Online gaming with VPN is both rewarding and dangerous.
You can use a VPN to improve pings and speeds, or you can plug it in to spoof your location and enjoy access to region-specific betas and launches. Brave gamers also change their virtual locations with a VPN to trick online stores (like Steam) to benefit from region-specific prices for games (like in Russia for example).
Here is a classic example:
The VPN service used in the video is PureVPN. The service currently offers VPN servers (optimized for gaming and streaming) in an extensive selection of countries that you can switch between.
However, it is important to know when using a VPN (when gaming on a platform such as Steam or Origin) is safe and when it is a no-no. Here is a quick guide if you don’t have the time to read through hundreds of actual user experiences/reviews and the lengthy EULAs of these popular services.
VPN Gaming for Better Pings and Reducing Lag
The general rule to follow is that when playing online, you want to connect to servers that are the closest to your ISP’s location. This is done so that your ping and response times when playing online are at their quickest. Connecting to a server far away and will result in the annoying lag that ruins gameplay for you and your team.
Sometimes what happens is that there aren’t any servers close to your location. Our Australian readers who play online games will attest to this problem. Connecting to a VPN server that is close to the game server’s location will remedy this situation to some extent, and in some cases it will provide a superior response time compared to connecting directly – thanks to packet optimization.
THE VERDICT: It’s okay (and even recommended) to have your VPN app connected if you’re playing a game with no servers close to your country.
VPN Gaming for Accessing Region-Restricted Releases
Many multi-player games’ beta versions are locked for certain regions when they are launched and can only be accessed from IP addresses detected to be from the targeted countries. This often occurs with Korean MMOs in Asia or in the case of the US, beta launches for some Xbox games. Since beta releases are often free, gamers are not at risk if they make use of a VPN to access gaming servers because there’s no actual fraudulent transactions being conducted.
All the same, try not to make any purchases (in-game transactions, etc.) using a VPN when you are gaming online on beta versions as regional price differences might come into play there and could lead to a ban. We’ll elaborate more on this in our next bit.
THE VERDICT: Access to free betas, demos and F2P titles using a VPN server’s IP address is alright as long as you don’t plan on making any in-game transactions.
VPN Gaming To Change Your Location For Cheaper Game Prices
When it comes to purchasing games, gamers have to comply with ‘border’ rules of the internet. Game publishers and gaming stores like Steam make sure that you do not get uniform pricing across the World Wide Web. In other words, you must buy games from the region you’re located in and games will be custom-priced according to your specific regions. This is done for various reasons that may vary from tax and currency exchange rates to policies on piracy-countering measures. In countries where piracy is prevalent, it makes sense to sell your games for cheaper to convert pirates into legitimate customers rather than having none at all. The strategy has worked out so far even though a lot of countries still face the issue of unfair prices despite weak economies.
Gamers using VPNs to buy games cheap generally have their accounts marked under the ‘Fraud’ category – particularly when the purchases are made from locations like Russia and China which are red-flagged regions where pirated gaming software is easily hosted.
VERDICT: If you’re up for a little adventure in whether you can get caught or not, no one’s stopping you from putting your account on the line. Just keep in mind that even if you gift the copies to someone, their profiles come at a risk of getting banned as well.
[Read our post ‘5 Online Games to Look out for This Year’]
So Which VPNs Can Handle Online Gaming?
Although there are dozens of services to choose from, only a few work effectively for gamers. In our tests only three providers stood the test in terms of latency and stable online play: IPVanish, ExpressVPN and HideMyAss. Let us a have brief look into their offerings, quality and packages.
IPVanish for VPN Gaming
IPVanish has over 130 servers located in 47 Countries. Gaming VPN users can switch between 14,000+ IPs to proximate their connections with gaming servers for best speeds.
IPVanish has dedicated servers optimized for gamers. It also co-brands a game enhancement add-on named ‘Lag-Assassin’, which supplements gaming speeds for fairly heavy or high traffic games. The IPVanish-Lag Assassin solution is best against high ping times and gaming lags.
HideMyAss for Gaming
No VPN genre can be complete without mentioning HideMyAss. Due to its widely popular proxy service and extensive coverage across 63 countries, HMA hardly has a close competitor around the VPN world. It has been growing without pause for many years, and this has allowed HMA to ensure that it never has any user and server management issues.
In addition to gaming VPNs, HMA also gets you a wide variety of protocols, custom software for different devices and operating systems, and a great customer support system. Pricing is not the cheapest, but you will get value for your money.
ExpressVPN for Gaming
ExpressVPN is a royal member of the VPN industry. Both its pricing and services rank higher than industry standards. With servers in 46 countries (72 locations overall), ExpressVPN gets you a seamless gaming experience free of lag anywhere in the world.
ExpressVPN supports OpenVPN, L2TP and PPTP protocols, all of which can help you encrypt your network connection with the best of online security as well.
In a Nutshell
A gaming network like Steam can easily identify discrepancies in your internet location. If a mismatch is found between gaming prices in your true location and your buying location (your IP contains a country code that identifies your physical location), a suspension notice is sent to your inbox. This will be an irretrievable loss and you will lose your gaming account, your entire collection, and all your specifics like achievements, profile levels and badges and all your leaderboard rankings.
A gaming VPN helps with lag reduction in the same way LAN builds a closer (and faster) network for LAN gamers. By creating virtual IP-based tunnels which proximate your network connection with the gaming server, a gaming VPN helps you enjoy faster speeds and lower pings on distant servers.
VPNs can in some cases help with and early/beta accesses to restricted games. A gaming VPN is not recommended for purchases. Keep your VPNs off when visiting online game stores and publishers for buying games like Steam as their servers may detect and report invoice discrepancies and deactivate your account due to breach of their terms of service.
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