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A new kind of gaming experience is emerging, one where games stream directly to any device you like, Netflix-style. When the cloud does all the heavy lifting, you can play on your phone just as easily as your desktop PC.
Google Stadia is one of the platforms leading the charge, alongside services such as Microsoft xCloud and Nvidia GeForce Now, and you’ll be a step ahead of the competition if you really understand how it works.
1. Improve streaming performance
A smooth, stutter-free experience is crucial to enjoying Google Stadia and hitting those gaming goals, whatever they may be. From the Stadia app, select your avatar, then Performance (on mobile) or Stadia Settings and Performance (on desktop) to adjust the resolution you’re playing at. Reducing this can improve frame rates, but if your connection is good enough, feel free to ramp it up for better visuals.
If you’re gaming with a Chromecast Ultra, connect it to your router with an Ethernet cable, if possible. Avoiding Wi-Fi should ensure a faster, more stable connection, because it won’t be affected by objects or walls and won’t be susceptible to interference from other wireless devices.
All the general internet optimization tips apply as well, of course: Try to persuade other members of the household not to stream anything while you’re playing, keep your router as close to your gaming device as possible, and use the 5 GHz band to connect to the internet, if that option is available (your router instructions should have details).
2. Don’t neglect the controls
You could just dive in and start playing, but taking the time to set up your keyboard or gamepad exactly the way you like could give you a crucial advantage when it comes to climbing the leaderboards.
Control configurations vary from game to game, so we can’t give you a definitive guide to all of them, but we can recommend you find the settings pages for the games you’ve installed and see what options are available.
In the racing game Grid, for example, you can access the control configuration screen by selecting Controls from the main menu. From there, you can adjust which keys and buttons do what (like braking, accelerating, and shifting gears), and change the overall steering sensitivity.
To make customization a little easier, the system knows what you’re using and will display the correct controller menu whether you’re playing with a keyboard and a mouse or a gamepad.
3. Try it out on any Android phone
You can’t play Stadia on every device yet, though the list of supported hardware is growing. When it comes to phones, recent Samsung and Pixel flagships are part of that crowd, but Google recently made an experimental version of Stadia accessible on any Android phone, regardless of manufacturer. You’re still out of luck if you have an iPhone, though you can use the iOS Stadia app to launch games on a Chromecast Ultra.
If your Android phone doesn’t officially support Stadia, you can give the experimental mode a go. Download Google Stadia for Android, and once you’re inside the app, tap your avatar, Experiments, and Play on this device. This is an experimental feature, so expect a few bugs.
4. Boost Stadia in the browser
If you’re gaming through the Chrome browser, we’d recommend installing an open-source add-on called Stadia+ Extension. It adds some useful extras on top of the standard Stadia interface, including real-time network monitoring and more filters for your gaming library (like recently played and random).
When you’re viewing your library on the web, click the eye icon next to a title to hide it (and Show Hidden to see it again). Click the desktop icon to create a desktop shortcut for any of your games, which will allow you to launch them with a double-click without going through Stadia first.
When you’re playing a game, open the in-game menu with Shift+Tab or the Menu button on the controller, then select Stadia+ or Monitor to access the various configuration options. You can force certain codecs and resolutions, have network performance stats on-screen as you play, and see online ratings for games.
5. Change how people can find you
Stadia gives you plenty of options when it comes to setting who can and can’t get in touch with you through the platform—it’s up to you whether you want to shut yourself off from the Stadia community, embrace it fully, or find a balance somewhere in between.
You’ll find these social and privacy controls under Stadia Settings, then Friends & Privacy (on desktop), and Friends & privacy (on mobile). Regardless of the device you’re on, click or tap your avatar to find the main settings menu.
These options let you set who can send you friend requests, find you via your email address, send you game invites, send you voice chat and party invites, and see your Stadia gaming activity (such as how long you’ve played each title and the achievements you’ve earned).
6. Capture gameplay in Stadia
At some point, you may want to share your gaming exploits with other people, and while Stadia doesn’t yet feature anything as advanced as livestreaming, it does have basic screenshot and clip capture capabilities.
If you’re using the Stadia controller with a Chromecast Ultra or an Android device, press the Capture button (a square frame) to take a picture. Press and hold the same button to save the last 30 seconds of action. If you’re on a computer, use the F12 key instead.
In the Stadia mobile app, scroll down to the Captures section to look at the pictures and clips you’ve saved; if you’ve got Stadia open on the web, you’ll find Captures underneath your games library on the main page. To download your clips and pictures and share them elsewhere, you’ll need to access them on a computer.
7. Use Google Assistant with Stadia
If you’ve got the official Stadia controller, you can access the Google Assistant through it. This can really come in handy if you need an answer to something but can’t look away from the screen or take your hands off the controller.
First, enable the Assistant on the controller by going to the mobile app, tapping your avatar, and choosing Google Assistant. Turn the Enable Assistant button on Stadia Controllers toggle switch to on, and the change should transmit to the controller itself. You can then press and hold the Assistant button on the controller to speak out a voice command.
For example, say “play” and the name of a game to launch it. You can also roll dice, ask for a weather forecast, and access many of the same features that the Google Assistant offers on other devices. Google says more gaming-related Assistant commands are on the way.