Online gaming has increased exponentially over the last five years, but besides all the fun to be had, that increase has brought with it some unsavory consequences; unsafe connections and downloads. Unsecured Wi-Fi connections, geo-restrictions, and DDOS attacks are all problems when gaming online. The solution? A VPN…
We recommend ExpressVPN for online gaming, read on to find out why.
Play Online Games World-Wide
With more than 155 million people playing video games in the US alone, gaming today has become a mainstream form of entertainment more than ever. Video games provide a way to escape the outside world and can be used as a social tool to connect with others. A place where family and friends can come together. Forget the world of real football, the fastest-growing sport is now live video gaming. The digital revolution has provided a huge rise in eSports (electronic sports) gamers with a global audience reaching 385 million in 2017 and a year-on-year growth of 41%. These record-breaking numbers continue to skyrocket year upon year.
Online games have been increasing in awareness not only with the rise of films; think World of Warcraft and Assassins Creed but also in the form of tournaments. Halo, for example, created the Halo Championship Series with a prize pool of $50,000 to put their game back on the map. The physical viewership and players of eSports have clearly increased in tandem with competitions and events. The League of Legends World Championship is a prime example. Those who go to these kinds of events are far more likely to play the game more frequently and buy other games and related merchandise.
Online gaming adds another dimension to the gaming experience, allowing users to connect with others around the world. People love the competitive as well as team playing nature of the games, seeing it as a challenge. We love a bit of friendly (or not so friendly) competition.
Here’s a list of the most popular types of games (and some of the top ones in the field):
- Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) -World of Warcraft, TERA, Final Fantasy, Guild Wars,
- Simulations – Sims, Planet Coaster, Flight Simulator X,
- Real-Time Strategy (RTS) – Company of Heroes, StarCraft, Total Annihilation
- Stealth Shooter – Invisible, Inc., Hitman: Blood Money
- First-Person Shooter (FPS) – Call of Duty, Overwatch, Half-Life
- Role-Playing Game (RPG) – Anachronox, Final Fantasy, Diablo
- Sandbox – Minecraft, inFAMOUS, Grand Theft Auto III
- Platformer – Mario, Crash Bandicoot
- Puzzle – Tetris, Portal, Candy Crush
Common Issues with Online Gaming
While online gaming can be great fun there are a variety of issues associated with them, particularly when it comes to access and safety.
The first main issue comes in the form of geo-restrictions. Downloadable content (DLC) may only be available in certain countries due to region-specific games, meaning geographical borders can act as physical barriers when it comes to downloading certain games. Players in China may find that they can’t play American games online due to their geographic location, and vice versa. The video game Rift is a prime example and is only currently available in North America, Europe, and Australia.
The second big issue is that due to most games taking place online, especially with the rising increase in MMO games and eSports, gamers are vulnerable to DDoS attacks via your IP address. DDoS attacks are becoming not only more frequent but also more severe, occurring every day in the gaming industry.
Over the years, Nintendo, Xbox Live, and League of Legends have all suffered DDoS attacks. Blizzard has experienced more than 12 critical attacks since April 2016 leaving their users unable to play their games. A fellow gamer may attack a competitor at a critical stage in gameplay and threaten to totally disrupt the game – unless the target pays a ransom. In other words, this is known as a form of trolling. And, due to gaming accounts being linked to your personal information, this can leave it an appealing target for hackers and cybercriminals.
The last big issue is something that can affect the fluidity of gameplay and change the entire gaming experience itself: speed. Long lag times can mean the difference between life and death, especially when you have bullets flying at you on COD.
A VPN for Gaming Can Solve Those Issues
Thankfully there’s a way to get around these restrictions…
A VPN is a virtual private network that will encrypt your data, and give users the ability to choose servers from other countries and locations. This means that you can effectively get around the geo-block issues – and be able to gain access to games that may only be available in other regions. That means, if you have a friend in another region, this could knock down the ‘virtual’ wall and allow the two of you to play together.
A VPN is also capable of mitigating the threat of DDoS attacks, because a VPN hides your true IP address. Not only that, but the security and encryption will make your gaming experience completely anonymous. This will not only protect against DDoS attacks, but also keep your voice chat server protected against hackers and keep your network secure for LAN (local area network) games.
Some VPNs even claim to lower ping and lag time. A VPN may give you access to a server that is performing better and even re-route your network and find a faster network between you and the game server – we suggest that you take this with a pinch of salt though, as the opposite can also be true.
