Anyone who has played online games has experienced the pain of bouts of latency, or lag. A connection slowing for even a second in an intense game can spell the difference between victory and defeat, which is frustrating even for the most relaxed of gamers.
While technology has made significant progress in reducing this issue over recent years, it’s important to note that in some ways this will always be a problem. If you understand the reasons why, however, you better your chances to defeat the issue and avoid the dreaded lag spike or connection timeout.
The traditional reason for lag stemmed from the slower connections which were a necessity in the days of dialup. In this time the limited bandwidth meant that only a very limited amount of data could be received and sent at any time. Any slight fluctuations in speed here hit hard and could reduce data transmission to a kilobyte a second or less.
As we abandoned dialup infrastructure, this part of the issue has been largely mitigated. The issue, as it now stands, is one of wireless connectivity and sheer distance of gaming servers and connections.
Wireless, for those unaware, should not be used for fast-paced gaming. Wireless is unreliable by its nature, with data loss being an inevitability in these systems. Because of this, users of wireless should try to invest in wired connections if at all possible. Not always tenable, we know, but it is the preferable choice.
Distance is an issue which is, frankly, unsolvable in most cases. As fast as the electrons which carry signals travel, they cannot break the laws of physics. Travelling thousands of kilometers and back through many different relays will inevitably incur delays, however slight.
Even this slight delay is all it takes for a game to cross the upper 100m/s threshold into unplayable on a competitive level. This is why dedicated online games offer regional servers, as connecting to anything beyond this area increases response time from fun to frustrating. This also causes issues with a fractured and unsustainable player base size, which is an unfortunate side-effect of the lag problem.
That said, there are some cases where latency is of almost no concern at all. Online casinos are a strong example of this, as the reliability of data is the cornerstone in this regard, not the sheer responsiveness of connection. In this way, even those listed as Canadian friendly sites only would not only perform well at home but would also run perfectly when on holiday or out of the country.
A second or so delay or any lag in gaming that causes a delay in pulling a slot reel makes no real difference after all, and the same can be said with a wide range of non-gambling games. Whether chess, card games, or monopoly, as long as your reactions don’t need to be split second, there is no longer any issue at all.
What does this mean for the future of online gaming improvements? That depends on what you enjoy. Those stuck on wireless can at least rest happy that new 5G connectivity will increase speed and reliability, and those playing games which do not require twitch reflexes are as set now as they have ever been.
Those of us playing faster games with small local communities, however, are still doomed to the same fate which has cursed us since the advent of online gaming. At least growing engagement with gaming means this issue will decrease with larger local communities, but unless something is done about that pesky speed of light, we can only mitigate, and never overcome.
Image by Instacodez
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