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The truth about gamers clogging the internet

There's a good chance that, right now, you're reading/watching this piece of content from the comfort of your own home. It's likely thanks to the global health crisis currently unfolding — the spread of the novel coronavirus — which has caused many countries to issue sweeping "stay at home" orders.

You may be working remotely at the moment. You may have some time off, which you're using to binge Netflix like it's your job. You may have even found solace in video games, which are useful for taking your mind off the pandemic outside. Regardless of how you're spending your days indoors, there's no denying the internet is seeing increased usage from just about everyone lately.

Yet gamers are seemingly the ones under the most scrutiny at the moment. Some in media are telling people to avoid playing video games during working hours, citing strain on the internet as a chief concern. Here is why that's flat-out wrong, and why your video games are likely doing less to weigh down the internet than others would have you believe.

To start, your single player games are having little to no impact on the internet whatsoever. Even if you're connected to something like PlayStation Network or Xbox Live while you're exploring Assassin's Creed Odyssey, the amount of data you're using is minimal — think a few hundred kilobytes or a few megabytes per hour. We checked our own data usage and found that single player number never got higher than 546 kilobytes in an hour.

That, folks, is a little more than half a megabyte. That's definitely not enough to bring the whole internet down.

Your internet data usage does increase when you fold online gaming into the mix. But you may be surprised to learn that the amount of bandwidth being used still isn't all that substantial. We took a look at some numbers from a Destiny 2 session with six people in voice chat, and found usage usually sat between 100 and 200 megabytes per hour. That is quite the leap up from the data you'd consume during solo play, sure. But there are far worse offenders.

The biggest data consumers at the moment are likely those streaming video.

If you're using this unplanned home time to finally catch up on some Netflix shows, you could be using up to 1 gigabyte per hour for a standard definition feed, or up to 3 gigabytes per hour for an HD feed. An eight episode binge of The Witcher could require somewhere around 24 gigabytes, which is close to what 15 partied-up gamers would consume in the same period of time. The same deal goes for streaming cable replacements like YouTube TV. If you leave CNN on all day, anecdotal reports suggest you're using roughly the same amount of bandwidth per hour as you would on Netflix. It would take a large group of online gamers to match that data consumption.

And hello, fancy business people, because you're not totally blameless in terms of hogging data. Video chats on Zoom reportedly use anywhere from 450 megabytes per hour to 1.2 gigabytes per hour, depending on the video quality used. If you'd like to shrink your own data footprint, you could switch to audio-only meetings. You really don't need to see Fred's cat. You just don't.

The internet is seeing more traffic right now, and we can understand how some might be fearful of this enormous network collapsing. The good news is, there's no evidence that's ever going to happen — at least not in the United States. Both Verizon and Spectrum have gone on record to say they can handle the increased usage, and by lifting data caps in many places, other ISPs appear to be signaling the same.

So much business is conducted online these days that the move from people working in an office to working from home may not be as drastic as some believe. But even those who've unexpectedly found themselves off for the time being aren't a threat to the internet. The same can't be said for some other countries in the world; locations in which services like Netflix and YouTube have been forced to downgrade video quality. But the online infrastructure in the United States is fairly sturdy. It's looking like it'll handle the increased load just fine.

So go ahead and play your games during working hours. You can even download some new ones, too. In the grand scheme of things, you'll likely end up using far less data than those streaming video all the time. There are a whole bunch of problems in the world right now, but don't let anyone convince you gaming is one of them. That is simply not true.