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 creating other problems.
Levelling the playing field
Plus, in multiplayer games, the quality of different people’s 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 the Internet Service Provider. If it’s poor, then consider switching up to a better ISP service if possible.
Once that is sorted, look at the 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 Wi-Fi router, mobile users, console and/or PCs can co-exist on the same network, 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.
However, if there’s already a Wi-Fi router already in place, it may not be fit for purpose, particularly if it is a couple of years old or more (in which case, there is a strong chance outdated firmware and software will be limiting performance) or if it’s a standard-issue one from the service provider (in which case, it is likely to be quite basic, let alone optimized for gaming).
Instead, upgrade the Wi-Fi router, pick 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 features that ensure gaming traffic and devices get priority, particularly when the network is congested, plus the ability to ringfence specified amounts of bandwidth for different devices and set individual prioritization.
Finally, while most of us want a ‘fit and forget’ router, 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?