By Michelle Ricker November 16, 2021
Summary: Online gaming involves a lot of moving pieces. But perhaps the most important one is your home internet network. Learn about the different components of your internet speed plus why your gateway should be up to date, how to prioritize internet traffic, why you should secure your network, and more.
When it comes to gaming, few pieces of equipment matter as much as your internet connection. Between download and upload speeds, ping times, faulty routers and more, a slow internet connection can undo all your hard work.
So how do you optimize your home network for gaming?
The first thing to know is how fast your internet is.
There are two types of speed: download speed and upload speed. Download speed is the number most prominently displayed on your plan and tells you how quickly you can receive information from a server. This is extremely helpful when you’re streaming entertainment or downloading large files (like a photo album your parents emailed you). Upload speed is how quickly you can send information to the web. This matters the most when you’re participating in something like a video game tournament or conference call.
Traditionally, upload speed was a fraction of the download speed. But now, fiber internet includes symmetrical speeds, meaning that your download and upload speeds match. That’s upload speeds up to 1 Gbps. It’s also why fiber internet is the gold standard for gaming.
You’ll also want to examine your ping time. Ping is a measurement of how fast your internet connection can send data packets to the relevant IP address and receive a response. This is also frequently called lag time. If your ping time is 200 ms, it means you’ll see in-game events 200 milliseconds after they actually happen. This might not seem like that much of a delay, but depending on the type of game you’re playing, it can be the difference between advancing to the next round or losing.
Ping times are like golf scores — the lower, the better.
But if it’s 20 ms or less, you probably won’t notice a delay. For most games, a ping time of 50 ms will be noticeable, and the majority of games will be completely unplayable with a ping of more than 200 ms. One thing to keep in mind is that your lag time could be slightly different depending on the game. That’s because different games will be using different servers.
Did you know that all routers and gateways are not made the same? If you own your router, you’ll want to make sure it’s capable of handling your network speed. Internet technology advances quickly these days, so even if you made the purchase a few years ago, if you’ve upgraded your speed, it might not be working. And a slow router means slower reaction times and more losses.
That’s why we recommend renting your modem and router (if they’re combined into one piece of equipment, it’s called a gateway). You never have to worry about the equipment fitting your network, and you can always get it easily replaced if something goes haywire. Plus, if you move and have to switch internet service providers, you’re not stuck with equipment that no longer works.
Most routers offer a Quality of Service (or QoS) setting, which lets you prioritize certain types of traffic. Here, you can choose the games or devices that should take priority if you’re running tight on bandwidth. For example, maybe you choose that your gaming device should take priority over your work laptop since you don’t need to use that in the evenings.
This frees up your network and lets you designate the usage without having to reconfigure anything during your game.
If you’ve been reading our blog posts for a while, you know that we’re sticklers for cyber security. Create a custom password for your network and make sure it’s a strong password. While you’re doing that, make sure your network name doesn’t contain any identifying information, like your house number or last name.
Having a secure network also means that you don’t have to worry about anyone using your network without permission. More people on your network means a more congested network and slower speeds for you. It also makes you vulnerable to security risks. If you have payment information stored on your computer, or even within the games themselves, hackers could steal the numbers and make purchases.
Once you’ve made all of these adjustments, it’s a good idea to restart your router. That will ensure that your changes have been made and give the network a chance to start fresh. Periodically restarting your equipment is a good idea in general, as it forces software to refresh, update, or relaunch sessions that have timed out. If your connection is usually great but has been acting up recently, this is an easy troubleshooting tip to try.
Even though almost everything we do online uses WiFi, an ethernet cable will give you the fastest possible connection because it removes the step of connecting to the network and is instead a direct line to it. It also takes the guesswork out of your connection — you’re literally hardwired in so you don’t have to worry about the signal randomly dropping out. But the downside is that you’ll, ahem, literally be wired into the wall or your router, so you won’t be able to move around. This is likely not a big issue if you’re involved in an intense tournament, though, and it prevents the need to carry your computer to the next room for a better WiFi signal.
If an ethernet cable isn’t a good fit for you, you can also opt for a mesh network, which is a way to extend the wireless network you already have. It’s way better than a WiFi extender, too, because it doesn’t create a secondary network that you have to switch between. Either option strengthens your connection to your network — and lets you showcase your full gaming skillset without a weak signal.
Gaming is a serious business and you deserve the internet connection that lets you play to your full abilities. At EarthLink, we understand that and we’ll work to find you the right connection — internet that fits your life. Get started with a high-speed internet plan today or call one of our Internet Experts at 866-383-3080 and get back to winning more games.
Michelle Ricker is a Copywriter for EarthLink. She recently graduated from the University of Cincinnati with an M.A. in Communication and has more than 5 years of writing experience. She thrives on storytelling and well-placed punctuation. She currently lives and works in Atlanta.
See all posts from Michelle Ricker.