VPN services are great, but will using one with Steam improve your gaming experience?
Well, you might get some awesome perks. But, at the same time, you might also get in trouble for using a VPN if you’re not careful.
We’ll tell you everything you need to know in this quick article.
First – What Is a VPN & How Does It Work?
The easiest way to define a VPN is as an online app that secures your traffic and protects your privacy. You download and install it to your device, and use it to connect to a VPN server. After that, you’ll browse the web securely.
Here’s how VPNs offer protection:
- They secure your privacy by hiding your IP address. That means sites and other online users can’t use your IP to determine your geo-location (what country and city you live in). Also, advertisers can’t track your online movements.
- They protect your data by encrypting your Internet traffic. Anything you exchange with the VPN server is encrypted end-to-end, meaning only the VPN server and app can decrypt the data. If anyone else tries to spy on it, they won’t see anything relevant – just gibberish.
Why Use a VPN with Steam?
Okay, so VPNs sound like cool tools, but what exactly can they do for your gaming experience?
Well, a lot, actually. Here are the main reasons to use a VPN while gaming on Steam:
Avoid Bandwidth Throttling
Bandwidth throttling is what ISPs do when they see you use too much data on a specific online service – like when you’re binging Dota 2 over the weekend or at night, for example.
When an ISP takes issue with that, they’ll selectively slow down your speeds to reduce the amount of data you use. Translated, that means your gaming speeds will be slower – you’ll experience more ping and lag, longer connections times, and maybe even disconnects.
It’s annoying, but the good news is a VPN can help. It encrypts your traffic, so your ISP can’t spy on it anymore. They won’t see what specific Steam game you’re playing – or that you’re using Steam at all! Without that information, they won’t know to slow down your Steam speeds.
The only thing they’ll be able to do is slow down your entire Internet connection. While your ISP can do that, they’re not likely to.
Bypass Annoying Bans
Who here hasn’t experienced an unfair IP ban at least once in their lives?
We all know the story – you’re gaming with your friends, having a good time, are at the top of the leaderboard, and suddenly you’re kicked off and see a message telling you you’ve been banned for cheating.
Maybe the anti-cheat system made an error, or maybe the admin who was watching you play accidentally thought you were cheating because you were so good. In any case, you have to start posting on the server’s forums and hope that some admin will believe you and unban you.
Or you could just use a gaming VPN instead. Because it hides your IP address, it will help you bypass all IP bans instantly. And if you get banned again, no problem – just connect to a different VPN server and you’ll get a new IP!
Unblock Gaming on Restricted Networks
Gaming on school networks or at work isn’t usually allowed – the admins use network firewalls to block access to certain online games or game clients (like Steam).
Basically, those firewalls say that you can’t communicate with a specific IP address as long as you use the IP you’ve been assigned (which happens when you connect to the network).
But you can circumvent the firewalls by using a VPN. It routes your traffic through a VPN server that acts as a middleman between you and the sites or gaming servers you communicate with. It essentially intercepts your traffic and sends it to its destination, and then intercepts the incoming data and sends it to your device.
That all means you’ll communicate with the web through new IPs, ones that don’t have firewall rules associated with them. So there’s nothing stopping you from playing your favorite online games!
Even better, the VPN encrypts your traffic, so the network admins won’t know you’re bypassing the firewall.
Improve Your Ping and Lag
High ping and lag are enough to make even the best of online games unplayable. What’s the point in loving the game if you can’t play it?
Unfortunately, you’ll often deal with high ping and lag if you game on far-away servers.
Well, a VPN can help by routing your traffic straight to the gaming server. If you connect to a VPN server in the same country as the gaming server, it might route your traffic through a more direct path, which results in better ping and lag.
To be 100% sure you’ll lower the ping and lag, we also recommend the following:
- Turn off background web-connected apps you don’t need.
- Use fast protocols like WireGuard and IKEv2/IPSec.
- Use VPN servers with low load and ping.
- Game over wired connections instead of WiFi.
Can You Get Cheaper Games with a Steam VPN?
Our research shows that no, you can’t. You could do it back when Steam used your IP to determine where you’re from. But now it also uses your billing address to do that. So you’ll need a billing address and payment method from a different country + a VPN to try and save money.
But it’s not worth it – Steam’s TOS specifically say that you’ll get banned if you try to use a VPN to bypass regional pricing.
Do Gaming VPNs Bypass All Bans?
Not exactly. A VPN can only help you bypass IP bans because it hides your IP address.
However, there’s no way for a VPN to bypass a MAC address ban (it’s your device’s unique identifier) or a profile ban (you’ll have to create a new profile to avoid it).
The Bottom Line
Using a VPN when playing games on Steam is definitely worth it – you lower ping and lag, avoid annoying bans, and stop bandwidth throttling.
Why else would you use a VPN with Steam? Please tell us in the comments.