Are you dealing with terrible lag no matter how many times you call your internet company? Have you been playing international online games such as Phantasy Star Online 2 for months, only to see your account banned because of a European or American IP address?
The networking world is in a constant state of change, and there’s always new theories covering how to best serve as many good customers at once. Some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) create fast, but erratic service to suit only the major of users browsing the web, and some companies block customers who may not bring in as much money for the resources they consume.
To understand why the internet causes such odd, seemingly simple to fix problems for gamers, here are a few online gaming details along with ways that a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service can help.
Regional Blocking And Online Gaming
Many online games are limited to a specific country or region. In some cases, it’s to make sure that local publishers and operators get the funds they need from customers that can play the game with fewer distance and lag issues. In other cases, it’s population control.
Gamers and poor communication don’t mix. This may sound funny to anyone who plays online games for more than a day, because the internet is a toxic, scary, and often hilarious place, but language barriers aren’t easy for the typical gaming group.
There are always exceptions, but many online game players have conflicts with foreign language gamers who can’t understand instructions or can’t be understood. Some simply refuse to play with people they perceive as different, but language is the main indicator of difference as far as networking policy is concerned.
Lag is another issue. The internet is fast, but the world isn’t at the point where communication is truly instantaneous. Gamers measure lag in milliseconds, with many people complaining about over 100ms being too much. Gamers on even popular and highly-equipped games such as World of Warcraft, Modern Warfare, League of Legends, or Fortnite may see upwards of 300ms on a perfect connection when crossing oceans to play.
For most people, the best advice is to play on a regional server. You’ll have less lag in most cases, and there’s a greater chance of people speaking your language. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule.
People who aren’t from their host country may want to play online with their home country friends and family. If a game company blocks off people from other regions, a vacationing gamer or immigrant may not be able to access their game.
Many gamers played on games that lacked regional servers. If a game existed only in the United States, Japan, Korea, or Germany people would have to play on servers in one of those countries. When a regional server opens in their home country or somewhere in their region, do they have to give up their years–sometimes decades–of friendships and progress for lower ping?
A VPN can get around those issues by giving you an geolocation that looks local to the servers. Especially when playing internationally, you may see a more stable connection through a VPN.
Network stabilization is more of an exception than a feature, but there’s no harm in trying while benefitting from the other great features of your VPN of choice. The reasons can vary, such as restricting the different routes that your data takes to something that the VPN prefers for better performance, or avoiding bad hop points (destinations in the middle of the data’s trip) thanks to advanced VPN routing.
Understanding Internet Throttling
Throttling has become a major topic on the internet because it’s hard to figure out how and why certain ISPs throttle their customers. First, consider the main, legitimate reason to throttle internet access.
The internet is not an unlimited resource. Just like your home/business network and home/business internet, there is a bandwidth that a service provider needs to consider. That bandwidth is spread out across all customers, and unlike home users dealing with friends and family members or specific devices, ISPs have to promise a certain amount of speed to each customer.
Internet use has exploded multiple times. There are so many dates that can be cited, but the main point is simple: home internet got popular too fast for ISPs to catch up with, and regardless of profit discussion, there are a lot of labor needs and laws that get in the way of upgrading everyone.
To keep their internet fair while maintaining a profit and not spending too much on repairs and upgrades, ISPs may throttle high-volume users. They won’t say it out loud because it just becomes a legal argument of exceptions and catches, but the big culprit is people who download and upload hundreds of gigabytes or even multiple terabytes per day.
Being able to do that without restrictions is great, and this isn’t a lecture on being fair. It’s simply a fact: ISPs want to limit users so that all customers can get a fair share.
The Dishonest Side Of Throttling
Unfortunately, throttling isn’t always fair.
In some internet service markets, ISPs haven’t upgraded their customers to match modern needs. Instead of upgrading, some ISPs may sell a certain speed, but silently throttle all customers and hope no one notices.
It’s a clever plan that would work if the ISP isn’t aggressive. Many internet users barely use their maximum internet speeds, especially users with 100mbps or more. Although computer power users scoff at that speed when it comes to downloading and updates games, people who only check the web or stream videos may have no idea what they’re buying.
Customers who have no idea what they’re buying will rarely notice their speeds being throttled if they’re not putting the connection through heavy use. Unfortunately, it costs ISPs time and money to target those specific users, and blanket (wide-area and general population) throttling is applied to everyone.
Another form of throttling comes from targeting specific tasks. If an ISP wants to avoid being accused of throttling with standard speed tests, they may set a limit on specific traffic. To understand this, understanding network ports is helpful.
When you use any network, you’re also using a digital/logical system called ports. A port is a number that designates a specific type of traffic. Just like real life shipping ports for boats or trucks, specific ports only allow specific cargo vessels to enter and transfer goods.
Another way to understand ports is to consider each port as a door, and only specific types of traffic can enter a specific door. This Well-Known Ports list shows a few industry, standard ports that network professionals should know to do their job.
Port 80 and Port 8080 are designated for traffic that goes to your web browser for web traffic with the HTTP service. 443 is for HTTPS, and 53 is the Domain Name Service (DNS) that translates website names (with letters and numbers) to IP addresses (Internet Protocol addresses with octets, such as 192.168.0.1).
Most internet traffic has a port number, and those ports have to be open for that traffic to enter. You can do more than open and close ports, such as setting port triggers on other devices to slow down internet speed for only that traffic.
This means that downloading, streaming, accessing specific websites, or other activities become slower while the speed test and other activities look fine.
Gaming VPN Summary
Whether you’re trying to get around a regional IP block, avoid internet throttling, or stabilize an international connection, a VPN can help. You can download a Windows-based VPN https://surfshark.com/download/windows, or consider an Android VPN APK if you’re a mobile gamer.
Contact a network professional to figure out if there’s a service that fits your needs, along with other features and techniques that can keep you connected and secure.