Lag. The word alone often induces fits of rage in gamers, and it’s the reason most people lose multiplayer games — or so they would have you believe.
“Lag” refers to the glitches in video games caused by communication issues between the game and the server. It could be that your character jerks around the screen in unexpected ways, shots aren’t registering, or other players seem to be teleporting around you. Lag takes away from the overall experience of the game and can be a major problem for competitive multiplayer games.
Here’s how to reduce lag, plus additional tips to improve your gaming performance.
What is latency?
Latency, also called ping, refers to the amount of time in milliseconds it takes for data to travel between two locations. "High ping" makes you an instant target in competitive games like Call of Duty, and for good reason. High ping causes lag.
Unfortunately for many gamers, latency is largely out of their control. Your Internet service provider and your geographic location are the biggest influences on the amount of latency you experience. If you are a long way from the servers or in an area with spotty Internet coverage, you will likely have high ping.
On the bright side, some games, like Call of Duty, attempt to place you in matches with players in your geographic region. This helps mitigate the effects of latency, but if there aren't enough players nearby to populate a match, you may feel lag as the game matches you with players farther away. This is why playing on an Asian server when you're in America often results in a less-than-ideal experience.
One way to combat this is to improve your hardware. Many gaming routers specialize in reducing lag and allow you to choose the area it can connect to, which will stop the game from matching you with players too far away (however, this can mean longer wait times to find a match).
The closer your console or computer is to your router the better your connection will be, and the fewer “packets” you will lose. Packet loss is when data (or, packets) sent over your network doesn't reach its goal, usually resulting in lag. Once the data is broadcast, there's nothing you can do to get it back — but there are preventative steps you can take before the data is sent to make sure your network status is optimal:
- Set up the QoS feature. Many routers, especially gaming routers, have a Quality of Service (QoS) setting that lets you prioritize traffic. When multiple devices are connected to your network, prioritizing your gaming connection over the others will help ensure stable gameplay.
- Set up a hardwired connection. Rather than connecting over WiFi, plug in an Ethernet cable to your PC or console. Although less convenient than a wireless connection, playing on a wired connection eliminates many of the variables that can affect your network quality over WiFi.
When you think of bandwidth, you might think of speed — but bandwidth actually refers to how many bytes travel between two locations during a set time period. Bandwidth is typically measured in megabits per second (Mbps), and gaming requires a certain amount of bandwidth for a smooth experience.
Although games on their own usually do not use a ton of bandwidth, your game may lag if other sources are using a lot of bandwidth, including:
- Shared connections. If other people (or devices) in your home are using the network while you play, they will use a certain amount of your bandwidth.
- Streaming video or music. Sure, it's great to fire up your favorite Spotify playlist and take out unsuspecting enemies in Blackout, but if your connection isn't the strongest, then streaming anything while you play can impede your experience.
- Streaming gameplay. When you've got skills, you want to flaunt them. The downside is that streaming your gameplay to Twitch or Mixer requires a huge amount of bandwidth. If you don't have it to spare, you may find yourself rubber-banding all over the map.
Your Internet service provider is a major influence on the amount of lag you experience, but it's largely based on how wide their service area is. Xfinity Internet is available in large areas of the country and offers multiple service packages with enough speed and bandwidth to play games, stream music, and broadcast gameplay without experiencing any lag. The key is finding the right Internet service package.
You may experience more packet loss when Internet use is at its peak. Higher Internet speeds and increased bandwidth will help mitigate this. You can also look at some of the high-speed Xfinity plans aimed at gamers. Making even just a few of these changes can give you an edge the next time you jump into a game.