The Top 7... games that affect real life

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.

Above: SCARY

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."



Top 7


  • Gkicker2 - October 13, 2010 2:39 p.m.

    GTA.. i had to stop playing because I wanted to swerve and hit motorcycles on the actual road so I could steal them. Kinda scary.
  • onewingedantista - November 18, 2009 10:47 p.m.

    My game was Star Wars Battlefront. I would be in school and try to find the best places to put command posts.
  • ryno - November 21, 2008 10:30 p.m.

    you guys are right about the Tony Hawk thing
  • ryno - November 21, 2008 8:49 p.m.

    after i play Timeshift sometimes i try to stop time when playing another game say Half-life and i remember im not playing Timeshift
  • CrabbyLady - November 2, 2008 2:49 a.m.

    In my member profile I'd mentioned how video games had helped me through a rough period in my life (my marriage was dying a slow and painful death). ACWW wasn't out back then, but Donkey Kong was, and my daughter and I must've spent hours, days, and weeks lost in the virtual Monkey Jungles. When I finally crawled out of our three-month Monkey Marathon, I'd realised how great it was to just lose myself in an activity which really did let me forget all the turmoil roiling around my life for a while. My frustrations were duly taken out on the Big Boss guys at level's end... poor Bosses didn't stand a chance! And being able to vent somewhat in a game let me be a little more mellow when I had to turn the game off and go fix dinner or deal with an attorney. When Nintendo brought out the DS, I got one of the first ones out. Now I have 2 DS systems, one for me and one for whomever but sometimes I hook 'em together so all the creatures in ACWW can visit and I get to advance to Nookington's instead of Tom's Terrible Treacle shop! And I finally caved and got the Xbox360, which is one of the best things ever. Then I got a phone call from one of my dearest friends... she had just been diagnosed with a very vicious form of cancer. Knowing the road that lay before her with long hours of chemotherapy and all the other horrors of cancer treatment, I decided to introduce her to my little "magic machine", my DS. I started her out on ACWW, which she found as enchanting as I had. She also quickly realised that a really good game which let her beat the tar out of the bad guys gave her an emotional release and helped her cope with the day-to-day realities of her ongoing chemotherapy treatment. Today, my friend has recovered, no remissions, and she is now into the Xbox as well as her Playstation and she's built up a pretty awesome game library. The point of this little tale is this: Most of us play games, and video games in particular, just for the sheer fun of it. But sometimes (especially with the "go anywhere" convenience of the DS) being able to escape from whatever your reality may be at the moment, can be very therapeutic. Age doesn't matter, I was 48 when my life fell apart and my kid got me into gaming. My cancer-surviving friend was in her mid- fifties when I gave her her first DS. So maybe the next time you see someone who is experiencing trauma in his or her life, consider giving them a video game and watch what happens, you may be surprised and they just may be thankful for a little escapism. It helps. ps: if anyone reading this has had similar experiences, please share them with me? Thanks!
  • terty - October 30, 2008 8:19 p.m.

    something wierd happened to me like that too. i bought ocarina of time and spent like a whole day playing it. Then i went to school the next day and i kept hearing navi saying "HEY!" "LISTEN!" and i got really anyoyed really quickly
  • Black_X_1111 - October 30, 2008 1:13 p.m.

    For awhile after I finished portal I kept thinking of the best places to put portals. It even crept into my daydreams.
  • pyroman7048 - October 12, 2008 1:14 a.m.

    there were times after i played the first fable where i felt REALLY evil.. i felt bad when i killed Thereasa and the Guildmaster lol..
  • Eoinbyrne1IRl - October 10, 2008 5:34 p.m.

    i played cod4 4 like 3 hours straight and i went to get a glass of water and when i looked through the glass it wus like lookin through a scope creepy.....
  • KingGeorge - September 26, 2008 11:37 p.m.

    I don't know if it's just me, but there's a whole heap of games (and movies/shows/music/events) that have left me impacted, after playing super mario sunshine i didn't stop imagining jump combinations onto nearby rooftops. I've related numerous real world events to gaming phenomena, to the point i can see the characters clearly in front of me. me and my friends often find ourselves attempting a falcon punch or PK fire. anyway, the article was missing a whole heap of games that alter perception.
  • cricket0 - September 26, 2008 9:37 p.m.

    The Guitar Hero thing is right. It makes me look down automaticly. It can get real akward and a strain on my eye's.
  • Dark Helmet - September 26, 2008 11:28 a.m.

    I have an anecdote of my own about Tetris. I load airplanes at Fedex's World Hub. One of the smallest airplanes we use is a Boeing 727. The lower level of the plane, the bellies, is resticted to individual packages. Most nights, the weight shack sends out a shit load of boxes to put into the bellies. Doing so requires skill in what is known as T-stacking, the same stacking process that brick-layers use to cover houses. Anyway, whenever I become unfortunate enough to have to stack boxes, I start playing Tetris in my head and start humming the tune. It helps me get everything in and under the red line, which is a requirement by the FAA that states that no boxes can be placed above the red line that marks the top two inches of the compartment. In order to allow room for fire suppressants to reach the entire compartment. Which doesn't really make any sense since anything that is a fire hazard is considered Hazardous Materials and placed in a Haz-Can in the Upper Compartment. But then again, boxes are sometimes miss-labeled by the sender. I think that happened once. Some idiot sent a package that caught on fire, ruining all of the other packages in that particular container. They had to land the plane prematurely and everything was late. That cost us a lot of money.
  • wills919 - December 7, 2008 5:45 p.m.

    i had the same experience after playing Racedriver:GRID for hours on end, i couldnt help myself but to look at the streets and find the best racing line, and work out awesome drift spots :)
  • AllenSelby - November 25, 2008 7:23 a.m.

    After marathon sessions on COD WAW or even playing COD 2, I will go outside for a while and start to picture things that will mess me up. Like, thats a good sniper spot or man I could really get some good kills their. It doesnt seem healthy haha.
  • AOH94 - October 20, 2008 6:59 p.m.

    That tetris thing used to happen me all the time its by far the most annoying thing i have ever experienced
  • Vidilefe - October 12, 2008 6:46 p.m.

    soo right
  • Coolbeans69 - October 3, 2008 2:39 a.m.

    All of these fit in this article.
  • blu2580 - September 28, 2008 5:46 p.m.

    KingGeorge you are right! that happens to me too. When i bought my wii, i bought ocarina of time and majoras mask on the shop channel or whatever. When i started playing nothing happened but as time passed im started to think that navi (tha fairy) was moving around me and also sometimes i see myself in 3 person view and a see my life and all that stuff. i know its weird, but its true... anyway i just hope im not a mindfreak... am i navi?
  • iiscody - September 26, 2008 1:31 a.m.

    duuude.... i see this kinda thing all the time...
  • AA95mp - December 21, 2008 3:16 p.m.

    i am glad your friend had recovered crabbylady

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