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What Is Packet Loss And Why It Matters For Gamers

What Is Packet Loss And Why It Matters For Gamers

You may have heard of packet loss while playing games or talking with tech-savvy people but very few explain what it means. Knowing what is packet loss in gaming can help you diagnose and fix it while also improving your experience and gaming performance in various games. If you want to skip the details and just perform an easy packet loss test, you can use a simple online test that can determine if you have packet loss or not.

1. What Is Packet Loss

Before understanding what is packet loss in gaming, it is important to understand what it means as it affects anything that involves a live service.

The way data is transmitted over the internet or local networks are one in packets. Data is split into small packets. The packet contains information and other relevant data such as who sent it, the recipient of the data called destination, encryption data, and other details. When a packet is sent, it can be lost. For example, sending a file to someone over the internet means that it is broken down into many small packets that are being sent in succession. The destination will send a confirmation for each packet sent, waiting for the next. As the packets are sent over the internet, they go through various pieces of equipment known as hops and through a transport infrastructure comprised of optic fiber and UTP cables. Sometimes packets can be lost due to various errors on certain hops or due to problems with the optic fiber cables. When a packet is lost, the file that the destination or recipient receives may become corrupted as there are pieces of it missing.

The same behavior can happen when playing online games. Packets that are being sent from your computer which is called a client, can be lost on the way to the server. The loss can occur both ways. Packets that you are supposed to receive can be lost.

2. How It Affects Your Gaming Experience

To understand what is packet loss in gaming, it is important to start with what packet loss is and how it affects online games. Packet loss is not a significant problem when you have less than 0.1% packet loss. This means that 1 out of 1000 packets are lost. It becomes a problem when the number of lost packets gets close to 1%. At that point, several things can happen, depending on how severe your packet loss is.

The consequences of having a high packet loss can manifest in two ways. The most common issue is a phenomenon known as rubberbanding. What this means is that any action performed ingame is instantly undone. For example, you may move a character from one point to another close point on the screen. Your character will start moving but it will stutter and it will appear as it is walking backward. It can also appear as the character is teleported to a previous position. Rubberbanding can also manifest on other players in the same game as you. You can see them having stuttering moves.

The second consequence is frequent game disconnects. If you are getting frequent disconnects you may be having an abnormally high loss of packets. When an internet connection is unstable, it leads to severe packet loss.

3. What Causes Packet Loss In Gaming

Understanding what is packet loss in gaming does not mean much if you do not know why it happens and how it can be fixed.

One common problem that causes packet loss is bad routing tables. What this means is that your packets are being sent over a path that is not optimal. Packets are sent over a longer, more inefficient route which leads to packet loss.
Another reason why you may have packet loss is faulty equipment. It may even be your home internet router. However, it can also be a piece of equipment located in the network of your internet service provider.

Fixing these problems can be challenging. There are ways in which you can determine where the problem is. A packet loss test can help pinpoint if the problem is between your computer and your home router or between your home router and your internet service provider. Knowing where the problem means that you can raise the problem with your ISP or replace your networking equipment. Once you understand what is packet loss in gaming, you are one step closer to fixing the problem.

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