Eli5: what is ping in games and how can you fix it?


Eli5: what is ping in games and how can you fix it?

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Ping, or more correctly latency, is how long it takes for a message to be sent back and forth between two devices (such as your computer and a server). When playing an online game, higher latency means that it takes longer for messages between your computer amd and the other players’ computers, resulting in bad gameplay performance.

You can reduce the ping by upgrading your internet connection and/or your network equipment, or using a server that is geographically closer to you.

Ping time is the round trip time it takes for a message to be sent from your computer to a server and back to your computer. This is important in many online games: You perform an action (e.g. pressing Q in league of legends) and your computer needs to send the message “player pressed Q” to the lol server. The lol server then needs to distribute this message to all the other players so that they can also see that you activated your ability. If you have a low ping, the message gets distributed really fast. Conversely, if you have a high ping, it takes longer for other players to see that you pressed Q, but it also takes you longer to see what the other players are doing, as the messages take longer to transmit.

Ping is affected by lots of factors. Firstly, it is lower (=better) the closer the server is to you geographycally. This is why your ping will be better if you are in Europe and play on EU servers rather than playing on US servers. On the other hand, if you are in the US, US servers will be better. So, step 1 is to choose the server closest to you.

Then, make sure that you have a good internet connection. Wired is better than wireless. And if you use a wireless connection make sure that you have a good signal strength.

As a last resort, check your internet contract and how your house is connected to the internet as different ways of connecting and even different ISPs (internet companies) might yield different results.

Ping is how long it takes for your machine to communicate with servers. If it’s too high, it means either you need a better connection, or the server does. The former is usually handled by paying more money to your ISP, the latter by playing a game with servers not made of cardboard

“A ping” or “pinging” has multiple meanings, so some history of the word might help. It starts out as [onomatopoeia](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onomatopoeia) for a short impact on a hard object; a hammer might make a ‘*ping*’ noise when it hits an anvil. It was then used in sonar as the noise it makes, and then the timing of the echos from that ping tells the operator how far away everything is.

In basic networking (of which the internet is an advance version of), “a ping” is a single message sent to another computer with the instructions “send me a basic message back”; the time to get the message back is then measured. Similar to sonar, this tells the computer how ‘far’ away the second computer is. If the pings are going between a client and a server, this is an effective measurement of the latency of the client: how much time it takes between the client trying to do something and the server acknowledging that the action has been taken. You can actually do this really easily; on windows, opening a cmd terminal and typing “ping google.com” will send 4 pings to the google ip address and tell you how long it takes to hear back from it.

In online gaming, there’s two similar terms: “the ping” refers to the latency of the client program, and is covered in the other answers pretty well. (I typed the following when I thought the question was “how do I find it?”): >!Because it’s between the game client and the game server (and not just computer to computer), the only way to reliably find a game’s ping is if there’s a setting to display it. Otherwise, finding the server’s ip address and typing it into a ping command (like I mentioned above) will get something similar.!<

On the other hand, “***a*** ping” or “pinging [object]” goes back to an earlier meaning: it’s a short, single message. It is a way for players of certain games (like Apex or League of Legends) to share certain types of information (such as “here’s a weapon” or “I see an enemy over there”) through the game with game supported data (the weapon flashing on their GUI or an icon on their minimap), instead of just through chatting and trying to describe the location with words.

TLDR: More information about the word ‘ping’ and how it applies to video games than you want, but maybe some extra information will be fun for you to read.