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What is Android 12 Game Mode and should you be using it?

We all like the diversion offered by games. If you play games on an Android device, you might appreciate the Pixel-only feature called Game Mode, which helps improve the gaming experience.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer

With the release of Android 12, Google introduced a new feature called Game Mode, which provides a few features gamers depend on to get the most out of the Android gaming experience. 

What is Game Mode?

Game Mode optimizes a device for performance and battery life and is done on a game-by-game basis by developers. Of course, that means Game Mode may not be enabled for every game.

Another caveat to Game Mode is that it's only available to Pixel devices. 

Game Mode also brings with it a Game Dashboard, which appears in-game and adds the following features to Android:

  • In-game screenshots.
  • Frames Per Second check.
  • Automatically enables Do Not Disturb.
  • Video recording.
  • YouTube streaming.

All of the above features are taken care of without interrupting gameplay, so it's a real blessing for serious mobile gamers.

Let's find out how to enable Game Mode on your Pixel device.

How do you enable Game Mode?

The first you need to do is enable Game Mode. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app (either from within the App Drawer or the Notification Shade).
  2. Locate and tap Notifications.
  3. Locate and tap Do Not Disturb.
  4. Locate and tap Schedules.
  5. Tap the gear icon associated with Gaming.
  6. Tap the ON/OFF slider for both Game Dashboard and Do Not Disturb for games (Figure 1).
The Game settings window on Android 12.

Figure 1

Enabling Game Mode on a Pixel 6 Pro running Android 12.

Image: Jack Wallen

Using Game Mode

With Game Mode enabled, open any game you have installed on your device, and you should see a small game control icon (Figure 2).

Star Trek: Fleet Academy in action.

Figure 2

The Game Mode icon is found in Star Trek: Fleet Academy.

Image: Jack Wallen

Tap that icon to reveal the Game Mode dashboard (Figure 3), where you can optimize Android for the particular game (if available), stream your gameplay to YouTube Live, check your FPS, and enable the screenshot shortcut.

The Game Dashboard in Android 12.

Figure 3

The Game Dashboard makes it easy to control the options that are available to the game you are playing.

Image: Jack Wallen

If the game developer has enabled the Optimization option, you can select from 3 modes of optimization:

  • Performance: Maximizes the frame rate.
  • Standard: Uses the game's defaults.
  • Battery Saver: Optimizes for extended battery life.

Some games require a restart (of the app, not the device) if you go the optimization route. 

Does Game Mode work on non-Pixel devices?

Although Game Mode is still only available to Pixel devices, there's been no confirmation as to whether or not it'll find its way to other devices. If you have a non-Pixel device and want to gain some of the benefits found in Game Mode, an XDA senior developer has created an app called Gaming Mode which can help boost the performance of your device specifically for games. 

This app does the following:

  • Auto Reject Incoming calls.
  • Block notifications.
  • Clear Background Apps to free up RAM.
  • Game Booster to remove lag.
  • Unlock the maximum FPS for your device.
  • Disable auto-brightness.
  • Change WiFi state.
  • Change Ringtone and Media Volume.
  • Create widgets for launching games from the home screen.
  • Enable Auto Mode to automatically detect when you're playing a game (this is a premium feature).
  • Whitelist apps from notification blocking.
  • Whitelist apps so they aren't cleared from the background.

And that's all there is to Game Mode. If you're a serious mobile gamer, you owe it to yourself to try this feature. If you don't own a Pixel, give the Gaming Mode app a try and see if it doesn't help boost your device performance for the games you play.  

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