Competing Online? Bandwidth Matters

Online gaming is bigger, and faster, than ever before.

Just about every title has a multiplayer option, and those few that don’t still host online communities, downloadable content, and other goods. Be it downloading a new map or joining a server, connection speed is vital for a seamless, and enjoyable, experience.

But while gamers may become a tad miffed with slow downloads, they can quickly become livid with slow gameplay. Doubtlessly one reason why providers like DirecTV and Fios emphasize stable connections. Should slowdown happen, though, here’s the breakdown on what affects online play and what you can do about it.

Ping

Gamers worldwide can attest that ping makes the difference between fun and unfun online play. The calculated latency between a player’s device, the game server, and other player’s devices, ping is basically a number that signifies the rate that data is transmitting.

The higher the number, the more time your profile requires to communicate with the server and other players. Too high, and players begin experiencing lag: pauses in the game that can be detrimental to online play.

Game Servers and Location

If the game lets them, casual players will almost always opt for the server with the lowest ping. Make sense too, low ping mean less lag. However, many overlook one important fact when browsing and selecting a server: location. Data quite literally needs to transmit from your console to the server and other player’s consoles in real time. The further a server is, the longer it usually takes for data to transmit.

Overall traffic can definitely affect lag, but always try find balance between a server’s ping and its proximity to your location. Larger games typically host multiple servers in each major region. Just roll with whatever city or area is closest.

Bandwidth

The days of bandwidth speed being an obstacle to online gaming is pretty much over. Even basic cable speeds like 1 mbps are sufficient for hitting Xbox Live, PlayStation Plus, or whatever else. However, be prepared for an opportunity cost. 1 mbps connection may be okay for logging in… but browsing the web and downloads can slow down for the duration.

Hosting games is a different matter entirely. You’ll want 15 mbps at minimum. And more if hosting in excess of 16 players.

Photo by Luke Hayfield licensed under CC BY 2.0

John Lion: John is a freelance writer with a passion for everything TV. A fan of thrillers and suspense, he also enjoys screwball comedies like Louie and Venture Bros. John has a particular fascination with TV's impact on public awareness and concerns. Email him at johnloeblion@gmail.com.