A veteran’s guide on how to play games while you’re away travelling!
This might seem like a no-brainer subject, I mean, just how hard is it to play video games while travelling? Well, depending on the type of game you want to play, it can actually be quite difficult. For example, if you go somewhere that has little to no internet, you’re not going to be able to play online are you? So, in this article, I’m going to cover things like hot spot gaming, travel specific gaming peripherals and of course, upcoming streaming alternatives.
“Unfortunately, poor internet coverage still plagues many countries around the world, even well-developed ones.”
I’ve worked in some remote areas throughout my life and if you’re looking to game online with friends and family it can be next to impossible. Unfortunately, poor internet coverage still plagues many countries around the world, even well-developed ones. So my first piece of advice is…
Research Your Travel Destination’ Internet Coverage
Before I talk about hot spotting, you’ll need to be able to establish a stable internet connection first. This is why researching the area you’re going to is so important. If you’re with a particular provider that has no coverage at the location you’re going to, say goodbye to online gaming (not to mention other basics like email). Here in Australia, the Telco provider Telstra, basically owns 90% of the internet network around the country. So of course they charge higher prices than any competitor (yay capitalism!). However, Vodafone actually charges a lot less but pays Telstra to use its network. And, funnily enough, Vodafone amazingly offers better download speeds for their customers. So definitely, as a first priority, I would look into what your internet coverage is going to be like before packing your gaming gear and heading off. Also, check if your destination has established internet infrastructure (hotel wifi etc.). It may be an alternative to hot spotting, but in my experience, they’ll charge you an arm and a leg and the speeds will be throttled anyway.
Hotspotting, Everything You Need To Know To Get The Best Uninterrupted Speed
There are online articles dedicated to this subject in and of itself so instead of going too in depth, I’m just going to list everything you need to know in point form:
- Ensure all of your background apps that use data are turned off or closed on your phone. You may have to use the ‘force stop’ function.
- On android, ensure you have VoLTE enabled otherwise when you get a phone call, your internet will drop out (don’t ask me why this works, it just does).
- Try to position your console or PC as close to your phone as possible. Having your gaming rig close to your phone will reduce packet loss (a form of LAG in laymen’s terms).
- Try to position your phone as close to an outside window as possible. This point is paired with the one above. Basically, you’ll want your phone and rig as close to the outside window as possible. I’ll sit my phone in the window sill and have my console sitting just on the inside.
- If you’re on Android and your phone supports a 5Ghz frequency be sure to switch it over. Traditionally, hot spots broadcast on a frequency of 2.4Ghz, but 5Ghz can offer insane speeds that 2.4Ghz could only dream of. To my knowledge, the latest IPhone’s only support 2.4Ghz.
- Make sure your PC or console is not updating anything in the background. This point is like the first one. You’ll want to dedicate all of that internet speed from your phone straight to your game.
- Make sure you phone plan has a big data cap. Playing games online doesn’t actually use that much data. However, if you need to update a game while you’re away, then of course you’ll need a lot of data. I have 116 Gigabytes of data per month on my plan that I share with my wife’s phone. Except, she never uses it, so it’s basically all mine. This is more than enough.
A handy tool to use when configuring your hot spot set up is Ookla’s Internet speed test. Simply google ‘Internet speed test’ and you’ll see it in the results. Play with your configuration while running the test periodically to see what your speeds are like. A fast hot spot is crucial to really enjoying playing video games while travelling.
Use Travel Friendly Gaming Peripherals
I used to carry my Plantronics Rig Headset around but even though that thing can be disassembled neatly, it’s still bulky and cumbersome. Plus, I prefer keeping a low profile when I’m on the plane or in the lounge waiting for a flight.
That’s why I now use a pair of HyperX Cloud earbuds. These are small but they can still pack a punch, and their built in mic has great clarity. I use to have a pair of Plantronics BackBeat FIT earphones and they were awesome, but they got old and I opted for a cheaper wired set this time around.
