AVG Signal Blog Privacy VPN Should I use a VPN for gaming?

Written by Sandro Villinger & Ivan Belcic
Published on June 18, 2021

What’s the best VPN for gaming?

The best VPN for gaming is one that gives you a stable and fast connection while letting you access a choice of servers across the world.

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    Here’s what to look for in a good VPN for gaming:

    • Stable connection: Look for a VPN provider committed to consistent server maintenance and improvement.

    • Reputable: You’re entrusting your data to your VPN provider, so pick one you trust.

    • Fast: While a gaming VPN might not improve ping times, a fast VPN is better than a slow one. Find a VPN with fast servers both near your location and in other areas where you might need an IP address.

    • Secure: There’s no point in using a VPN for gaming if it’s going to leak your data. Don’t settle for anything less than super-secure AES-256 encryption — the same type of security used by banks and governments around the world.

    Is a VPN good for gaming?

    By encrypting your internet connection and hiding your IP address, using a VPN for gaming can potentially help you in several ways — granting access to different servers, improving ping and reducing lag, or even protecting you against DDoS attacks.

    Many people use VPNs (virtual private networks) to unblock websites, access streaming content, or tap into their work networks. And many VPN companies have started pitching their services to gamers as a new market. 

    You may see VPN providers make bold claims about improving latency, letting you access unreleased games or games outside of your region, or generally having “the best VPN for gaming.”

    As gamers, we’ve decided to examine these claims to find out whether they’re legitimate, or whether gamers are being taken for a ride. So do you need a VPN for gaming? It turns out the answer is somewhere in the middle — while VPNs and gaming aren’t always the best match, you can still benefit from using a VPN for gaming in certain situations.

    Does a gaming VPN lower ping?

    Since all VPNs route your internet traffic through a remote proxy server, a VPN is unlikely to lower ping times or reduce lag times. So why do some VPN providers suggest that gaming with a VPN will help lower ping?

    Multiplayer gaming has been around for more than two decades and continues to reach new heights with battle royale games like Fortnite, Apex Legends, and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), or team-based shooters such as Overwatch.

    A screenshot of a biker from PlayerUnknown's Battleground, the gameA screenshot from the game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

    As an online gamer, there’s one thing that counts: a stable connection with low latency. Some VPN companies claim that by connecting to a server close to your gaming server, their gaming VPN can lower ping times when playing the likes of Dota 2, or Counter-Strike.

    Using a VPN for gaming won’t reduce ping

    We tested this theory and didn’t find that gaming on a VPN lowered ping or improved lag times. Your data still needs to travel from your computer to a VPN server and back — and the longer that journey is, the slower things may feel. The best VPNs for gaming will introduce minimal lag into your connection, but some lag is still more than none.

    If you’re looking for ways to boost your gameplay in Ark: Survival Evolved and other multiplayer games, a VPN for gaming isn’t likely to work. Instead of using a gaming VPN to help with ping, many gamers note increased connection issues and lag introduced by the VPN server — which means that the VPN actually slowed down the gaming experience.

    Can a gaming VPN overcome P2P blocking?

    A gaming VPN may help you get around P2P (peer-to-peer) connection blocks by your ISP (internet service provider). The idea makes sense in theory, but we haven’t found that using a VPN for gaming here was necessary.

    Many multiplayer games use a server-client model, where the game is hosted on a central server and all players connect to it. Other games — such as those that want to minimize server costs — will instead use a P2P model, where players host games directly.

    Some ISPs may block P2P connections, which can affect certain games like PUBG. That’s why you may have seen VPN providers claiming that using a VPN for gaming will help.

    You likely won’t need to use a gaming VPN to get around P2P blocks

    In our research on some of the most popular games and ISPs across the world, we didn’t find any instances of ISP-based P2P blocking that affected multiplayer gameplay. In extremely rare cases, an ISP might block some P2P connections — and we did note a handful of reports in which using a VPN for gaming fixed ISP-related connection woes.

    Will using a VPN for gaming evade IP bans?

    In addition to account bans, IP address bans allow gaming publishers to eject troublesome players from their games. If you’ve been banned for using mods, cheating, or otherwise violating the terms of service, a VPN might help you get around an IP ban.

    IP bans can be temporary — 24 hours, a week — or permanent. If you’ve committed a bannable offense, the decision to ban you was probably the right one. But sometimes, IP bans can happen for no apparent reason.

