Here’s What Causes Lag in Games (& How to Fix It)
Let’s talk about what causes lag in games (and how to fix it).
You know how the worst story in the gaming community goes. You’ve been playing your game of choice for hours with hopes of defeating that final boss, setting a record, or finishing whichever mission you’re on. The best part? You’re about to reach your goals. But then, just as you’re about to serve that final strike, your game turns choppy, you lose control of your character, and you lose. Your work has all been in vain. You’re back to square one. The worst part is that it’s not even your fault – it’s that lag!
Lag is a common concern among gamers and exceptionally inconvenient for online multiplayer games because you lose a game, or worse yet, get locked out of the server.
But your gaming life doesn’t have to be this way. If you’ve turned your computer on and off, and the problem with lag in gaming persists, consider the following causes for lag and learn how to fix each one of them.
What is Lag and How It Works
Lag doesn’t only affect gaming. It can also slow down our browsing or streaming attempts. But when it comes to gaming, it can be a dealbreaker that makes the gamer’s frustration go through the roof.
The type of games where lag affects gaming the most are:
- Online Multiplayer Games, such as first-person shooter video games (Call of Duty, Halo, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six, etc.),
- Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG), such as World of Warcraft or League of Legends.
Lag slows down the responsiveness of your controls. In comparison, lag does not dramatically affect gameplay in games that aren’t as time-sensitive and reliant on the gamer’s quick reflexes.
The Two Main Types of Lag
Lag manifests as a delay between a gamer’s action and the server’s reaction. There are two main types of lag:
- latency lag happens when your network is congested with too much traffic,
- graphics lag (also known as FPS lag) occurs when the computer does not have enough processing power. It causes reduced FPS (frames per second). The most common reason for reduced FPS is graphics settings that create a larger workload than your hardware can handle.
Sometimes, the two types of lag both happen at the same time. For example, if there are many online players all present in one small spot, both your computer and your network need to work harder to keep up with all the data. Your graphics switch to lower FPS because they save power, while your network slows down due to too much activity on the servers.
Lag is Caused by High Latency & Ping Rate
Lag is caused by high latency and a high ping rate. Gamers who experience lag should learn about these two terms as they are at the heart of every cause of lag in gaming. Here’s the difference between latency and ping and their basic explanations:
Ping is the signal gamers send when they press a button to get their character to act. The signal travels to the server. The lower the ping rate, the less likely the game is to lag. A high ping rate, on the other hand, causes lag. A great ping rate is anything below 50 milliseconds. The acceptable and average ping rate is 50 to 100 milliseconds. If your ping rate is over 150 milliseconds, you have high ping and are likely to experience lag.
Latency tells how much time expires between said action and the reaction of the sent signal. That time should be as low as possible; low latency is good news, while high latency causes lag.
To keep their ping rate and latency low, gamers can play on a server that’s in their local area or country. The closer the server is to you geographically, the lower the ping. If the ping rate is too high, you can even be left outside the server.
Is lag the same as latency?
Not quite. High ping rate and high latency are the main causes of lag. So, when we want to know how to reduce lag, we are actually looking into how to reduce latency and ping rate. Lag is the direct result of the two. Now, let’s explore how to reduce high latency and ping rate, and defeat lag once and for all.
Here’s What Causes Lag in Games
Just like there are various types of lags, there are also several different causes for lag. As explained above, lag is caused by high latency. And further down the line of inquiry, high latency is caused by network issues or a low-performance graphics card.
The most common causes for lagging in games are:
- Not enough internet bandwidth
- Problems with internet speed
- Bad internet connection type
- Problems with wireless internet
- Overworked GPU (graphics processing unit)
Not Enough Bandwidth
Bandwidth is the maximum possible amount of data that can be transferred on your internet connection. It’s measured in megabits per second (Mbps). However, don’t confuse overall bandwidth with internet speed. Bandwidth informs the volume of data on your network, while speed indicates how fast the data travels. The data limit is known as bandwidth cap, and it ranges from several Mbps to Gbps.
