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Understanding and Improving Gaming Latency: What You Need to Know

Date Published:  September 27th, 2022Date Updated:  May 09, 2024

Summary: If you love online gaming — especially the competitive kind — you know that high internet latency can (quite literally) kill the vibe. It might be time for better high-speed internet. Or it might be as easy as moving where your router lives. Read on for our best tips so you can get back to winning.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. What is Latency in Gaming?
  3. What is Ping in Gaming?
    1. How to Lower Ping
  4. What is Packet Loss in Games?
    1. Understanding Bufferbloat
    2. How to Perform a Bufferbloat Test
  5. Effective Strategies to Reduce Gaming Latency
  6. Frequently Asked Questions
  7. Conclusion


When it comes to online gaming, even a millisecond can be the difference between winning and losing. Delays that might go unnoticed in single-player games like Legend of Zelda or Animal Crossing are critical in multiplayer arenas such as Fortnite or League of Legends. In this guide, we’ll dive into what latency means for gamers and how you can minimize it and reduce lag to enhance your performance.

What is Latency in Gaming?

In gaming, latency refers to the time it takes for data to travel between your gaming device and the game server. Latency is also known as ping time or lag. It measures the delay in data transmission, or response times, which can impact the responsiveness of the game.

Latency is measured in milliseconds (ms). For optimal gaming performance, aim for a latency of under 40 ms. This will ensure that the game server quickly registers your actions, resulting in a smoother gameplay experience.

What is Ping in Gaming?

In gaming, “ping” is a term used to describe the network latency between a player’s computer or console and the game server. Ping is measured in milliseconds and represents the time it takes for data to travel from the player’s device to the server and back. A lower ping means that the connection is faster, leading to better game responsiveness and a competitive advantage in fast-paced games.

How to Lower Ping

Lowering your ping can greatly improve your gaming experience, particularly in games where timing and quick responses are crucial. Here are some strategies to help reduce your ping rate:

Use a Wired Connection

Switch from Wi-Fi to a wired Ethernet connection to ensure a more stable and consistent connection to the game server. This can often result in a significant reduction in ping.

Close Background Applications

Ensure that no unnecessary applications are running in the background while you game. Apps that use the internet, such as streaming services or cloud-sync services, can increase your ping by using up bandwidth.

Optimize Your Network Settings

Adjusting settings such as the Quality of Service (QoS) on your router can prioritize gaming packets over other types of traffic, reducing ping times.

Update Your Network Drivers

Keep your network adapters up-to-date with the latest drivers. Outdated drivers can cause performance issues, including increased ping times.

Choose Servers Close to Your Location

Playing on game servers that are geographically closer to your location can dramatically reduce ping since the data has less distance to travel.

Consider Using a Gaming VPN

A VPN designed for gaming can sometimes reduce ping. The VPN will route your traffic more efficiently than your regular internet service provider might.

What is Packet Loss in Games?

Packet loss occurs when data packets transmitted across a network fail to reach their destination. In gaming, this can manifest as characters appearing to teleport, delayed reaction times, or actions that are registered late. Packet loss is often caused by network congestion (too much internet traffic), faulty hardware, or poor internet connections. Reducing packet loss is crucial for maintaining a smooth and responsive gaming experience.

Understanding Bufferbloat

Bufferbloat is a problem that occurs when excess buffering of packets causes high latency and jitter in network connections. During periods of high traffic, routers and switches can hold onto data packets for too long, delaying their delivery. This issue is particularly detrimental in real-time applications like online gaming, where timely data delivery is essential for optimal performance.

How to Perform a Bufferbloat Test

To test for bufferbloat:

  • Select a Testing Tool: Use a popular online testing tool like DSLReports or Bufferbloat.net.
  • Run the Test: These tests usually measure your connection’s speed and latency under different conditions to assess how well your network handles congestion.
  • Analyze the Results: A good result will show little to no increase in latency when your connection is under load. If your test shows a high increase in latency, it indicates bufferbloat.

Here are some strategies to reduce bufferbloat:

  • Upgrade Your Router: Modern routers support smarter queue management technologies like FQ-CoDel or cake, which help manage bufferbloat.
  • Adjust Your Router Settings: Some routers allow you to control buffer sizes manually or adjust your Quality of Service (QoS) settings to prioritize gaming traffic, which can mitigate bufferbloat.
  • Increase Your Internet Speed: Sometimes, simply upgrading your internet plan can alleviate congestion issues, helping to manage bufferbloat during peak usage times.

Effective Strategies to Reduce Gaming Latency

Optimize Your Router’s Location

Router placement can significantly affect your gaming experience. Ensure there are no physical obstructions like walls or furniture blocking the signal. Ideally, place the router in the same room as your gaming setup to reduce the distance the signal must travel.

Minimize Network Congestion

Bandwidth-heavy activities such as streaming videos or downloading large files can saturate your connection. For optimal gaming latency, ensure that your network is focused on your game by limiting the use of other devices and applications during your gaming sessions.

Enhance Your Connection with Ethernet

Using an Ethernet cable to connect your gaming console or PC directly to your router can lead to significant improvements in latency. This wired connection bypasses the uncertainties of Wi-Fi, providing a more reliable and faster connection.

Consider Hardware Upgrades

Old or outdated routers and modems might not be equipped to handle modern gaming’s demands. Upgrading to the latest hardware can reduce latency and improve overall network performance, crucial for gaming.

Switch Your Internet Plan

If you’re gaming on a satellite or wireless home internet connection, high latency is the nature of the game. Switching to a faster internet speed with symmetrical upload and download speeds like fiber internet is the right play. With a fiber internet connection, you’re sending and receiving data at the speed of light – it doesn’t get faster than that!

Frequently Asked Questions

What latency is good for gaming?

Wondering what is good latency for gaming? The best latency for gaming is typically between 20-40 ms. Lower figures mean quicker communication between your device and the game server, which is crucial in fast-paced games.

How to reduce latency for gaming?

Reducing gaming latency involves optimizing your router placement, using an Ethernet connection, limiting other high-bandwidth activities, and possibly upgrading your network hardware.

What is a good ping speed for gaming?

A good ping speed for gaming is under 40 ms. This speed helps to minimize lag, ensuring that gameplay feels fluid and responsive.


Effective management of latency can dramatically enhance your gaming experience, particularly in competitive scenarios. By implementing these focused strategies, you can ensure that your gaming sessions are as lag-free as possible.

Get Started with EarthLink Fiber for Gamers

Elevate your gaming to the next level with EarthLink’s fiber internet plans, offering up to 5 Gigs of speed for ultimate performance. Discover how our high-speed, low-latency solutions can transform your gaming experience. Explore fiber plans tailored for gamers today, or contact our Internet Experts at 866-618-0264.

Marie Flanagan

Marie Flanagan

Marie Flanagan is a contributing writer for EarthLink. She’s a life-long Atlantan with a passion for SaaS, IoT, AI, fintech, and everything technology. Her ideal offline situation is volunteering in STEM education for girls or on her front porch with a book.

See all posts from Marie Flanagan.