Additional Benefits of a Gaming VPN
Other benefits of using a VPN for gaming include:
- Bypassing IP bans – Did you get banned from one of your all-time favorite games? By changing your IP address with a VPN, you can get back in there.
- Gain access to games not yet released in your country – yes, you can do that! If you live in the US and a game was just released in South Korea, you can get early access.
- Access other marketplaces – Online game stores and Steam may only accept payments from certain countries. With a VPN you change your server location and match up with the country where those games are available.
- Protect from third parties snooping – Having an open connection to a game is a security risk. Hackers can gain access to your private data or snoop on you. A VPN will keep you on safe ground.
The Best VPN for Online Gaming
If you want the best VPN for gaming to enhance your gaming experience, there are certain features that your VPN should have. With so many VPNs to choose from, here we’ve listed a few that make the ideal VPN for gaming. The following features have all been taken into consideration, and are the component that makes up a great VPN for online gaming.
A VPN should have:
- High speed and unlimited bandwidth – you wouldn’t want your game lagging or pausing at a crucial moment. Unlimited bandwidth is also ideal as games can eat away at bandwidth like no tomorrow.
- Strong encryption levels – network tunnels should be foolproof in order to stop hackers from getting their hands on your private information.
- Many servers to choose from – If you want to gain access to games that are geo-blocked, you need to make sure that your VPN of choice has servers in said country. The more servers, the wider your options.
- Support many devices – a good VPN should be able to support a variety of devices including gaming consoles.
- No traffic logs – this will make sure there are no breadcrumbs left behind, so no third parties will know about your activities. Particularly important for trying to access games that have not been released yet in your region.
The best VPN for gaming has to be ExpressVPN. It has unlimited bandwidth, servers in many countries, and super strong 256-bit encryption. ExpressVPN also has unlimited bandwidth with stable connections to ensure that the connection does not drop mid-game. The VPN also comes with a VPN extension for Chrome making it easy to secure your connection instantly. The extension is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux too! On top of that, ExpressVPN functions well on all operating systems including PC and game consoles including Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo and more!
- $12.95 a month
- $9.99 a month for a six-month plan
- $6.67 a month for a 15-month plan (including three months free!)
- 30-day money-back guarantee
NordVPN is also one of the top VPNs available on the market and takes encryption very seriously. With a massive 1,374 servers to choose from, spread across 61 different countries, gamers can be sure to find a speedy server in their chosen country. One of the huge benefits of NordVPN is the ability to connect up to six devices at once. So you can connect your phone, PC and gaming consoles simultaneously.
- $11.95 a month
- $7.00 a month for a six-month plan
- $5.75 a month for a 12-month plan
- Special deal: $3.29 a month for a 24-month plan
- 30-day money-back guarantee
SaferVPN is a fast and simple provider that gets the job done with no fuss. Using strong 256-bit encryption technology, it is very easy to use and comes with unlimited bandwidth and high speeds – a great VPN for gaming. With more than 700 servers in over 36 countries, it doesn’t offer quite as much location choice as some other VPNs, but it should leave enough choice. The VPN can be connected to multiple devices including game consoles and performs very well.
- $9.99 a month
- $6.99 a month for a six-month plan
- $5.99 a month for a 12-months plan
- $2.99 for a month for a two-year plan
- 30-day money-back guarantee
PrivateVPN is one of the few true no-log VPNs, making sure that all of your activity is totally private. When it comes to privacy it is right at the top of the pack. The only hiccup is that PrivateVPN only has 80 servers, spread across 56 countries. This means there is wide country choice but few servers inside each country. If the connection were to drop, it could be hard to find another server in the country you wish to connect to. This ultimately means that the performance can sometimes be a bit low. If you wanted to set up the VPN to work on a gaming console, you would need a router that supports VPN. You could also share the internet connection via computer but this process is a little complex. Overall, PrivateVPN is a decent VPN with a great plus of being able to connect to six devices simultaneously and is very cheap.
- $8.21 a month
- $5.63 a month for a three-month plan
- $4.15 a month for a 13-month plan
- 30-day money back guarantee
IPVanish is another great choice of VPN for online gaming, boasting high speeds and up to five simultaneous connections. With over 1,000 servers in over 60 countries, it’s not surprising that customers boast of its high-performance levels, particularly while gaming. The VPN is compatible with the majority of devices, including Xbox and has secure encryption levels (256-bit AES). IPVanish does not throttle bandwidth, so you can log as many hours of gameplay as you wish.
