Broadband for gamers

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Guide to broadband for gamers

Key points

  • Broadband speed is important for gamers, but other factors including ping and packet loss also contribute to the experience
  • A high level of ping could be the reason behind unresponsiveness in your game
  • Check your internet package for traffic management which prioritises certain traffic during busy periods

Online gaming is a cultural phenomenon, with big stars of the eSports world raking in million-dollar prize pots for winning grand tournaments that attract competitors from around the world.

But whether you're an eSports mastermind competing in front of millions of viewers, or just enjoy playing Call of Duty in your undercrackers of an evening, there's one thing that all keen gamers must have in common - the right broadband.

Broadband speed for console games

Having a speedy connection is something that most internet users won't compromise on, but you don't necessarily need the fastest package available on the market to get the online experience you're after.

Some console games rely on you downloading the game, which means that your internet speed will only affect how long it takes for your game to be ready to play.

In fact, you may be surprised to know that the minimum speed for playing an Xbox Live game is a paltry 3Mbps. So, that pricey 36Mbps package you've been eyeing up may indeed be too much bang for your buck.

If you scale back your requirements, you could save a few quid and still get the gaming experience you've been hankering after.

Broadband speed for PC games

eSports are mostly centred around multi-player strategy games played on a PC.

Checklist for gamers

  • Adequate broadband speed for the game you want to play
  • Low level of ping
  • Low amount of packet loss
  • Check your terms and conditions for mention of traffic management
  • Ethernet cable in case you need to plug your struggling device into the router

So it may require more of a broadband boost than your average console game, but you still won't need more than around 5mbps to play games like League of Legends.

Packet loss

Packet loss is something that you don't want to affect your gaming in a negative way, because if it does you'll find yourself battling through unresponsiveness, unexpected freezing and constant stuttering. Ain't nobody got time for that.

Packet loss is when your game does that really annoying jerky freezing because data is being lost on the journey to and from the server. It's impossible to eradicate it completely, but when it gets out of hand it may have you throwing your device at the wall in frustration.

Investigate whether you have adequate bandwidth and if your router and firewall is up to job of keeping up with your gaming. It could also be due to software issues or faulty cables, so have a dig around to see where the issue is coming from.

Ping

In the immortal words of Louis Armstrong, 'It don't mean a thing if it's got too much ping.' Something like that anyway…

Ping is the sworn enemy of online gaming - it's basically the reaction time, ie the time it takes for you to press a button and see the resulting action happen on your screen.

Ping (also known as latency) is measured in milliseconds (ms) and anything under 50ms is considered pretty good. When it starts to edge over 100ms, that's when you'll start to notice it during gameplay and not in a good way.

Most broadband speed checkers will let you measure the download and upload speed of your connection, as well as the ping.

There's no set rule for lowering your ping, but there are different things you can try to up your reaction speed.

For instance, closing down other tabs on your device, especially if you're downloading anything at the same time as playing your game. You may also want to play at a time when no one else in your abode is draining your bandwidth by streaming films or TV programmes.

Another way to lower your ping is by going old school and plugging your computer into your router.

And of course if that doesn't work, try turning it off and on again (your router that is).

Traffic management

Traffic management is responsible for prioritising how your connection is being used. This means that during peak periods of usage, certain traffic will be prioritised over others.

Generally streaming activities are given a top priority, so that users don't need to deal with buffering. However, this means that other less demanding tasks like file-sharing may become more lethargic in the meantime. 

Turning off internet security

What on earth would drive people to turn off their internet security while online gaming? Well, to get the maximum experience, some players will forgo their 'speed-sapping' firewalls.

This is a foolhardy technique though, because as we know the internet is rife with hackers who are lurking in plain sight, ready to strike.

Not only could they steal your card details - many games are linked directly to the player's card so it's easier for further purchases within the game - but if you play an online game where your character acquires special items through experience, they may be stripped by hackers.

Another reason to keep your firewall on lockdown.

By Abbie Laughton-Coles