    A VPN for gaming may help get around IP bans (but it’s a bad idea)

    Since a VPN lets you hide your IP address, you might be able to get around an IP ban by using a VPN for gaming. But we don’t encourage anyone to void the service terms in any games they play — and gaming with a VPN to get around a ban is definitely a violation of those terms.

    Some publishers ban the use of VPNs for gaming altogether, so if you aren’t banned yet, you might be after gaming with a VPN. These publishers likely have already banned any known IP addresses associated with leading VPNs, which means that using a VPN for gaming won’t help at all.

    Can a gaming VPN unblock geo-restricted games?

    By letting you change your IP address to one in another country, a VPN can let you access content that’s not available where you are. Many people use a VPN to get around geoblocks — when something is available only to IP addresses in certain parts of the world.

    Due to licensing agreements, streaming platforms often have location-based content restrictions on the movies and TV shows you can access online. Similarly, many multiplayer games group players into region-based servers. If your preferred server is in Europe, and you’re abroad in the US, you might not be able to connect.

    A screenshot from Dying Light, the gameA screenshot from the game Dying Light

    A VPN for gaming can get you around content restrictions

    Setting up a VPN lets you choose which server to play on — no matter where you are — by giving you a new IP address in the same region as your preferred server. If you’re worried about accessing a certain game, gaming on a VPN won’t be particularly useful, since most games can be played from anywhere in the world.

    Most multiplayer games can be played in the US, Europe, and most parts of Asia. But sometimes, gaming publishers based in one country might not be allowed to operate in others. And some governments may block certain games within their borders. In these rare cases, knowing the best countries to connect to via VPN can help.

    Can a VPN for gaming prevent ISP throttling?

    Since a VPN prevents your ISP from seeing exactly what you’re doing online, some VPN providers claim that this will also stop them from throttling, or limiting, your internet speed. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

    Internet throttling typically happens based on one of two things: your online activity or your bandwidth use. ISPs may throttle users who play a lot of games, stream a lot of shows, or torrent a lot of files — anything that consumes large amounts of data. A VPN will stop your ISP from seeing exactly what you do, but it can’t hide your data consumption.

    A VPN can’t completely prevent your ISP from throttling your connection

    The claim that a VPN can prevent your ISP from throttling your internet is based on the VPN’s ability to hide your internet activity. A VPN encrypts your connection, which conceals your online activity from your ISP (and everyone else). But your ISP can still see that you’re connected to a VPN, and it can see how much bandwidth you’re using.

    If you hit or exceed the data cap on your internet plan, your ISP can throttle your internet connection in response. A VPN is an extra layer of protection, but it can’t prevent internet throttling completely.

    Will gaming on a VPN get you early access to games and DLC?

    In some cases, gaming with a VPN can get you early access to games and DLC (downloadable content) that aren’t yet available in your area. For example, if a game is released in the US but not yet in Europe, you can set your server location to the US, purchase the game, and play before anyone else can. This applies to DLC content as well, in some cases.

    Gaming with a VPN can sometimes get you early access (but you might get banned)

    In rare situations, gaming on a VPN can get you around location-locked release dates, but we can’t promise that you won’t get banned by the publisher.

    Take the example of Fallout 4 from back in 2015. People tricked the gaming platform Steam into thinking that they were in New Zealand, where Fallout 4 was available almost a day earlier than in the US due to time differences. But instead of getting early access, these players were blocked on Steam — which meant they couldn’t play the game at all.

    A screenshot from Fallout 4, the game.A screenshot from the game Fallout 4

    Rather than impulsively getting a VPN to access new games, just wait and buy the game when it comes out in your region. A few hours of early access are not worth the risk of getting banned by Steam, another gaming platform, or game publishers themselves.

    Do gaming VPNs prevent DDoS attacks?

    VPNs conceal your IP address, so in theory, a gaming VPN can prevent others from obtaining your IP address and using it to initiate a DDoS attack against you. A DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack happens when a hacker uses a botnet to overload an IP address or server with requests, eventually shutting it down.

    As a massive industry, competitive gaming is prone to DDoS attacks by hackers. Some VPN providers claim that your opponents may target you with one — causing you to lose the game — and they’ll suggest VPNs and gaming together as an effective tool for countering these attacks.

    Gaming on a VPN can prevent DDoS attacks — in theory

    There’s nothing wrong with hiding your IP address with a VPN to prevent DDoS attacks. It’ll work — but if you’re just a regular gamer, your odds of being targeted by a DDoS attack are extremely low.

