Online gaming has opened up a whole new world in video games. Whether you’re playing with friends from your hometown or competing with complete strangers around the globe, it no longer matters. However, this fun also comes with risks that you should be aware of.
If you connect to any public server, there is a risk that hackers or malicious players will find out your IP address. You or your home network might fall victim to DDoS or DoS attacks, or you might reveal your real location.
For this reason, you should always you a VPN service to protect yourself while gaming. Fortunately, you can try a premium VPN like ExpressVPN risk-free and enjoy playing your favorite game.
Why you should use a VPN for gaming
If you connect to a public game server, the exposure of your IP address is the biggest problem. Other players can see it.
A malicious gamer, a hacker or simply a begrudging competitor can use the knowledge of your IP address and launch DoS or DDoS attacks. As a result, your home network goes down and you end up being unable to continue enjoying online gaming.
In the worst case, hackers can even find out your real location and trigger a so-called swatting attack. Swatting is when you send a police unit to another player’s house because there is supposedly a threatening situation there. This is not without danger and has led to fatal accidents in the past.
A VPN can protect you at this point by sending your traffic through a server at a different location. This effectively disguises your IP address and prevents the public from viewing it.
There’s another benefit, because your game benefits from it too! VPNs reduce ping times and latency and increase speed. How is this possible? Let’s say that you live far away from a game server. The increased ping times can cause annoying delays during gameplay. If you connect to a VPN server that is closer to the game server, you can reduce this latency and enjoy faster speeds.
For this to work, you need a VPN with a huge network of servers in the right locations. Furthermore, you need unlimited bandwidth and very high speeds if you want to avoid long loading times and delays.
This is exactly where the problem with free VPNs lies.
Can you use a free VPN to play?
Don’t get us wrong. There are some free VPNs that meet the requirements for gaming. Unfortunately, they carry risks and other issues that most likely outweigh the benefits.
First of all, we have the problem with speed. Free VPNs very likely can’t keep up with premium VPNs at this point. You may find that even a closer server won’t provide you with the speeds you need. What’s worse, though, is that many such services are funded by advertising. The result is annoying pop-up windows that may slow down your connection even more.
Furthermore, many VPNs that cost nothing are stripped-down versions of paid offerings. Many useful features of the paid version are either limited or simply not available. For example, access to servers might be severely restricted or data is limited. Security settings might be disabled or various features like torrent support might not be available.
If you play mostly on your console, there might also be compatibility issues. If you want to protect a console, your VPN must work with routers. Such a feature is usually only found in paid or premium VPNs.
The best free VPNs for gaming
If your priority is to hide your IP address and otherwise you don’t care about speed or security, then you can definitely go for a free VPN. Below are some of our top recommendations:
ExpressVPN tops our list of the best VPN for gamers. Even though it’s not free, you can at least try it risk-free. If you are not satisfied, you can request a refund within 30 days.
The network of high-speed servers guarantees that you can gamble without lag or annoying interruptions.
You can play games that are not available in your region, as ExpressVPN has more than 3,000 servers in 90 countries. Since you are also allowed to switch servers an unlimited number of times, you can quickly relocate in case of a DDoS attack.
With military-grade 256-bit AES encryption, DNS leak protection, and an automatic kill switch, ExpressVPN guarantees you the highest level of security during your gaming sessions. Moreover, it also permanently masks your IP address, which provides you with additional protection against cyber threats.
Thanks to special ‘obfuscated’ servers, your ISP will also not be able to detect that you are using a VPN. This is especially handy if your provider tends to throttle your connection while gaming.
It also doesn’t matter what platform you’re pulling from: ExpressVPN supports almost all relevant operating systems and devices – even routers.
CyberGhost has a huge global server network. This is useful when you are traveling or going on vacation. You can still access your home country’s games and streaming apps with your console. It’s also useful for maximizing speeds. For example, I found that the server in Tampa lagged a bit while I was playing Red Dead Redemption on my PS5. That’s why I switched to Miami and it was much faster. You can play at maximum speeds and from any location.
Setting up CyberGhost on the most popular gaming consoles is easy. You can do it by sharing your Internet connection via PC or Mac. However, this only changes your location and doesn’t encrypt your traffic. The other option is to use a VPN-compatible router. CyberGhost even offers routers with the app pre-installed. This way, you get all the security benefits without having to configure the VPN manually.
There are also super-fast servers with unlimited bandwidth. Some ISPs limit the amount of bandwidth and that can cause severe throttling when gaming. However, with CyberGhost I never had this problem. There are no interruptions while you stream.
Your personal data and game console are safe because there is military standard encryption. If a good hacker finds out your IP address, he can easily launch DDoS attacks. This might render your console completely unusable. To make sure it can be trusted, I tested for leaks with a tool. None were detected. You can play and there are no risks regarding cyber attacks.
You can test the full service by using CyberGhosts 24-hour free trial. After that, you can continue testing it risk-free because there is a 45-day money-back guarantee.
Enjoy risk-free gaming!