VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) maintain your privacy on the internet by masking and hiding your IP and the data you send or receive. While usually used for purposes such as streaming or secure connections in an enterprise environment, a lot of VPN companies have been targeting gamers as a new audience to tap into. Usually they’re making bold claims about their VPN for gaming improving latency or allowing you to play games outside of your region.

As a gamer I’ve always wondered about their use and dug a bit deeper. Turns out, a lot of this is your typical “marketing bla”, which we’ll look at in this article. But it’s not all smoke and mirrors, as you’ll see that a VPN might actually help you in some cases.

Let’s check out some of the claims and find out if they’re true or not — or somewhere in between...

Using a VPN for gaming helps you:

  1. Improve lag and reduce ping by using a faster server connection.
  2. Overcome geo-blocking and play multiplayer games not available when traveling
  3. Download, buy and play games no matter which country you’re in. Get access to games that aren’t even available yet.
  4. Make sure that your data is safe and secure while you’re gaming
  5. Encrypt your gaming traffic and stay anonymous
  6. Protect yourself from a DDoS attack, particularly important in online competitive gaming and tournaments.

Myth 1 - A VPN will boost your gameplay

Multiplayer gaming has been around for more than two decades and is just now reaching new heights with titles like Fortnite and Playerunknown’s Battlergrounds (PUPG). A screenshot of a biker from PlayerUnknown's Battleground, the gameAs an online gamer, there’s one thing that counts: a stable connection with low latency. Some VPN companies claim that by connecting you to one of their servers closer to the source gaming server, they can help you reduce ping times and overall lag when playing the likes of PUBG, Dota 2, Counterstrike or others.

True or false?

Mostly false! In our tests we didn’t see any improvements in lag or ping times. On the contrary, while we didn’t see any upsides, many gamers complain online about the connection issues and lag introduced by the additional “middleman” server.

Myth 2 - Getting multiplayer games to work — period

Some ISPs block peer-to-peer connections (P2P), which includes multiplayer games like PUBG. Some VPN providers claim that they solve these issues.

True or false?

False! Admittedly in extremely rare cases, the ISP might block some P2P connections which a VPN might circumvent. Our research on the most popular games and ISPs in the world didn’t reveal glaring instances where this was the case. It’s certainly has never helped me solve connection issues, but there are the odd cases out there that report on a VPN fixing ISP-related connection woes.

Myth 3 - Get access to geo-locked games

A lot of content out there is geo-locked, meaning it is restricted to particular countries or regions. This includes videos, news sites — and also gaming. If one of your games can be played online in Europe or if that’s where you have a favorite server you connect to, then that might not work when you’re traveling in Asia or US (and vice versa). Setting up a VPN lets you decide to which server you’re connecting, no matter where you are, by hiding your IP address behind a new one in the region you want. A screenshot from Dying Light, the game

True or false?

True, but again in rare cases! Most multiplayer games can be played in the US, Europe and most parts of Asia. However, some countries pass restrictions on companies operating in one country, for example the US, from doing business in another country, such as Iran (Blizzard being a popular example). Other governments outright block certain games. This isn’t an issue for most popular games.

Myth 4 - Access content in games

VPN providers claim that you can also use a VPN to get access to whole games not yet available in your country. 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 and play before anyone else can. This applies to downloading DLC content, too, in some cases!

Want to use a VPN to get a game ahead of release in your region? It may not be worth it.

True or false?

True, but RARE and potentially not advisable. Take the example of Fallout 4 from back in 2015: Users tricked Steam into thinking that they were from New Zealand, where Fallout 4 was available almost a day earlier than in the US due to time zone differences. This resulted in users being blocked on Steam, which is the last thing you want when waiting for that hot new title.A screenshot from Fallout 4, the game.
Now, our advice would be: WAIT. Just wait. Sure you’re excited to play a cool new upcoming game but either Steam or the game makers themselves are at full liberty to block you.

Myth 5 - Protect your data and prevent a DDoS attack

Competitive gaming has become a major industry and thus is also prone to Distributed Denial of Service attacks (DDoS), which target your IP address and thus bring your connection down (= you lose the game!). A VPN masks your IP so you can’t be targeted directly, or so the major VPN providers claim.

True or false?

True, but also EXTREMELY rare, unless you are running a dedicated championship Minecraft or League of Legends server. And if you’re into that sort of business, you are certainly not meddling with a consumer VPN solution.

Myth 6 - Play with other gamers anywhere as if they were in the same room

Remember the good old days of LAN gaming? They haven’t passed: Many games still sport a mode that allows you to connect PCs and laptops over one local area network (LAN) and play together in one room.

When you’re traveling, things become a bit more difficult. There are tools that let you create a LAN over the internet using VPN technology, such as Hamachi, which lets you create a local network and allow your friends to connect to it no matter where you are. It’s easy to set up with just a click. Every one of your friends need to have this installed.

True or false?

True, but most VPNs don’t allow this LAN mode (Hamachi aside).

Bottom line: Should you use a VPN for gaming?

Look, a VPN might help you and might be worth a try in the above mentioned scenarios. By all means, go ahead and give one a try to see if it will solve your issues — you can try AVG Secure VPN for free. In most cases, gaming without a VPN works just fine and if your game suffers from performance issues or lags, chances are it’s caused by something else entirely — for more on that, check out our “9 Ways to Boost Your Gaming Rig” article.

Try AVG Secure VPN

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