Anyone who’s spent enough hours on multiplayer matches will relate to this. Imagine getting the drop on your opponent who’s been harassing you since the start of the game. You’re about to land the killing blow and enjoy your revenge when all of a sudden, your gameplay starts stuttering. And the guy mysteriously disappears.
And you end up dead by that guy’s hand. Again.
Poor connections ruin the gameplay experience for everyone. Last year, a survey of 1,000 gamers in the U.K. found lag to be the most infuriating problem when playing online. With the pandemic keeping them holed up at home, online gaming is the only way friends keep in touch while playing. Even with vaccines rolling out, this bit isn’t about to change anytime soon.
The good news is that the country’s average broadband speeds have increased since the lockdown began, from 54.2 to 64 Mbps. Nevertheless, there are ways you can make the most out of the boost to your internet and reduce lag.
1. Play Next to Your Router
One of the big reasons ethernet cables haven’t gone away is their reliability. Despite improvements to wireless technology, a cabled connection still provides faster data transfer at up to 10 Gbps (for a Cat6 cable). It’s also less prone to interruptions that often plague wireless connections.
Of course, mobile devices typically don’t have ethernet ports. The next best thing would be to play your games in the same room as your router, if not as close to it as possible. The less distance the signal has to travel to your device, the better the connection.
However, keep in mind that traveling through walls and other barriers can reduce signal strength. That’s where the next tip comes in.
2. Invest in WiFi Extenders
When placed in the right spots, a network of WiFi extenders can provide a better signal all around the house, especially in dead zones. Whether you’re whipping up a snack or doing business in the loo, extenders can provide a stable connection as if the router follows you around.
Unlike a router whose signal has to travel through walls, extenders communicate with one another to create localized hotspots. The router needs to connect to at least one unit directly, but the others can be placed all over the house without worry. As they communicate wirelessly, there’s no need to lay down metres of ethernet cable.
3. Mind the Bandwidth
Bandwidth refers to the capacity of your internet connection to send data over a period. To put it simply, the more devices connected to your router, the more strain they exert. Everyone using their connected devices at the same time can significantly affect speed and reliability.
Then again, telling everyone at home to stop using the internet before entering a multiplayer lobby isn’t exactly sound advice. Fortunately, you can allocate more bandwidth to your PC or device by refraining from downloading large files or streaming 4K videos while playing. Activities that use up your internet tend to leech bandwidth.
Upgrading your internet plan to a faster speed also expands bandwidth.
4. Play with a VPN
Experts say you need at least 3 Mbps to be able to play online reliably. However, increasing your internet speed won’t necessarily translate to less ping since the more pressing issue lies with traffic. Think of it as buying a new sports car. Sure, you might be able to hit the road at faster speeds, but you won’t get to enjoy it in a gridlock.
For this, you need a detour—one that a virtual private network (VPN) can provide. VPNs work by opening up a road less travelled: an encrypted lane that provides the shortest route to your device and back to the server. The shorter the route, the faster the data exchange can happen.
Most VPNs don’t come free, but their benefits—going beyond less ping—outweigh the cost. Since they allow traffic to pass through an encrypted lane, VPNs can enable users to access geo-restricted content. Some players have used them to play games banned in their countries. They also protect users from DDoS attacks, which can happen when a sore loser resorts to such.
Losing to a more skillful player can be disheartening, but losing to excessive lag is worse. Improve your gaming experience with these tips, and the next round may see you bring home that delicious chicken dinner.
Above all else, know when to stop playing. If you’re getting irritated or dizzy, don’t be afraid to call it a day.
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