Of the 44% of UK Internet users who have used a virtual private network (VPN) at some point in their lives, approximately 39% of this demographic are aged between 16 and 22.
While there may be several reasons for this, one of the most telling is the prolific use of VPNs by gamers. For those who want to play games online and connect with like-minded individuals through their PlayStation or Xbox networks, VPNs can create a private and more secure experience that affords you genuine peace of mind.
But what are the precise advantages of VPN from the perspective of gaming? Here are a few to keep in mind:
#1. Optimize Your Safety on Public Networks
The chances are you’ve connected your laptop or smartphone to a public network at one time or another, but may not have known exactly how risky this activity can be.
Not only can the network manager actively see all of your traffic, for example, but it’s also possible for hackers or cyberthieves to create rogue but familiar sounding access points that enable them to intercept your data once you’re connected.
Such risks aren’t exclusive to gamers, of course, but maintaining an extended connection to a public network definitely increases the threat of identity theft, data breaches and Denial-of-Service (DDOS) attacks.
The use of a VPN largely negates these risks, however, by creating a virtual encrypted tunnel that runs between two servers. This makes your data and traffic invisible to others who may be active on the network (including both managers and potential hackers), while masking your IP address and physical location.
This also helps to minimize the threat posed by certain malware attacks when online, enabling you to indulge your favourite pastime with genuine peace of mind!
#2. Minimize the Risk of Bandwidth Throttling
As an online gamer, you may also be unaware that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have the capacity to track your browser activity and monitor your real-time geographic location.
This applies regardless of whether you’re active on a public or private network, which is one reason why using a VPN for your home PC is an increasingly popular option.
What’s more, your ISP may also throttle your bandwidth in instances where they identify high-bandwidth activity. This includes gaming, with online and multiplayer activity utilising huge amounts of data over time.
They may also look to throttle bandwidth during specific times of the day, usually as a way of preventing network congestion when usage reaches its peak.
When an ISP throttles your bandwidth, it will impact directly on the quality of gameplay and your interaction with other players. Similarly, it will increase latency and potentially cause issues such as freezing and buffering, which can derail most PC, PlayStation and Xbox games.
When you carry out a free VPN download on your PC and connect, however, you’ll instantly encrypt your Internet activity and make it incredibly difficult for an ISP to know precisely what you’re doing.
Because of this, they can’t selectively throttle your bandwidth when playing online, minimising the risk that your gaming session will suddenly be interrupted or impacted by increased latency.
#3. Enhance Poor ISP Routing
Internet networks are generally complex, which is why it’s so hard to achieve network security and safely surf public connections.
Even the process of accessing a network is deceptively complicated, as a viable connection must be established using a path that extends across a number of intermediate servers.
While ISPs always strive to establish the most direct path between your device and the server you’re looking to connect to, you may occasionally experience complications that create suboptimal and inadequate connection paths.
This even applies when joining a server that’s geographically close, as your connection may still be routed in unorthodox ways that create an extended and higher-latency path.
By masking your location and creating a virtual encrypted tunnel between your device and VPN server (through which all your traffic is subsequently routed), you can immediately resolve these frustrating ISP issues and ensure the best connection path possible.
#4. Protect Yourself Against the Risk of Being Doxxed
We’ve already spoken about how gamers on public networks are at risk of DDOS and malware attacks, but many have also reported being “doxxed” by malicious users online.
These gamers subsequently found that their real names and residential addresses were identified simply from their unique IP addresses, which are typically exposed and vulnerable on various Skype, Discord or game servers.
This is a terrifying prospect for gamers, as once malicious individuals know your identity, your security has been compromised and you may be at risk of harassment, stalking and even physical attack (in the worst case scenarios).
In the case of high-profile Twitch streamers, doxxing is an even greater and more pronounced risk, with xoAeriel one of several such online celebrities who have experienced ongoing harassment after being doxxed by a former partner.
Of course, using a VPN connection automatically masks your IP address, making it virtually impossible for a nefarious individual to access your identity or physical location when online.
In fact, such individuals wouldn’t even be able to necessarily identify gamers online, creating robust network security (except in instances where you give away personal information).