Video games are a great hobby, so it is no surprise that there are nearly three billion gamers in the world. Thanks to the internet, we can buy games online or even enjoy multiplayer games with friends on the other side of the world.
But if you are not careful, gaming online can expose you to hackers, regional restrictions can waste your money, and ISPs can throttle your network speeds. This guide will explain how a VPN can overcome these problems and get you the best gaming experience possible.
What does the internet have to do with gaming?
The days where you bought games at a store are dying: in 2020, digital sales outnumbered retail purchases the first time. Buying games online is convenient, but you will need a fast internet connection to get them in a reasonable time frame due to the large download sizes.
In recent years, multiplayer games where you compete with other people over the internet have also become popular. Some examples include:
- Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
- Fall Guys
You need a fast and consistent internet connection to enjoy these games properly.
Finally, there are services like Stadia, which stream gameplay over the internet to let you play high-end games on low-powered hardware. However, you need every bit of speed you can get.
Risks of online gaming
The internet has done a lot for gaming — if nothing else, online walkthroughs are lifesavers. But it has also made some things worse, namely regional restrictions, hacking, and speed throttling.
Where you live has a significant impact on how you enjoy video games.
A famous example is regional release dates. Games often come out on different days for different countries — with America often last in line. People have complained about this for at least ten years, and it is unlikely to stop any time soon.
Even worse, regional pricing can make you pay more for a game just because of your living place. In an extreme example, people in the UK for at least ten years more for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive than Brazilians.
Hacking and privacy
We have all been sore losers at one point. But with online games, some people take it to the next level. Business Wire, for example, found a 287% increase in ‘DDoS’ attacks against gamers in 2020 compared to 2019, mainly due to hackers wanting to ruin other people’s fun.
A distributed denial-of-service attack is when a hacker floods your internet connection with data until it becomes unusable. Hackers can also use your IP address to identify and harass you in real life.
Many internet service providers (ISPs) throttle their customers’ network connections. Because ISPs can see the contents of your internet activity, they can selectively throttle gaming traffic. Some networks, such as schools and universities, even block gaming sites and servers entirely with restrictive internet filters.
Network throttling will make it take longer for you to communicate with a game’s servers, giving you a high ping. This can make games you paid for unplayable and even get you banned from online servers.
Why gamers need a VPN
A virtual private network, or VPN, is a private, encrypted way to access the internet. When you use a VPN, your computer routes all your network traffic through one of the VPN provider’s servers.
A good gaming VPN can help you eliminate many of the risks that come with online gaming. Let’s go through the three risks above one by one.
Avoiding regional restrictions
Online storefronts like Steam or Origin determine your location through your IP address. A VPN, however, masks your IP with the address of the VPN’s server.
A VPN lets you change your location online. If a game is the cheapest in Italy, you can connect to a server in Florence or Milan to save yourself some money.
Staying safe online
Are you worried about sore losers coming after you? Because VPNs mask your IP address, anyone who tries to DDoS or dox you can only follow your trail back to the VPN — they won’t see your actual details.
Similarly, nobody can intercept your network traffic and steal your login credentials to gaming platforms like Discord (known as a ‘man-in-the-middle attack’) thanks to the encrypted connection.
Some VPNs slow down your internet connection because it takes time for your network traffic to reach the VPN’s server. But if you use a gaming VPN, which is optimized for speed, you will get all the benefits with a tiny slowdown.
Your speeds can even increase. Because VPNs encrypt your traffic, your ISP won’t be able to see if you are visiting a website, downloading a game from Steam, or playing League of Legends. As a result, automated network throttling systems won’t affect you.
Playing Minecraft or Dota 2 with friends is a great way to spend an evening. With the internet, it has never been easier to use games to find fun experiences or meet interesting people.
But you should never let your guard down. You might be getting ripped off by online storefronts, throttled by your ISP, or targeted by hackers without even realizing it.
Thanks to strong encryption and IP address masking, a gaming VPN helps you stay safe and save money online. It is a valuable tool in almost any gamer’s inventory.