Gamers, from pro to casual, invest a lot in their gaming rigs and on the actual games. However, they may all be missing out on getting the best performance and not showcasing their real skills by overlooking one vital piece of their gaming kit: the network.
Common gaming problems like lag, latency and unstable ping, jitter or screen-freezes are often directly attributable to the network connection. While the actual data packets most games send are quite tiny and ultimately don’t take up much bandwidth, other connected devices can get in the way and slow down those little gaming data packets and create other problems.
Leveling the playing field
In multi-player games, the quality of different peoples’ connectivity can mean that not everyone is on the same level playing field. Compare it to car racing: unless everyone has the same spec car, it’s not fair: a good network connection and router can be like having the fastest, best-handling car on the track.
So how do you make sure you’re getting the best network connection? First, start by testing the service from your Internet Service Provider. If it’s poor, then consider switching up to a better ISP service if possible.
Once that is sorted, look at your internal network. While enthusiast or pro-gamers are likely to still opt for a wired solution, the flexibility of wireless connectivity is increasingly the choice for gamers (plus, most routers will have both wired and wireless options).
With a WiFi router, mobile users, consoles and/or PCs can all co-exist on the same network, which is particularly relevant as more games, such as Fortnite and PUBG, are now cross-platform. Whatever the platform, everyone can benefit from a wire-free connection.
If you do have a WiFi router already in place, it may not be fully up to the task, particularly if it’s a couple of years old or more, in which case, there is a strong chance outdated firmware and software may be limiting your gameplay performance. Additionally, if your current router is one that has been issued from your service provider, it is likely to be quite basic, and certainly not optimized for online multi-player gaming.
Look to upgrade your WiFi router by picking one of the latest-generation models, and expect to see a massive improvement, with enough horse-power to support simultaneous users, apps and devices. Go one step further and choose a router specifically designed for gaming and benefit from a host of new features designed to maximize flexible usage and performance. For example, a gaming router with a Geo-Filter should reduce the risk of lag, by automatically connecting the gamer to the nearest server, so reducing ping times (the time to send a signal to the game server or opponent and for them to respond).
Another connectivity-optimizing feature is Quality of Service (QoS), which helps a user decide what type of traffic is prioritized, so gameplay can be smooth, even when bandwidth-greedy apps are also connected. Look for QoS that tackles the challenge in more than one way, for instance, with features that ensure gaming traffic and devices get priority, particularly when the network is congested, as well as the ability to ring-fence specified amounts of bandwidth for different devices and set individual prioritization.
Finally, while most of us want a ‘set-and-forget’ router, you will want to build in some flexibility: choose a solution with an easy-to-use interface when changes need to be made.
The bottom line is that while the network may not be the first thing that many gamers would think about when updating their rig, it is one that can make a real difference. Most gamers would not settle for a cheap headset designed for office use when playing favourite MMORPGs, so why settle for anything less than the best possible network connection?