention
This is another feature to take into account. With the rise of competitive gaming in the last few decades, some tournament prize pools reached up to $36 million (Dota2 TI). DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks started targeting online games to provide an edge over other players.
A DDoS attack targets your IP address and overwhelms your PC with a huge number of requests causing lag spikes, and it can also target a server, overloading it and causing lag.
In games where split-second decisions are extra-important, this becomes relevant. VPNs act to hide your IP address preventing DDoS attacks from targeting you.
However, it is fair to mention that DDoS attacks can also be countered by using rate limiting, which controls the amount of incoming and outgoing traffic to and from a network without the need for a VPN.
5. ISP throttling
VPN companies often claim that internet service providers often throttle your internet connection while playing online because it uses too much bandwidth. They recommend using a VPN service to mask your data, preventing your provider from monitoring your traffic.
In terms of the reported speed effect by individual users, VPN usage did not speed up gaming connection; rather, it decreased it, even with the fastest of VPNs. That being said, there isn't enough third-party testing to draw a concrete conclusion, and hence the VPN companies' claim is still questionable.
On the other hand, if it's online gaming, then you need to evaluate what your goal is and act accordingly.
P.S: If you’re a noob, please don’t use a VPN and play on my servers. Thanks!
Our top three VPNs recommendations for gaming are:
1. ExpressVPN offers 256-bit military-grade encryption, bypasses geo-restrictions adequately, avoids geo-censorship such as the one implemented by China, and is one of the fastest, if not the fastest of VPNs out there.
Although it is more expensive than other VPNs, we still think its speed advantage over others makes it our top pick when it comes to online games.
2. NordVPN offers similar features to ExpressVPN, including 256-bit Encryption, bypasses geo-restrictions, and avoiding geo-censorship. However, the main difference is in speed and price.
NordVPN has over 5000 servers worldwide, which gives a huge variety of choices to choose from. NordVPN costs less than ExpressVPN, making it a better cost-efficient choice.
When it comes to speed, while Nord is considered one of the fastest, ExpressVPN is faster, and in a world where lag can cost you your PC during a moment of rage, we decided to place speed over price.
3. CyberGhost is another good example of a VPN to assist your gaming experience. They have 6000+ servers spread over more than 90 countries. It includes 256-bit encryption, dedicated P2P servers, and No-spy servers for geo-censorship.
Speed-wise, CyberGhost ranks lower than NordVPN and ExpressVPN. However, the gaming-specific servers make it a good choice. As for the price, it is relatively lower than its counterparts.