How it affects real life: Makes the real world seem so... restrictive.
As any opportunistic politician will gladly tell you, kids can't help but reenact their favorite scenes from video games, especially grotesque depictions of violence. While that may be slightly alarmist, we can personally vouch for the cathartic breath of fresh air ingested each time we set off a whirlwind of chaos in Liberty City. Problem is, if you spend too many hours (as in 100-plus) beating peds, jacking cars and freely running through the virtual streets you'll find yourself claustrophobically reserved when you step out onto an actual city street.
Above: Probably a bad idea
While strolling through a real street after rounds and rounds of GTA IV, we had serious compulsions to hop on parked motorcycles and peel out in a puff of rebellious smoke. Sadly, reality stepped in and reminded us that you need "keys" and "permission" to do such a thing. You also can't rough up random strangers or cut through an intersection with no regard for traffic signals or police interference. Drag.
So, as with Tony Hawk, too much GTA alters your perception of the world around you. GTA IV does it even more than the previous games thanks to its grittier, more authentic take on city life. Everything just feels weird after playing it too much.
"When I reviewed GTA IV, Rockstar put me up at a downtown San Francisco hotel, where I did almost nothing except play the game for a week. Every time I'd leave to get food, the tall buildings, busy streets and pedestrians outside felt like an extension of the game. It never fooled me into thinking I could go around committing crimes, but it did give me a profound appreciation for Liberty City."
How it affects real life: Darkness becomes the ultimate terror.
Everyone knows Silent Hill plays up psychological scares over "gotcha!" jump scenes, but only those who have dove into the inky darkness truly understand how effing terrifying it can be. Most of the frights stem from your own overactive imagination, as the game tends to leave you in the dark both literally and metaphorically. Everything's vague as hell and, usually, the thing that freaks you out the most is something you didn't even see in the first place. Silent Hill games, especially 2 and 3, create a macabre world so unsettling that anyone who makes it through will carry them for days after the vapid/depressing/nonsensical ending plays out.
Imagine someone's mental state after hours of an oppressive environment that's been designed to creep the living shit out of you. We've known people to surreptitiously shut and lock any door they pass through (because monsters can't open doors, duh), or become agitated and uneasy around loud radio static. People even leave the lights on and jump at the creaks and bumps that shudder through the walls at night; basically anything you'd attribute to an effective horror movie you can say the same about Silent Hill games. They really do affect you for days.
"I took my sweet time going through Silent Hill 2, playing a little each day for several weeks. About a month in, I wouldn't turn lights off or even cover my eyes while washing my face because I was terrified that when my vision re-adjusted on I'd be in the gory version of Silent Hill, like a room with walls made of stretched skin or something."
How they affect real life: Distort your vision and play tricks with your mind.
Longtime Harmonix fans can probably relate to this through Frequency or Amplitude, but Guitar Hero does the exact same thing - spend too much time staring wide-eyed at a furiously scrolling set of notes and your actual vision will stretch and jump around. To achieve this visual kick in the eyes, simply play a crapton of Guitar Hero or Rock Band on hard or expert, like five or six songs, then stare at something stationary. Whoooa dude, it's like you can see through time and shit!
The other, slightly less common visual/mental trick these games inflict upon your brain is the conversion of roads into song tracks. After countless hours of fake shredding your mind thinks any scrolling object, even a moving street under your car, could be a potential Guitar Hero song, placing hallucinatory music notes all over the road ahead.
Above: How do we activate star power?
Most avid players will also admit that years of Guitar Hero and Rock Band play have made them constantly think about which songs would be best in either game. We've known people to tap out colored fret buttons while listening to the radio or visualize a drum beat as it would appear in-game. Imagine if the millions of faux-rockers lined up for GH World Tour and Rock Band 2 spent all that time actually practicing a real instrument...
"After playing the first Guitar Hero for several hours with a bunch of friends, I noticed that every time I looked at something inanimate it looked like it was jittery and scrolling. Then, while driving home, I kept thinking potholes in the street were notes I needed to hit with my tires. Yes, I was veering left and right trying to hit them all."