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A Virtual Private Network — or VPN for short — is an Internet security measure. This technology allows you to mask your IP address, which tells people what computer you are using and where it is located. VPNs also secure the data you send and receive so that hackers and others cannot intercept it for their own nefarious purposes.
VPNs have been used for years in corporate settings and now they are being utilized for online gaming. You will find providers targeting gamers with their advertising, making bold claims about what a gaming VPN can do for their experience. While many of these claims are hyped up marketing, a VPN offers some functions that improve online gameplay and allow users functionality they would otherwise be lacking.
1 - Get Access to Geo-locked Games
Some online gaming content is restricted to particular regions or countries. This is referred to as geo-blocking. Setting up a VPN allows you to decide which server you're connecting to by hiding your IP address behind one that is in the region you want.
The majority of online multiplayer games can be played throughout North America, Europe, and parts of Asia. However, there are some countries that pass restrictions on which companies can operate within their borders, which prevents any game produced by a restricted company from being played in that country. In other instances, governments can block certain games outright.
In these limited instances, a VPN can help you to circumvent regional restrictions and access your favorite games.
2 - Reduce Latency
This is a huge factor in online gaming. Latency, or ping, is the amount of time it takes for a signal to get from your computer to the server and back again. It's the single most crucial factor in an online gaming experience, especially for multiplayer games like PubG and Fortnite where players are shooting at each other in real-time.
Many think a VPN adds an extra step to the process which will slow down the user’s connection, but that isn't always the case. In fact, a VPN may actually improve ping by bypassing the intricate internet traffic routing of a traditional Internet service provider (ISP).
For example, if you are in the U.S. and you are connecting to a game server in Japan, a VPN allows you to connect directly to that server as if you were in Japan. A non-VPN connection goes from where you are in the U.S., to the U.K., then Sweden, then somewhere in Asia before finally reaching the server in Japan.
3 - Protect Yourself from a DDoS Attack
Online gaming is a major industry with competitive gaming increasing in popularity. As such, there are a growing number of attacks that target a gamer’s IP address to bring their connection down. Known as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, using a VPN to disguise your IP address can prevent you from being targeted.
For the most part, these attacks are merely an irritation on your end, without much damage done. The real target of a DDoS is the game itself. However, if hackers can get in and stop you from playing a game, they can get in for other reasons as well. A VPN can help to keep hackers out and prevent the interception of information sent across the internet.
4 - Create a Local Network
In the early days of gaming, the local area network (LAN) was the epitome of gameplay. LAN allowed gamers to connect multiple computers over one network and play together in the same room, evolving into large scale LAN parties.
Today, there are tools that allow you to set up a LAN over the internet so you can play with others as if they were in the same room even if they're on the other side of the world. More than a blast of nostalgia, this adds a level of security to gaming sessions by disguising your LAN behind the protocols of the VPN.
A gaming VPN can improve latency and security while reducing vulnerability and restrictions. How much it will improve your gaming experience depends on which VPN you choose, how you use it, and other factors unique to your specific situation. It's simply another tool at your disposal.