VPNs protect your privacy online by rerouting your internet connection through a secure server, preventing your internet service provider—as well as hackers and other bad actors—from spying on your online activity.
Because these secure servers can be located in a variety of countries, VPNs also enable you to browse the Internet as it appears in another location, allowing you to get around blocks put in place by your workplace or school. You can even use a VPN to watch streaming content that’s only available in certain countries.
In this article, though, we’ll go beyond those more traditional uses, and explore the benefits of using a VPN for gaming to help you decide if it’s something worth investing in.
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Speed it up
Many people think that VPNs slow down your internet connection, and to some extent, this is true—VPNs add a layer of encryption that can slightly reduce your internet speeds. Plus, if you choose to reroute through a server located far away from you, there can be additional lag time because of the distance data packets need to travel.
So why would you want to add something that might slow your connection to your gaming setup? The answer is bandwidth throttling.
If your internet service provider (or ISP) notices certain activity from your IP address, like high amounts of gaming or streaming, they may intentionally slow your internet connection in response. This can happen for a variety of reasons, like preventing network congestion.
If you’ve been noticing fluctuating internet connection speeds while gaming, you may well be experiencing bandwidth throttling.
Fortunately, using a VPN is an easy way to get around bandwidth throttling. Because a VPN makes your internet activity anonymous, your ISP won’t be able to tell what you’re doing online, and therefore won’t be able to throttle your connection as a result of that activity.
Keep yourself to yourself
You may not think you need to protect your privacy when gaming, but a surprising amount of personal information can be linked to your gaming account. Private information like your name, email address, home address, and even credit card number could be compromised by a third party accessing your gaming account credentials.
You’re especially vulnerable if you ever game on a public Wi-Fi, like at a hotel while traveling or at a coffee shop while enjoying a cold brew. Public Wi-Fi networks are often unencrypted, making it easy for hackers to spy on your activity while you’re using them.
Using a VPN encrypts your online activity, ensuring it stays private.
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Get around geo-blocks
Some online games use your location to customize your in-game experience, meaning the version of the game you access might be different than if you accessed the game in another location.
For example, your experience with a mobile game like Pokémon Go depends entirely on your real-world location. Depending on where you are, the game might be impossible to play altogether.
A VPN allows you to change your server location, accessing location-specific resources, and some even allow you to spoof your Pokémon GO location.
You can also use a VPN to access games that aren’t available in your country. Some countries ban certain games because of their content, but with a VPN, you can circumvent these restrictions.
It’s also common for game developers to roll out new games or new updates to certain locations first. With a VPN, you won’t have to wait for the new game you’ve been hyped for to be released in your country.
Having your internet connection slowed down by your ISP or being unable to access an in-game event because it’s not in your country are frustrating experiences.
But with the right VPN, you can get around bandwidth throttling and unlock content from around the world—all well protecting your personal information and your privacy.
When looking for a gaming VPN, you’ll want to look for fast connection speeds and a variety of servers, as well as apps for your phone or tablet for mobile games. A VPN with an app for routers, like ExpressVPN, can also ensure you can get around bandwidth throttling no matter what device you use.
What do we recommend?
ExpressVPN stands out from the competition in terms of price, features, and value. With servers in nearly 100 countries, all the security features we mention above, blazing connection speeds, and reliable access to multiple streaming services, ExpressVPN is an excellent choice for those after security with no compromises.
While some users may prefer certain features of other top VPNs, it’s the best overall option for most users – and now Tom’s Guide readers can claim three months absolutely free.
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Sarah James is a freelance writer in Los Angeles. She has written about creativity, culture, and technology for brands like TechRadar, Submittable Content For Creatives, The Billfold, Pittsburgh City Paper, The Toast, and more.