In multiplayer online video games, ping (not to be confused with frames per second) refers to the network latency between a player’s computer (client), and either the game server or another client (i.e. peer). This could be reported quantitatively as an average time in milliseconds, or qualitatively as low ping or high ping. The latter usage is common among players of first-person shooter and real-time strategy games. Having a low ping is always desirable because lower latency provides smoother gameplay by allowing faster updates of game data.
Ping is often conflated with lag. One may “lag out” due to unacceptably high ping. Servers will often disconnect a client if the ping is too high and it poses a detriment to others’ gameplay. Similarly, client software will often mandate disconnection if the ping is too high. A high ping is not the result of lag; rather, a high ping causes lag. It may also make servers crash because of the stability.
Some factors that might affect ping include: network protocol engineering, Internet connection speed, the quality of a user’s Internet service provider and the configuration of firewalls. Ping is also affected by geographical location. For instance, if someone is in India, playing on a server located in the United States, the distance between the two is greater than it would be for players located within the US, and therefore it takes longer for data to be transmitted. However, the amount of packet-switching and network hardware in between the two computers is often more significant. For instance, wireless network interface cards must modulate digital signals into radio signals, which is often more costly than the time it takes an electrical signal to traverse a typical span of cable.