Some people value high performance just because they like to watch numbers rise. Others want to push their systems to deliver more frames per second (fps) for another reason: having an edge over their opponents in competitive titles. Nvidia published a blog post (opens in new tab) today explaining why it feels that playing with higher fps can be beneficial.
The blog post quantifies many of the arguments made by people who've played games at higher fps on equally high refresh rate monitors: animations are smoother, graphical issues are rarer and games are more responsive. These benefits aren't exclusive to competitive games, but they are particularly important there.
Smoother animations aren't just better to look at; Nvidia claims they're also crucial in high-stakes moments. Nvidia explained that "smoother animations help you track your target," because "when micro-correcting your aim for overshooting or undershooting, having a smooth target helps you get back on target faster." That's vital for aim-heavy titles.
The reduction of issues such as ghosting, which leaves "a trail behind the object typically found in the object's position from the previous frame," and screen tearing also matters. The former could lead people to shoot at where their opponent was rather than where they currently are, for example, while the latter is just distracting.
Perhaps the most important point in Nvidia's blog post has to do with system latency. Many people blame latency on their ISP, a game's servers or a loss of favor with their deity of choice. But Nvidia said that playing at higher frame rates (again, with high refresh rate monitors, natch) can help reduce latency at the system level.
The company explained how system latency works using a player moving from behind a corner in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive at 60 fps and 240 fps:
[E]ach system’s CPU receives the player’s position at the same time. In this example, the CPU and the GPU take approximately the same time to prepare and render the frame. The CPU portion of the pipeline on the 60 FPS system is 4 times longer than the 240 FPS system. Similarly, the GPU render time is also four times longer on the 60 FPS system. Finally, the display section is also 4 times longer on the 60 FPS system as the refresh cycle is 4 times slower than a 240 Hz display. On a 60 FPS/Hz system it simply takes longer to process and is therefore further behind the actual state of the game. At 240 FPS/Hz, the rendering is much closer to the actual state of the game, but there is still some difference.
And it explained what that means in terms of the actual playing experience:
Lower system latency allows you to see player earlier. Additionally, reducing system latency makes the game feel more responsive as the time between your mouse movements and the results on screen is shorter. With these benefits together, lower system latency gives you a competitive edge on the battlefield.
Now, there is a caveat to all this, which is that having better fps and buying a 240Hz monitor won't suddenly turn you into an esports-level player. Some of those folks have managed to hone their skill playing on laptops with nothing but their CPU's integrated GPU and a trackpad; equipment only makes so much of a difference.
But anyone looking to have a better experience and potentially increase their skill beyond the limits of regular practice, well, they could do worse than to heed Nvidia's advice and push for higher fps. Checking out our GPU Hierarchy and CPU Hierarchy posts for top-performing products would probably be a good place to start.