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Does a VPN Slow Down Gaming?

31 August 2021

If you’ve ever stared at a loading screen, you know the pain that comes with waiting for a game to load. People aren’t too keen on wasting time in general, so when it comes to leisure activities like gaming, high-powered rigs are typically the go-to option for saving precious gaming time.

Moreover, since a lot of games are online nowadays, they require a relatively fast internet connection. Even those that are not online will usually have frequent updates that have to be made online. Either way, having a good internet connection is pretty much a must for modern-day gaming.

One of the most common inquiries about virtual private networks (VPNs) is the dilemma of connection speed. More specifically, how and if using VPNs can slow down the connection to the point where games become unplayable.

If the MythBusters were still around, they could probably dedicate an episode to this one alone. Without any further ado, let’s discuss if and to what extent a VPN can impact your gaming speed.

Does a VPN Slow Down Your Internet Speed?

VPNs are a service that allows users to connect to private servers at any location around the globe. Most people are familiar with personal VPNs. Some even use them regularly — whether to access certain websites, for secure cloud calling, or to binge Netflix specials that are not available in their country.

Without getting too technical, what VPNs do is essentially reroute your internet connection. From your internet service provider (ISP), the net travels to the VPN servers of the provider in question. The process will affect your connection speed since it’s dependent not only on the VPN provider but also on your own internet connection and data plan.

To visualize this, let’s say you live in China and want to download Animal Crossing. Since it’s banned in your country, you wouldn’t be able to buy it from the official store. With a VPN and some account tinkering, however, you could “move” to Ohio, where you would be able to download the game and play it with other players from all over the world.

For this to take effect, the traffic has to travel from your house all the way to the U.S., where the gaming server is, before going back to China — rinse, and repeat. Thanks to the wonders of technology, this will typically only take a couple of seconds, but maintaining that connection uninterrupted might take longer.

In essence, yes, VPNs are always going to be detrimental to your internet speed — but not necessarily to your gaming experience.

How Do VPNs Affect Gaming?

VPNs impact latency, but they’re not always the main culprit. Moreover, there are ways to mitigate your slow connection and have it back up and running at a much faster pace.

Server Distance

If you’re looking for a VPN halfway across the world, the data packet will need a significantly longer time to travel. Most people don’t need to connect to servers that are thousands of miles away, which is why picking a country that’s nearest to your location will amp up the speed significantly.

Obviously, if you have no other option but to connect to a server that is an ocean away, then do so, but make sure to pick a premium VPN provider beforehand. These will include broader country coverage, multiple servers at one location, and high-speed service.

Otherwise, if you just want to ensure that your IP address is hidden, click on the nearest country for anonymity and have yourself a top-quality gaming experience.

Server Cramming

The quest to find the best VPN for gaming usually starts with finding the right server load.

If 100 people are using the same server, chances are it’s going to slow your connection and cause lag for every in-game object in your vicinity. However, if you’ve picked a high-quality provider, you’re likely not going to encounter this issue. This is because most premium providers have an extensive list of servers for each and every specific location. This helps them prevent the lag mess in the first place.

Another thing to do is pay attention to any “quick connect” buttons that will automatically connect you to the fastest server. Finally, a VPN provider may provide you with dedicated IP address for gaming to improve your connection and make your gaming speed faster.

Encryption Quality

VPNs use encryption to keep all of your online activity hidden. This means not being able to access any personal or secure information through gibberish code that supposedly keeps you protected in case of an accidental slip of the tongue during a heated RPG session.

The higher the protection, the bigger the chance of a slower connection. However, this isn’t always the case, and most premium providers use advanced protection to circumvent any chances of this happening. For the best results, keep track of the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), which is the current industry standard for most quality servicers.

Your internet speed may take a small hit — but at least your in-game conflicts won’t turn into real-life hits.

ISP Speed

It goes without saying, but if your internet speed is already slow, a VPN won’t make things any better. However, what ISPs tend to do is throttle bandwidth on specific websites or affect your speed at a certain time of day. This is where rerouting your traffic through a VPN may come in handy — and save you precious quality gaming time.

Final Thoughts

Using a VPN can slow down your gaming, but not on a larger scale. If you know your way around ISPs, you may end up getting more than what you initially bargained for — and actually speed up your connection.

Still, it’s safe to assume that you are free to slice, dice, or climb across your favorite game without any hassle — and some extra security on the side.

Whatever you do, just make sure to level up the experience by using a VPN provider that offers quality protection and high-speed servers.

Get that covered, and as top gamers like to say — GG!