- $10.00 a month
- $8.99 a month for a three-month plan
- $6.49 a month for a 12-month plan
- seven-day refund policy
HideMyAss does provide a wide network of servers in multiple countries, but they also have some issues. Some of the main drawbacks include issues with the speed. We noticed that connection speeds can be really slow and sometimes the connection drops altogether. Whereas with ExpressVPN, we always had a strong, fast connection. You can use HideMyAss for secure gaming, and they are an affordable option, but you could find yourself extremely frustrated with the connection problems right in the middle of your game. Another drawback we noticed was that many customers complained that HideMyAss did not honor their 30-day money-back guarantee.
- $11.52 a month
- $8.33 a month for a six-month plan
- $6.56 a month for a 12-month plan
- 30-day money-back guarantee
Which VPN Protocol is Best for Online Gaming?
A VPN protocol serves as the commander between two devices, to determine a secure encrypted connection. Some VPN protocols are better and more secure than others. The best protocol for online gaming is PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol). Originally developed by Microsoft, it may not be as secure as some of the other protocols, but it is highly recommended for use when specifically gaming as it makes sure to avoid drastic speed loss due to its minimal encryption. Unlike OpenVPN (among others) where speed loss will be highly noticeable. If you want to be a bit more secure, Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol should be used as it incorporates the best of PPTP, though it will be a little slower.
Do VPNs Give Online Gamers an Advantage?
In short – yes.
But why you ask?
Because having a VPN in your armor means you be the first to play new titles! You can gain access to geo-blocked games and multiplayer titles and all the while keep your data protected while evading DDoS attacks. With a VPN by your side, you can make sure to never again be victim to ISP data throttling. In some cases, games can even cut latency improving your gaming experience.
How to Set-Up a VPN for Online Gaming
This generally depends on the VPN that you have decided to download as well as what type of device you are connecting to. In this example we will go through how to set-up a VPN for online gaming via Windows:
- Download the VPN software to your computer
- Make sure the game isn’t running in the background
- Install and run the VPN by following the steps provided
- Log in using your VPN account
- Choose your server location to fit your needs
- Choose from the provided protocols and then connect
- Start gaming! Any gaming you now take part in will be through the VPN
Is it Legal to Change VPN Server Locations while Online Gaming?
In short, VPN use is legal with only a few exceptions (such as in Iran). But while the use of a VPN is perfectly legal, any illegal activity that you do online will simply remain illegal, regardless of whether you are using a VPN or not. Using a VPN for simply gaming is therefore perfectly legal.
Does Using a VPN to Connect to More Servers Increase or Decrease Ping in Online Gaming?
Some VPNs claim that they can lower ping times. Though again, this depends on the VPN and the server that you connect to (as well as how many people are using that server). By jumping between a few servers of a solid VPN, you should be able to find one that can actually lower your ping time, improve latency issues and hence perform better. With a gaming VPN, your connection to the game server will have the smallest number of ‘hops’ making your data travel faster to the server and making online gaming all the more fun.
Are all VPNs Good for Gaming?
Users should be aware, that not all VPNs are good for gaming. Users should be wary of free VPNs in particular, as they cannot compare to the features offered in a paid service. Even when it comes to paid VPNs, each and every one is different. Users should try to use the best VPN for gaming. This would be a VPN with strong encryption levels, a high number of servers, and a VPN that offers the right protocols for a good gaming experience. ExpressVPN and NordVPN would be our top two picks. For more information on these VPNs and more, see above.
Can I Use a Free VPN for Online Games?
As mentioned above, using a free VPN for online games is not advisable. Though it is possible to use one, gamers may become frustrated with the results. Free VPNs often have long lag times which is not ideal for gaming. The majority cannot offer the same high encryption levels and may not have as many servers spread across the globe to choose from. If you are unsure which VPN to go for, be sure to look out for free trials or take advantage of the money back guarantee. This will effectively allow you to trial the VPN for up to 30 days!
The Most Dangerous Game is Not Arming Yourself with a Gaming VPN
When facing off against competitive opponents in online play, the last thing you need is a glitch or lag in the game. That could literally be the difference between life and death – ah, the frustration! When playing multiplayer games you leave your account vulnerable to hackers. Hackers may not only hijack your entire account (after all that hard work), but could also steal your personal information associated with the account itself.
Be sure to arm yourself with a high-quality VPN and make gaming fun and risk-free!