Online gaming has become very popular in recent years. From the days of Local Area Network (LAN) parties and internet cafes, many users now play online games at home or even on the move.
That’s an awful lot of online players using the net.
Fortunately, they don’t all share the same network.
The first major games console to feature a true online gaming network was the Sega Dreamcast (the Nintendo Famicom had previously experimented with an online version of Go) with its SegaNet and games, like Phantasy Star Online or Quake Arena.
These early consoles used slow, dial-up modems, sometimes only reaching speeds of 33.3 kbps.
Nowadays, modern gaming PCs and consoles require broadband speeds to keep up with the data flow of the more complex games. Unless you are happy with a spaghetti-like mess of cables littering your household, a wireless router is an absolute must!
Modern games consoles, like the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 or Nintendo Switch, all support the latest and fastest wireless technology, just like any modern PC or laptop.
How then do you know that your home network and wireless router are correctly set up for the best gaming experience possible?
Join us as we look at some ways you can set up and configure your wireless router for the optimal gaming experience.
No more annoying disconnection when you’re down to the final remaining players in a Battle Royale!
Before we get down to the nitty gritty of altering your router or network settings, let’s check out some of the simpler things you can do to improve your online gaming.
You don’t want to incur the wrath of your other half when they can’t watch the latest Game of Thrones on Netflix because you’ve messed up the network.
Apart from the initial download and occasional patches, computer games use less bandwidth than you think.
Whereas Netflix or streaming videos can consume 3GB per hour for higher definition video, most gaming only consumes 20MB to 80MB for every hour of gameplay.
A faster connection isn’t always the answer.
What you need is a stable, secure and low latency connection that can handle the constant stream of smaller packets, in both upload and download directions.
Serious gamers will nearly always favor a wired connection which offers more stability and less interference.
Unfortunately, this is not always possible, especially where multiple devices are being used around the household. If you are having problems with your Wi-Fi signal, here are some tips to help boost it.
Every home has its good and bad spots for wireless internet reception. Knowing where the better locations are will help you to place your gaming system or relocate the router itself. You can choose from many apps, including Network Analyzer for iOS or Android Wi-Fi Signal, which will allow you to use your phone or tablet to quickly pinpoint the troublesome “cold” spots in your house.
Purchasing a powerline adapter, like the TP-Link 1000 Mbps powerline Wi-Fi extender adapter, will use your home’s mains sockets to transmit a signal to any problem areas.
Simply connect one adapter to your router by ethernet and plug it into a standard wall socket. A second adapter is then plugged into another electrical outlet in your home to receive and transmit the signal. Powerline adapters offer an excellent low-cost way of extending the internet connection in your home without the need for new wiring.
You would be surprised at just how many people think that a good place to locate their router is on the floor – it isn’t!
Wi-Fi routers will bounce signals all over your house, most signals will not penetrate walls, although a few will get through.
Placing the device on a floor upstairs may help downstairs get a signal but it will severely hinder the signal everywhere else.
Try out moving your router onto different shelves or tables in the room and then check your signal strength with one of above-mentioned apps.
Another simple test is to try streaming a video to see if it stops and buffers.
Parallel matching the antenna with the device using the Wi-Fi will also improve the stability of the signal. If you have two or more antennas on the router, try putting one facing up and another one (or more) pointing sideways.
When you originally placed your gaming laptop, PC or console, it may not have been facing the best way to get a signal from a vertical antenna.
Pointing them in horizontal and vertical positions will enable your device to automatically connect to the strongest signal.
There are many tutorials on YouTube which show you how to build a home DIY antenna to improve your Wi-Fi signal.
Here is an example:
Although the idea of making your own antenna may seem extreme to some, it can help boost a weaker signal. It won’t make an unusable connection work, but it could improve a poor one a little.
It’s an old saying, “have you tried turning it off and on again?”
It certainly works for many laptops, phones, tablets or consoles – so why shouldn’t it work for a router? It is even more true for older routers which may suddenly drop their connection or freeze at random times – normally when you’re just about to embark on a marathon Call of Duty session.
Scheduling regular reboots of your router, especially if you have an older one, will prevent these annoying problems from happening too much mid-gaming session.
Try downloading DD-WRT to replace your older router firmware.
This will allow for automating the router’s reboot schedule. If you can’t do that, you could always buy a programmable timer switch to place between the router and electrical outlet.
Routers are the type of device that, once they are set up, are left and forgotten about.
Chances are that your router is the one that was installed by your broadband provider and doesn’t feature the newer AC or N band standards of the latest routers.
The wireless AC standard has introduced a faster 5GHz band which is more stable than previous 2.4Ghz routers, although its range is shorter.
Dual band routers are available, which support both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands; many devices, like certain smartphones, will only support the older standard.
By combining both bands, you can use your phones or devices further away on the 2.4GHz band and optimize performance on gaming or media devices by using them on the 5GHz.
For smaller apartments, you probably won’t have a problem with the range. In larger homes, try to place the router no further than one room away from the gaming machine.
