Online gaming: about computer speeds and specifications
Online gaming has developed a huge following in modern times, enabled, like many other trends, by the spread of broadband Internet and the ever improving download speeds. But how fast does your connection need to be and are the computer needs of gamers different to other users? Find out what Internet speeds you will need, what type of Internet connection works best, and the system requirements your computer should have to get involved in online gaming.
Internet speed for online gaming
To play online games and not get frustrated by the experience you will need a fast Internet connection. Whether enjoying serious game titles, such as "World of Warcraft", or less intense civilization-building tools, such as "Second Life", game makers recommend broadband Internet as a bare-minimum - dial-up is a no go. What type of broadband? Game producers usually refer to "cable" or "DSL" but the reality is that you can run a game like World Of Warcraft on slower speeds of broadband, although the performance of the program will be significantly different. If you want to be competitive in the game (and you probably do), you don't want your character to lag. Similarly, it is frustrating when actions occur a whole second later than when you selected the joypad direction or "fire" button. For this reason, due to the huge amount of information that needs to be downloaded (as well as uploaded), online games work much better if you have a fast connection (sometimes excluding certain types of wireless or satellite connection). A minimum of four megabits per second (mbps) is a good place to begin, but even that speed wouldn't suit hardcore gamers (who live or die by the speed of their Internet connection). Therefore ADSL broadband is acceptable, but ADSL2+ broadband is a better option.
Computers good enough for online gaming
To play online games you need very fast Internet, but you also need a quick computer. Many serious gamers, including those who play and Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs), build their own from scratch, or fork out excessive amounts on specially-made systems. You don't need to do this, but you do need a relatively able machine. For PCs, many games manufacturers will recommend a processor with at least 800Mhz (such as the Intel Pentium 3). If you also have other applications open, a dual processor PC will run the game more smoothly. As for RAM, the makers of "Second Life" recommend a minimum of 256MB, while Blizzard, makers of the more demanding "World Of Warcraft", suggests at least 512MB. You will also need plenty of available space on your hard drive: Blizzard recommend a hefty 6GB. Sound and graphics cards must also be considered (Blizzard recommends a 32MB graphics card with Hardware Transform and Lighting). Once again, these specifications are absolute minimums. Running an online game with 256MB or 512MB of RAM and a minimum speed broadband connection can still be fun but at a slower pace - but be warned: if you are getting really into gaming you may end up hurl your monitor from the window in frustration at these speeds.
Mac users beware: many online games will not run on your platform - although you may already be used to that. Having said that, both "World Of Warcraft" and "Second Life" are Mac-friendly.
Is it safe to play computer games?
If you are gaming online, it does mean that you sharing information from your computer with other users around the world. Before you play an online game, you may need to adjust your firewall settings, as your firewall may try to prevent you from receiving information for your own safety. As with all Internet-based activity, there is some risk of receiving a virus, so you should always have virus protection software installed (such as the free AVG). Other risks include trojans, worms and malware. It may also be possible for other users to hijack your processing power if you leave your modem connected after being online. With adequate anti-virus software, savvy set up of your accessible drives and if you make sure to physically disconnect your computer and modem when you are not using it your system should stay clean. Happy gaming!
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