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You’ve likely heard before that you should try to play games with a high frame rate, but why? We’ll explain how a high frame rate can improve your overall gaming experience.

Frame Rates and Gaming

In computer graphics, a “frame” is an individual picture in an animated sequence of images, and many frames are shown rapidly to simulate motion. The speed at which these images are shown is called the “frame rate.”

Frame rates are normally measured in frames per second (or FPS). This is the number of frames that you see onscreen every second. A higher FPS is associated with a smoother, more responsive gaming experience, while a low FPS can make a game seem slow and choppy.

The bare minimum for a playable frame rate is usually considered to be 30 FPS. However, with the increasing power of graphics cards and the prevalence of faster games, most people prefer an FPS of 60. There are many benefits to playing at a higher frame rate for both casual and hardcore gamers alike.

Higher FPS Experiences

The most clear-cut benefit to having a higher FPS is that the experience will be much smoother. Smoother animations allow you to see more intermediary frames in the movement of an onscreen character, especially in games with a lot of action. Therefore, having a high frame rate can make the experience of playing a game more immersive and lifelike because your eyes are getting much more information for every second of gameplay.

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Low frame rates also cause stuttering, where elements seem to pause every few frames and skip around the screen during movement. This can be extremely uncomfortable for players and can make a game seem unplayable. While rare, in some games, frame rates are directly tied to the game speed. Therefore, running at a low FPS can make the entire game seem slower. Higher frame rates resolve these issues entirely.

Unlike movies or TV shows, where you have no involvement in what’s happening onscreen, games involve input from the player. This is a big reason why low FPS can break the immersion for many players. In some instances, low frame rates have also been known to give players motion sickness or nausea.

Competitive Advantages

Riot Games Valorant FPS Shooter
Riot Games

Gamers who play first-person shooters like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Valorant, and Call of Duty: Warzone benefit greatly from having extremely high frame rates. This is because shooting in these games requires a lot of quick reaction time and small movements. Even seeing an opponent a few frames earlier could spell the difference between winning and losing. Therefore, if you see information late because of a low frame rate, you will be at a huge competitive disadvantage.

Many of the benefits described above, like low stuttering and smoother animations, also impact the competitive gaming experience. Having no stuttering allows gamers to see objects on the screen faster, while smooth animations make elements on the screen clearer and less confusing when there’s a lot of activity happening.

Getting Good Frame Rates

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If you’re using a PC or a laptop, getting a good, smooth, high-FPS experience on a game normally involves three things: your system’s power, the settings that you play the game at, and the monitor that you have.

Your system’s ability to run games at a high FPS is normally dependent on your graphics processing unit (GPU). Newer, higher-end GPUs can often run the newest games at a high FPS. Meanwhile, older or more budget-oriented models might not run newer games particularly well or could require you to decrease the image quality of the game that you’re playing to achieve a stable FPS. If you’re interested, many websites have FPS benchmarks for how certain games run on specific graphics cards.

Take note that your CPU could also impact performance. If a CPU isn’t fast enough, it might “bottleneck” your GPU. This means that a game won’t take full advantage of the power of your graphics card and will run at a lower frame rate.

Your in-game settings also matter. Each frame in a video game is comprised of various assets that load onto the screen. This includes everything that you see, from the textures on the clothes to the clouds in the sky. The more high-quality these assets are, the longer it might take for your GPU to be able to display them. Therefore, reducing the graphical fidelity of these settings can have a significant impact on the frame rate.

Lastly, your monitor matters, too. Each display runs at a particular “refresh rate,” which is the number of times that the screen draws a new image in a second. If your computer is running a game at 120 FPS, but a monitor’s refresh rate is only 60 Hz, then you won’t be able to see 120 frames appear on your display. Mismatched refresh rates can also cause “screen tearing,” which is a phenomenon where objects don’t load simultaneously, so some artifacts of a previous frame remain on the screen in the next frame. If you experience tearing, you might want to cap your FPS.

If you want to learn more about monitor refresh rates, check out our guide. Happy gaming!

RELATED: What is a Monitor's Refresh Rate and How Do I Change It?

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Vann Vicente has been a technology writer for four years, with a focus on explainers geared towards average consumers. He also works as a digital marketer for a regional e-commerce website. He's invested in internet culture, social media, and how people interact with the web.
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