Online gaming is more popular than ever, with participants spanning all age brackets and skill levels. One of the technical terms you may have come across is “ping.”
What does ping mean in online gaming? We aren’t talking about a high-pitched sound. In its most basic sense, ping refers to a test of how quickly your computer or console is connecting to the online server. Essentially it is a dummy signal sent to record how long it takes to reach the game server, which gives you an idea about the strength and stability of your network connection. Some games may even show the ping of all active players on their player’s scoreboard.
WHAT IS PING?
Online games, such as MMOs and competitive player versus player games, move tons of data. This information travels from your controller or keypad, all the way to the game’s servers where your action is interpreted and then passed on to the screens of players all over the world. Ping tests the delay between you pressing a button on the controller and the server receiving this signal. Ping is measured in milliseconds, and the length of that delay can mean the difference between victory and defeat in online gaming. For example, most games are unplayable if a ping is over 250 milliseconds. That’s only a quarter of a second.
HOW TO LOWER PING
Ping is dependent on a couple of different factors. The physical distance between your console or computer and the game’s server has a huge effect on ping. This is why many games have servers located in different locations and they recommend using the one closest to you. For example, if the game’s server is in California and you live in Maine, your ping will generally be higher than if you lived in California. The concept is simple, the closer you are to the server, the faster a signal can reach it.
However, this may not always be the case, because the second factor that comes into play in regards to ping is the network and the network’s congestion. Network speed is self-explanatory. Most internet service providers offer various internet packages, the main features being data capacities and speeds. Satellite internet speeds are generally much slower due to the amount of distance the signal must travel. These signals also encounter substantial environmental interference. Some of the top satellite internet service providers offer speeds around 100 Mbps, which is pretty good. Wired connections, especially ones using fiber optics, are the choice of any gamer. Wired connections remove the potential of environmental interference and provide a straight shot to the ISP’s servers. Some of the high-end fiber optic services have download speeds of over 1000 Mbps. When you are in a fast-paced online game, higher internet speeds equal higher scores.
The second factor that can determine a ping is network congestion. These days everything we own connects to the internet. Our phones, televisions, laptops, tablets, and even our refrigerators connect to a home network. All these various things take up bandwidth. Think of your internet connection as a water pipe, only a certain amount of information can flow at any time. The more signals you have rushing down the pipe of your home network, the more latency and higher ping you have. Disconnecting devices that are not in use can help relieve congestion and allow better communication with game servers. Refraining from streaming on multiple devices at once and waiting for any large downloads will make a noticeable difference in your gaming experience.
Another thing to keep in mind is the use of Wi-fi. Almost every device we own is sending a Wi-fi signal to our home routers, and your gaming console or computer is no different. Think of all these Wi-fi signals like rush hour traffic. Sometimes they move smoothly, and other times they are stuck at a stop sign. When playing games online, you want to have a consistent and smooth connection. There is nothing worse than firing a perfect, well-aimed shot, only to start jumping randomly all over the map. To mitigate this, your gaming console or computer should be hard-lined to your home router using an ethernet cord. There are different types of ethernet cables, the most common being Cat 5 cable. Some of the newer cables have protective shielding inside of them that prevents electromagnetic interference, so do your research about what you need before purchasing one.
If you have taken all these steps and still are having high ping and latency issues it may be time for a new router. Today they make routers specifically designed for gaming and let you prioritize gaming traffic over anything else on your home network. Using the example from earlier, while all the other signals are sitting at the stop sign, you have a free pass to drive through all of them. Most of the gaming routers available today also have multiple LAN ports to set up your gaming event in your home. These routers also have built-in latency monitoring which monitors latency in real-time and can present the statistics on demand.
Virtual Private Network(VPN):
VPN’s are very common today as more people grow weary about the use and visibility of their online data. VPNs, virtual private networks, encrypt your information online which makes your data much more difficult to be tracked by third-party companies. The downside to a VPN is that they slow your internet connection, sometimes considerably. All VPNs slow your connection speed by some degree. If you are gaming online turning off your VPN can make a huge difference in performance.
DOES PING MATTER?
The answer to that question depends. Professional gaming competitions are usually held in a single location using LAN connections to take any possible latency issues out of the mix. At the highest levels of competitive gaming high latency can make a tremendous difference. For casual gamers, the difference probably isn’t quite as detrimental. It also depends on the types of game you like to play. For turn-based games, high-speed internet connections make no difference. Some popular first-person shooters can still functon well without the greatest internet connection, while MMOs need a more stable connection. In truth, unless you are a highly competitive gamer participating in top-tier activities, ping probably isn’t going to make a huge difference. Pings around 100ms still allow for an enjoyable game experience for the majority of players.