I also carry a power bank for backup charging of my phone. I use the Ancore Power Core 20,100 Power Bank. It can store a lot of juice and easily recharges my phone more than once over. Plus, it uses Qualcomm’s quickcharge technology for… quick charging. A lot of sites recommend this particular power bank over others simply because of its storage size and ease of use.
Lastly, for gaming on my Samsung Galaxy, 8 I use an Xbox One wireless Bluetooth controller coupled with a Dainslef Xbox One Controller Foldable Mobile Phone Holder. There are plenty of cheap two in one controller/phone holders on the market, but I prefer using a quality made controller with a phone holder attachment. Just be aware that if your lying down holding the controller above you, the phone may slip out.
This Is Possibly The Best Way To Play Video Games While Travelling… Just Not Yet
Many of you have probably heard of a little thing called Google Stadia or Microsoft’s upcoming streaming platform, Project xCloud. If you haven’t heard of either of these, then I doubt you will have heard of any of their lesser known alternatives. But, mark my words, in the coming future game streaming will be all the rage. And, whether you like or not, games as a service is going to become more and more prolific.
“But, mark my words, in the coming future game streaming will be all the rage. And, whether you like or not, games as a service is going to become more and more prolific”
So, what about game streaming right now in the present. Even though Google Stadia is right around the corner (literally in two months), below is a list of game streaming services you can sink your teeth into right now. For this list I have to credit PCGamesn. They’ve assembled a pro’s and cons’ list of all game streaming services that are available to utilise now. For a no frills list look below. For the comprehensive version click here.
- GEFORCE NOW.
- BLADE SHADOW.
- STEAM LINK.
- PLAYSTATION NOW.
As a point of honesty, I have to say that I haven’t tried any of these services except for PlayStation Now and Parsec. While my experience with Parsec isn’t that extensive I can testify that it does a pretty good job at delivering a game streaming service to your phone. When I used it, I was using an Xbox One controller plugged into my Samsung Galaxy via a USB OTG cable (reduces input lag versus Bluetooth). I was also streaming games from my PC not renting a PC via the cloud (which is also an option). The reason why I don’t use it anymore, is simply because the service is just not good enough for competitive gaming. But for everything else, it worked just fine. I’ll use it every now and then but not much.
I tried PlayStation now after I received a free trial of the service, but I never used it anywhere other than on my PS4. It has a huge selection of games and runs fairly steady, but for $19.99 per month it was too expensive. You can get it cheaper though if you pay for a yearly subscription.
When Google Stadia comes out, as well as Project xCloud, I’ll definitely be giving them both a go. I’ll make sure I write a review for both.
Get A Nintendo Switch
Before I finish the article, I have to say, that my most recommended way to play video games while travelling is by far using a Nintendo Switch. Nintendo’s mobile gaming device has been a huge success.
And now, with the recent launch of the Nintendo Switch Lite, the company behind Mario has really found a sweet spot in the mobile gaming market. I use my Switch a lot, especially when there’s no internet connection or the quality is very poor. For me, it just offers such a simple form factor that delivers great fidelity gaming. Playing Breath of the Wild while flying at 35,000 feet really helps the time fly past (pardon the pun). The Nintendo Switch is definitely my most recommended piece of gaming gear to play video games while travelling.
“The Nintendo Switch is definitely my most recommended piece of gaming gear to play video games while travelling.”
In closing, gaming while travelling has never been easier. But choosing the right medium for yourself is probably the trickiest part. For me, my biggest deciding factor in choosing how and what to play is… my friends and family. I get a lot more enjoyment playing online games with people I know than anything else. So once you decide what you want to play, all you have to do is work out what you need in order to play. And hopefully the topics discussed above can help you out a bit.
Did you like reading “How to play video games while travelling”? Check out another Game Gulch article, “How to play games after you’ve had kids.”
By Izzy Davis | 2019
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