What is ping and why is it important for gaming?

(Pocket-lint) – When playing multiplayer games, it’s important to know what your ping is and how it can affect your gaming performance.

Besides having a specific aim and good reflexes, there are a few things that can positively or negatively affect your games and influence whether you win or not. Ping is one of those things. But what is it and what can you do to improve it? Stay with us to find out.

What is the ping?

When playing games, the word “ping” is used to refer to the time it takes for the signal sent by your gaming PC to be received by the game server you are playing on.

Ping is often used interchangeably with “latency” to describe a delay in your character’s movement or actions in-game relative to your inputs on your keyboard, mouse, or gamepad.

Latency is different, however, because latency can take several different forms:

  • Peripheral latency: It is Tthe time it takes for your mouse or keyboard to register a press and send that action to your gaming PC
  • Game latency:This is the time it takes for your processor to process the input and then send that data to your graphics card for rendering
  • Render latency: It is Tthe time it takes for data sent by the CPU to be rendered by the GPU
  • PC latency:This is the time it takes for a frame to traverse the PC. This includes both gaming and rendering latency
  • Display latency: It is Tthe time it takes your monitor for a new frame after the GPU has finished rendering
  • System latency:This whole end-to-end process

Various things can impact latency. We have already written about common causes of PC lag and how to fix them. But you can also reduce latency by changing parts of your gaming PC. If you upgrade your CPU, add more RAM, buy a new GPU, or buy a high-end gaming mouse or keyboard. All of these things can help reduce latency issues, but they won’t help with ping.

This is because ping is what happens after some of these types of latency. Once the signal is sent to your PC, it then needs to go to the server and back. There is nothing you can do with your hardware to make this happen faster. Although you can make your connection more reliable with a wired Ethernet connection from your router rather than relying on Wi-Fi.

How is ping measured?

So you now know that ping is basically the time it takes for your PC to communicate with the game server. How is it measured though? Well, ping is usually measured in milliseconds. Ideally, the lower the ping, the better.

If you play a game where you host the server and then have others join you, you’ll probably find that the ping is next to nothing. While your friend’s pings will be higher, depending on how far away they live.

The ping will vary depending on the location of the server you are playing on. If you choose a server hosted in a nearby town, your ping will hopefully be reasonable. Preferably somewhere around 15 or 20 ms or less. Other nearby servers may be higher, for example between 40 and 60 ms. You’ll still be able to reasonably play these and have a pretty decent experience.

The further away the server, the higher the ping.


How high is too high?

If you’re looking at a multiplayer game server browser, chances are you have the option to filter by ping so you can see the lowest and highest. Naturally, you want to pick the ones with the lowest ping. However, you may find that this is not always possible.

Best Nintendo Switch games 2022: Top Switch titles every gamer must own

Low ping servers may not be full depending on the time of day. If you play in the middle of the night or in the middle of the day when others aren’t playing as much, you may need to look to servers further away.

The ping will increase the farther you go. We find it perfectly possible to play on European servers while playing in the UK with minimal hassle. You can also play on American servers on the East Coast, but the ping will be higher, sometimes in the range of 100 to 200 ms. Try playing in Asia and you might find over 200 or 300 ms, which is almost unplayable.

A high ping causes a disconnect between button presses and actions that occur in-game. The higher the ping, the worse it gets. This can cause your character to stutter on the map in the worst case or just miss shots that should have connected in an FPS game or battle royale, resulting in frustrating casualties.

Low ping for competitive play

If you play competitive games or fast-paced games that require quick reactions and low latency accuracy, low ping is an important part of that.

This is why esports and competitive gaming events take place in LAN setups where everyone’s computers are connected together locally. No internet connection means level playing field when it comes to ping.

This prevents things like “spectator advantage” from kicking in. This is where an attacking player has the advantage over an immobile player who is camping in a corner waiting for enemies to arrive. The ping difference can cause each player to see different things:

Pocket-lintWhat is ping and why is it important for game photo 2

How to measure your ping

It is possible to measure your ping with relative ease without even being in a game. To do this, you can do a speed test using this tool.

This gives you your upload and download speeds, but also the ping to the server you are testing from. You can change the server location from this tool, which means you can even test your ping to see how it will perform in different regions.

How to lower your ping

Obviously, the best way to lower your ping is to choose a server that is geographically close to you. There are, however, other things you can do to improve your experience.

  1. Quit other apps – while playing, be sure to quit and disable any other apps or programs that may be impacting your network. This includes software like Steam, Origin, Epic Games, and many more that might be downloading games in the background. Close Chrome and quit other apps that send network data.
  2. Use Ethernet – avoid using Wi-Fi and instead connect your gaming machine directly to your router using a fast Ethernet cable. This will give a strong connection and better bandwidth.
  3. Enable QoS settings – some routers, especially gaming routers, have QoS settings in the router options. These can be configured to prioritize network traffic in different ways. You can configure the router to prioritize your gaming machine over everything else on your home network. Some also have the ability to prioritize gaming traffic over all other things.
  4. Turn off network devices – Turn off other things in your home that might be using bandwidth when not needed. Simple things like smart home devices, other computers, and more can all be great with your gaming enjoyment.
  5. Upgrade your router – if all else fails, you may want to consider upgrading your router to something better. You will be surprised at the difference it makes.

Written by Adrian Willings.