There are many routers now sold as gaming routers.
They have been designed to offer the best network settings for gaming experiences.
One example is the Netgear Nighthawk XR500 Pro Gaming Router, which was the company’s first ever router designed specifically for gaming.
This beast of a router even looks like something you would find in the latest first person space shoot-’em up and is thought to be the best router for gaming by many avid gamers.
The main thing that sets it apart from standard routers is a feature which aims to reduce faraway server connections when playing games with matchmaking facilities, such as Call of Duty.
You can simply configure the router to refuse connections that are further away than a preset distance.
It also shows the different ping times of other servers, even if the game you are playing doesn’t support that feature.
In the past, gaming routers may have offered the best option for serious gamers.
They are excellent devices and if buying one still represents the best value you can get, then purchase it.
Most of the modern high-end routers now feature all the specifications required for a smooth gaming experience including Quality of Service (QoS) or MU-MIMO (multi-user, multi-input, multi-output).
Just because a router says that it is made for gaming, that doesn’t necessarily make it better. It’s more about configuring your new router to your specific needs.
Ensure that any router you buy allows you to alter all the essential settings for the ultimate gaming setup.
The TP-Link AC1900 Smart Wireless Router is an example of a budget router which would be ideal for gaming.
Using the following features may not make you a better gamer, but it will help you to minimize any network issues, boost your network performance and hopefully have fewer interruptions to your gaming sessions.
A good tip is, for the best results, always make sure you have your router’s firmware up-to-date before configuring it.
With so many devices competing for your bandwidth, you need a way to ensure that your gaming gets priority.
One way would be to switch off all the other connected devices in the house. You could, for example, try putting all phones and tablets into flight mode. That, however, can often be an impractical solution and certainly won’t win you any friends in the household.
QoS on a router acts like a traffic cop for data, giving higher priority to time-sensitive data rather than less important data streams.
QoS enabled on your router will prioritize the data from your gaming, over Netflix, Skype, torrent downloads and even those Windows updates.
What’s more important anyhow, the latest version of your phone’s Facebook app, or saving the world from an alien invasion?
Different makes of router have different ways of recognizing the gaming data. This can be either by device or application; check your router’s manual to see the QoS settings that it offers and how you can adapt them.
The Netgear support page gives detailed instructions on how to enable QoS on their routers; other manufacturers offer similar advice online.
If you have ever suffered from frequent disconnection or you can’t hear other players in the conversation when connected to the server, NAT restrictions could be to blame.
Network Address Translation, or NAT, is the technology your IP address provider assigns to your account so that all the devices attached to your router can access the account using the same designated IP address.
Many routers will have the NAT type set to a strict or moderate security level as default. This may mean that some ports you need to be open for your online gaming session will be blocked.
This can be easily remedied by looking on the help section of your games console website for a list of ports which should be open or checking with a software developer site for PC gamers for any specific ports that need to be open.
Once you know which ports need to be opened, use a feature called port forwarding.
To correct any disconnects or issues you may be having communicating with fellow gamers, make sure Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) is enabled on your router and that all devices are connected to it.
UPnP helps your router to communicate with devices on other networks and makes sure that they can see each other and “talk”.
One of the more straightforward things that can affect your Wi-Fi performance is the channel you use.
It is likely that your iPhone, tablet and other smart connected home devices are probably all using 2.4GHz right now.
The 2.4GHz band was well known for being overcrowded, so the 5GHz band was made available to be used by Wi-Fi.
The 2.4GHz band may have better distance but there are only 14 Wi-Fi channels on this band. If you are using the same channel as a neighbor it can slow down your connection.
The more signals on one channel, the more data traffic jams you will get. For smaller homes, try to stick with the 5GHz band which has 23 channels that are all non-overlapping.
We can’t talk about configuring a router and overlook security.
Just like any other piece of computer technology, it is a crucial step to set up your security.
Many of the default passwords and settings for routers are easily available online, which is great if you “lock” yourself out of your router, but also great for would-be hackers.
Make sure you change any default Wi-Fi passwords and router system passwords to protect yourself from somebody hacking into your network.
Every brand of router has its own way of setting up the hardware and it’s very important that you read the accompanying literature.
If you are a newbie to the world of internet protocol, then purchasing a “gaming” router which has been specifically designed for the purpose will come with many of the features pre-configured.
Online gaming is much easier than the old days of having to manually enter the individual IP addresses and using a dial-up modem which cut off when anybody else used the phone line.
Although, it’s no good paying for the fastest broadband you can get if your router is not up to the job or you don’t configure it correctly.
Always try to get the best router you can afford. It will certainly be better than the one provided by your ISP.
For gaming you need to ensure it has QoS, MU-MIMO and the ability for user-defined port forwarding.
Take time to configure it correctly for the smoothest gaming experience you can get – Planet Earth needs you!
Marcus has a graduate degree in computer engineering and has many years of experience in cutting-edge technology research and development in both startups and Fortune 500 corporations. In his free time, he enjoys RTS gaming.
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