You need sufficient bandwidth to enjoy your gameplay. If there are many users connected to one network, you can reach the bandwidth cap all the faster.
If the bandwidth is the problem, consider upgrading to a better package, with gigabit capacity or no data caps at all.
Problems with Internet Speed
Unlimited data means little if you’re struggling with insufficient internet speed. There are many issues that can affect your internet speed.
Go through the list below and try out these simple solutions before you lose the last bit of your temper!
- Reboot your router. First things first: try turning the router off and on again.
- Disconnect all devices you aren’t actively using.
- Reduce the graphic resolution of your game. That way, your game will use up less data.
- Close all programs or websites that might be running in the background. They use the internet in small, but not insignificant, ways.
It could just be your upload speed that’s the culprit behind slow internet speed. Asymmetrical internet connections have higher download rates than upload rates, but gamers need both to enjoy their favorite gaming activity. To avoid lagging, aim to have an upload speed of at least 3 to 6 Mbps.
Fiber internet offers symmetrical connections, where the upload and download rates are both the same. Do a quick speed test to see where you stand.
Bad Internet Connection Type
On a similar note, internet speed and reliability also depend on the type of internet connection you have. There are various internet connection types, such as DSL (Digital Subscriber Line), cable, and fiber optics. DSL can reach around 100Mbps and cable up to 1,000Mbps. Fiber, on the other hand, can reach as much as 100 Gbps (100,000 Mbps). The dial-up connections are far more likely to cause lag, but it’s become incredibly rare nowadays.
Your gaming experience will be the best if you opt for the best of the three: fiber internet. See how fiber compares to cable based on pricing, bandwidth, and availability, and consider upgrading to reduce your lag.
Problems with Wireless Internet
Since most people use wireless internet, how can you know whether the internet speed and not the router is the issue?
Here are some solutions for a weak WiFi signal:
- Move your router to a central position within your home. Walls and other materials can weaken the signal.
- Expand the range of your WiFi with WiFi extenders.
- Try using the ethernet cable. Drop the wireless and plug the internet right into your computer. This will help you rule out your wireless connection as the cause for a lag in gaming.
- Update your hardware. If your router is old, consider buying a new one. Your internet speed can only be as fast as your router lets it.
When you’re dealing with an overworked graphics card, you will experience graphics lag. Graphics lag happens because your computer can’t produce enough frames per second (FPS). Here’s what you can do to get rid of GPU lag:
- Excellent graphics can hinder your gameplay. Reduce the framerate or graphics resolution in your game settings.
- Clean your computer of dust. Use a microfiber cloth and disinfectant, but do not spray it directly on the computer. You should clean your computer once or twice a year.
- Upgrade your graphics card. Check which card is the best for the games you play and what kind of specifications you need. Pay special attention to memory capacity (VRAM), ports, and power connectors. Make sure to do price/performance checks and compare various graphic card manufacturers, such as Nvidia and AMD.
Conclusive Thoughts: What Causes Lag in Games
Lag is the arch nemesis of gamers, but even this final boss can be defeated with persistence, troubleshooting, and above all, a great internet connection.
We’ve covered the most common causes of lag in gaming:
- Not enough internet bandwidth,
- Insufficient internet speed,
- Bad internet connection type,
- Problems with wireless internet,
- Overworked GPU.
And remember; learn why your computer is lagging as there are many different types and sources of lag. Put on a researcher’s hat and learn how to fix lagging in the specific game you play, whether that’s Minecraft, League of Legends, Call of Duty, GTA, or other games. Don’t forget to lean on your gaming community. Ask whether they also experience lagging when they play certain games.
If you don’t have the best internet for gaming yet, consider contacting our specialists at 877-722-3833 or send us an inquiry, and we will set you up with the best internet plan for gamers. No more lag!