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    Latency in gaming: what it means & how to fix it

    Latency in gaming: a guide, and how to fix it

     

    Latency in gaming refers to network lag, or ping, that causes your eGaming experience to slow down. Here, we’ll unpack the concept in full, so you can understand the causes, and handle it yourself.

    The global eSports industry is worth a staggering $1.4billion and is forecast to grow rapidly in the coming years.

    And it’s no surprise.

    As the internet becomes a fixture for billions of people, your humble computer offers a gateway to meet, create and play with other humans in infinite different settings.

    If you’re a keen gamer, you’ll know that your gaming experience relies on the performance of your network. So in this article, let’s dive into one frequently searched concept: gaming latency. We’ll tackle what it means, what causes it and how to manage it for the best possible gaming experience.

    What is latency in gaming?

    In the context of gaming, latency is the delay between you giving a command, and the game executing it. This delay is the time it takes to transmit data packets over a network, and is closely associated with another issue called packet loss. The longer it takes for data to make the return trip between your device and the game server, the greater the latency.

    Why does latency matter for gamers?

    Speed is a crucial element for any gamer. As a real-time experience, gaming only functions when the communication between the game and the players is instant.

    A delay of even a few milliseconds between command and response could change the outcome of a game. This means it takes very little for latency to be considered significant.

    Latency causes poor user experience

    This is a problem because delays hinder the user experience, and also make it more or less impossible to compete.

    Rubberbanding

    In severe cases, latency can mean that some data packets may never arrive at all. This means vital interactions with the game may be lost altogether. This distorts your gameplay and creates an undesirable visual effect called “rubberbanding”. This is when objects in the game jump from one place to another without passing through the space in between. This is sometimes also known as warping.

    With competitive gaming flourishing thanks to a boom in online tournaments, the quest to minimize latency and other technical issues should be top of the list for every player.

    What causes latency in gaming?

    You’re probably wondering what causes latency to begin with. There is more than one answer here, so let’s take a look at the different factors that might contribute to your ping.

    Bandwidth limitations

    Bandwidth is a measure of how much data can be transmitted over your internet connection at once. In other words, it indicates how many connected devices and individual apps can run smoothly in tandem, using the same connection.

    Your maximum bandwidth allowance depends on your internet service provider. But the amount of bandwidth available for your gaming depends on which other devices are simultaneously drawing from your internet connection. This means your latency will be increased when someone else in your household is streaming, downloading or using a video call app.

    Distance from server

    Gaming is a transmission of data between your ISP server and the game’s server. The further you are from your ISP server, the longer the process will take – and the more likely you are to encounter ping. 

    Outdated router

    Router latency refers to lag caused by your router equipment. This might be because the hardware itself is outdated and needs to be replaced. The router box can also simply be too far from your device, or stored in a place that creates internet “weak spots” in your home.

    How to reduce latency in gaming

    OK, so now you know all the potential causes of latency in gaming, let’s talk about what you can do to fix it.

    Reduce network congestion

    As you know, the more apps, devices and users are simultaneously consuming network data, the more latency you’ll experience.

    Reduce the competition for data by minimizing the number of apps running on your system, as well as the number of people using the connection simultaneously, if possible.

    Use a VPN to change server

    Your physical distance from your server is a critical factor in your latency. But luckily, it’s also pretty easy to change.

    Using a VPN allows you to access the whole network of servers owned by your VPN provider. This means you can simply switch servers to one that is geographically closer to you. This is one more way to reduce latency on your network.

    Give your router some attention

    Once you’ve checked your networking hardware, make sure it has the most recent updates installed. And if this doesn’t work, try experimenting with the location of your router in your home, making sure it’s not in an internet blackspot.

    Increase your network bandwidth

    To increase your network’s overall bandwidth, you can find an internet contract with greater bandwidth allowance.

    Go forth and game

    So there you have it – an exhaustive guide to latency, and how to handle it. Of course, the first step for anyone looking to level up their gaming experience is diagnosing the problem.

    If you want to measure the lag in your network objectively, platforms such as Ping Test can be a good place to start. We talk more about ping testing in our article about a closely related issue called packet loss. The better you understand what’s under the bonnet of your internet connection, the more fun you can have.

    Happy gaming.

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