    But if you’re running a dedicated championship Minecraft or League of Legends server, you’re a much bigger target for DDoS attacks. If you’re into that sort of business though, you’re likely not looking at consumer-tier gaming VPNs for protection.

    Can using a VPN while gaming prevent swatting?

    It’s been suggested that gaming on a VPN can prevent swatting since your VPN hides your IP address — but that’s not enough to stop a swatting attack.

    Swatting happens when someone places a fraudulent emergency call and fools the police into sending a response team to the target’s address. Swatters — the people behind the attacks — may view it as a prank, but swatting has resulted in at least one real-world death.

    Swatting is an especially serious concern for streamers, as people may try to swat them mid-stream. Do gaming VPNs work to prevent swatting?

    Gaming with a VPN won’t block a swatting attack

    When VPN providers tell you that gaming on a VPN will prevent swatting, the explanation is as follows: swatters use your IP address to figure out where you live, and a VPN will prevent anyone from finding your IP address

    The problem is that your IP address doesn’t reveal your street address — only your general location. Many swatting attacks happen when the swatter uses spoofing software to mimic the victim’s phone number, then places an emergency call that appears to be coming from the victim’s home. A VPN can’t do anything against that type of attack.

    Can a gaming VPN be used to create a LAN?

    Remember the good old days of LAN gaming? They haven’t passed — many games still allow you to connect PCs and laptops over a local area network (LAN) and play together in one room. When you’re traveling, things become a bit more difficult.

    Certain tools like Hamachi let you create a LAN over the internet using VPN technology. If everyone in your gaming group is using one of these tools, you can make a virtual LAN and let your friends connect to it, no matter where you are. Something like this may be the best VPN for your gaming group.

    Most gaming VPNs don’t offer LAN capability

    If you find a VPN for gaming that lets you create virtual LANs, then you and your gaming group will be golden. But the majority of consumer VPNs don’t offer any sort of LAN mode. In that case, VPNs and gaming won’t bring back the halcyon days of LAN sessions.

    Do gaming VPNs work?

    When gaming with a VPN, you’ll enjoy all the benefits your VPN gives you: an encrypted internet connection, a hidden IP address, and a new IP address somewhere else in the world. But will a gaming VPN improve your gaming experience? Let’s find out with a few FAQs about VPNs and gaming.

    icon_01Does a VPN slow down gaming?

    At best, your gaming VPN will be exactly as fast as your internet connection. But in most cases, it’ll be slightly slower than that. You’re still using your physical internet connection when you connect to a VPN, and it’s impossible for a VPN to speed up your internet.

    Since a VPN connection directs all your traffic through a remote server, it’s common for VPNs to be a bit slower than your normal internet connection. If you need a gameplay boost in GTA V or another one of your favorite games, a VPN might not help — look into boosting your gaming rig instead.

    You can also try overclocking your CPU and overclocking your GPU for increased gaming performance. Or, if all else fails, check our detailed guide to speeding up your computer.

    icon_02Will a VPN improve your connection?

    VPNs introduce an extra connection point in the journey from your computer to your game server. That’s one more opportunity for a connection to drop, especially if you’re using a crowded VPN server. You may experience service drops and packet loss — when some of your traffic doesn’t reach its destination.

    When it comes to VPNs and gaming, stronger connectivity isn’t one of the benefits you’ll enjoy.

    icon_03Are gaming VPNs legal?

    VPNs are legal in many countries, but others restrict their use or ban them outright. Check to make sure VPNs and gaming are legal where you live before using one. And note that it’s always illegal to conduct criminal activity over a VPN.

    icon_04Will I get banned if I use a VPN?

    Some gaming publishers, like many content platforms, don’t permit VPN connections. If you use a VPN for gaming to breach the terms of use in a game you play, you can expect a ban.

    icon_05Can I install a VPN on my gaming console?

    While setting up a VPN on your PC is as easy as installing a reliable VPN app, console gamers likely won’t have that option. If you prefer game consoles to PC gaming, you’ll need to either install a VPN on your router, or connect your console to your computer with an Ethernet cable.

    Game safely with AVG Secure VPN

    AVG Secure VPN is the best way to secure your internet connection, hide your IP address, and prevent anyone — especially your ISP — from knowing what you’re doing online. It’s got all the hallmarks of the best VPN for gaming: lightning-fast servers around the world, military-grade encryption, and the backing of a world leader in cybersecurity.

    Make your gaming sessions more private and more secure with a 7-day free trial of AVG Secure VPN.

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    Sandro Villinger & Ivan Belcic