What Causes Online Gaming Lag?
Slow performance, chunky graphics, and all around poor game quality can ruin any gamer's evening. The technical aspects may be different, but if you're just sick of your game running like crap, you need to attack the biggest problem categories first. Here's a few lag details, along with big fixes for big problems to make sure you're ready for the next war, raid, battleground, puzzle, or just a relaxing night in your online world of choice.
What Is Lag?
Although lag has a fairly standard dictionary definition, the causes are different. Online gaming lag is about network performance, meaning that the data transfer or signal between your computer and the game server(s) is slow.
As far as you (the player) are concerned, the problem can be traced to your internet, the game company's internet, your computer, or the servers. All you can do is make sure that your computer, home network, and internet connection performs properly.
This means making sure nothing on your computer is slowing down the network. You need to scan for viruses, since some viruses could be using internet resources to download (receive) bad data and upload (send) data, including your personal information.
You also need to make sure that your internet and home network aren't overburdened. Are you trying to watch Netflix and play games at the same time on slow internet? This can be bad for people on the slowest internet plans in the US, but are you running at the lowest speeds? The average internet speed in the US is over 60Mbps (Megabits per second), and if you're even at half of that, streaming videos while playing games shouldn't be a problem.
If you're not doing anything but playing the game, but your character seems to be running in place without updating in the game, casting instant spells for multiple second, or suddenly dead without being able to see any of your enemies beforehand, it could be your Internet Service Provider's problem. Check your game's network performance meters, such as World of Warcraft's latency meter, and ask your ISP to explain why your game performance is so bad on their internet.
You can even direct your questions to the game. Big games such as World of Warcraft, Rift, Counter-Strike GO, or League of Legends will have official support and staff in addition to public user forums to figure out if the problem is your game. Bring the results of tests from sites like DSLReports to share if needed.
If your game doesn't move fluidly like a movie or a TV show, your lag is caused by hardware. This isn't considered lag by the technical definition, but it is still slow. You need to know the symptoms and differences in order for technicians to troubleshoot the right problem, because fixing the internet won't fix a computer with a bad video card.
Computer games are programs like any other, and use the finite resources inside your computer. This means that you need certain processor, video card, and random-access memory (RAM) speeds and sizes to run games efficiently and as intended.
This means meeting the recommended system specifications. If your computer meets or exceeds specifications, but still seems to freeze or play like a slideshow, you need to consider virus problems or closing a few programs.
If in doubt, a 24 hour onsite computer repair professional can help. They can look at your game and system specifications to find the conflict, so contact a computer repair professional as soon as possible for a direct analysis.