These days, most games are online. If you play multiplayer games, ping can make a difference. Your ping (sometimes called ping rate or ping time) is the time it takes for messages to get from your device or browser to an IP address and back. Your game or app gives you the result in milliseconds (MS), and that’s an estimate of how much latency you’ll have when gaming. As far as ranges go, anything under 50ms is fast, and 150ms is standard. Of course, you get many advantages from having a lower ping rate.
About high ping times
As a rule, you want to have a consistent level of internet service. However, you can’t always get that. To help lower your ping, you have to look at the common reasons why high ping rates occur. Several things may contribute to a high ping rate.
Here are some of the most common reasons for high ping rates.
- ISP bandwidth throttling happens when your ISP thinks you are using too much data and slows down your connection. While providers who do this are starting to lessen, you still see this. Gaming can take up quite a bit of bandwidth. You’ll use more if you do other things while gaming, like stream your activity or watch your favorite streaming service.
- Network congestion at school or work – If you are at school or even at work (as long as they allow you to play games), you could have high ping rates because of the network. Usually, schools don’t design their networks with gaming in mind. That will definitely cause high ping times.
- Indirect routing – If you live in an area that does not have the best internet or speeds, that may cause your system to have high ping times. That’s due to indirect paths you may have to use to get to the gaming server.
- Location – One issue you may see with some games is the players that live closer to the game servers have an advantage. If you can get closer to the server origins, you may be able to get around that advantage. Whether you are PVPing or playing MMORPGs, some gamers’ lower ping and latency times can make a difference in your gaming experience.
Using a VPN to lower ping
For each of the reasons above, using a VPN can be useful. ISPs decide to throttle users because they see patterns of activity. Often, they use DPI (deep packet inspection). That means they can see what you’re doing. When you connect to a VPN, you encrypt your internet traffic. ISPs won’t throttle connections if they’re encrypted. That’s because the algorithms aren’t sure of what the traffic is.
Additionally, work or school could limit your bandwidth while playing. Because those networks usually try to prevent gaming, the network admin can see what you’re doing. By stopping or slowing down the activity, they try to discourage you from using so much of the network bandwidth. Just as with ISP throttling, you can combat network throttling by connecting to a VPN.
While the shortest distance between two points may be a straight line, that is not always the case with gaming servers. The gaming server won’t give you the most direct route if you are in some areas. Using a VPN will help change your traffic pattern. You’ll want to choose a VPN server close to the game server origins as far as locations go. That will help you take advantage of the distance and could make a difference between beating your opponent or taking a dirt nap.
Can a VPN reduce ping?
It certainly can. It will stop ISPs and networks from seeing your traffic, so they won’t throttle you. Additionally, it will take your indirect traffic patterns and make them more direct and give you the option to choose a location closer to the origin servers. Keep in mind that VPNs won’t solve all of your lag or ping issues. There is only so much it can do to help you. At times, you may see it increase your ping, depending on the circumstances. That’s why it’s important to consider a few things when choosing a provider.
Considerations for gaming with a VPN
Here are some things to look at when choosing a VPN to help you reduce ping time. The VPN should have:
- High-speed next-gen protocols – Having the right protocols is important when you’re battling ping issues. You want to ensure that the provider has the fastest and most secure options. These protocols include ExpressVPN’s exclusive Lightway and others like WireGuard, IKEv2, and OpenVPN. You’ll find Lightway and WireGuard to be the fastest of those options.
- A large network – If you are trying to get closer to the source gaming servers to lower your ping time, your provider needs to have a large network. That way, you can have great choices, no matter where the game originates.
- The ability to mask your activity – All modern VPN providers on our list will do a good job of masking your activity. That way, you won’t have to worry about your ISP or your network throttling your gaming activities.
- Advanced features – While every provider has its own features, several are important to help lower your ping. These include split tunneling, a kill switch, port forwarding, server obfuscation, and others. Of those, split tunneling is likely one of the most important options for gamers.