The Top 7... games that affect real life

How it affects real life: Literally changes the way you view the world.

Just try grinding through Hawkman's immensely skate-able world without constantly comparing it to real-world locations. After a few hours, let alone several days of intense 'boarding, it's almost impossible to walk down the street and not view every awning, rooftop, fence and power line as a gravity-defying combo string.

Above: If only

The Hawk games are also known for secret locations opened via complicated maneuvers and linked combos. Pro Skater 2, for example, has a drained pool that's only accessible after grinding a specific rail. Spend a month scouring virtual cityscapes like this and eventually you'll find yourself looking at buildings in your own neighborhood as an in-game level, complete with combos like "grind across the grocery store roof and do a handstand on the church steeple to unlock the skating rink."

After years of playing, it's hard for us to look at the world without a Tony Hawk veil draped over every block.

"After playing a gerbil’s lifetime of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, I can’t walk around any city without eyeing roof ledges wondering which would grind me into the best line. Everyday objects all blurred together as one unbreakable chain of ollies, kickflips and reverts, the point where it actually became distracting. On the plus side, at least this was my addiction and not Burnout..."

How it affects real life: You'll never look at interior design the same again.

Tony Hawk tricks you into mentally converting the mundane into the fantastic. Conversely, The Sims forces you to apply cold gaming logic to your jam-packed, far-too-busy life. This can manifest itself in a couple ways, the most obvious of which is the hallucinated grid you place on your own home. God help you if you move into new digs and have to arrange furniture - you'll be positioning and repositioning couches, desks, beds, mirrors, anything that isn't nailed down until sun comes up. It has to perfectly comply with arbitrary feng shui that dictated your Sim's virtual home.

A paradoxical benefit from overplaying The Sims boosts your time-management skills. Should you spend the next hour of your evening watching TV or studying? The average person would probably choose the first option, but some GR staffers admit to tackling the problem from a Sim's point of view and reading a book, raising some mental "stats" instead of vegging out.

It's a bit ironic though - if people spent less time playing The Sims, they'd have more time to get all their shit done and wouldn't have to reduce their life decisions to binary "this or that" equations.

"After playing The Sims for so many years, those green status bars have become real. When I feel a little down, I'll wonder which of my 'needs' requires a boost. I've randomly phoned a friend to increase my Social. I've cleaned my apartment only because I worried my Environment bar was approaching red. Sounds crazy, but it worked."

How it affects real life: The daily goings-on of your animal town will trump real-world plans.

From a strict gameplay perspective, Animal Crossing and The Sims are quite similar. Both transmit the same time-consuming addicto-beams directly into your brain, but only Animal Crossing forces you to play on its own terms. Each version runs off a real-world clock, so 12:34am to you is 12:34am to Animal Crossing, and certain events, awards and visitors can only be met at specific times. An annual, literally once a year event like Christmas will come and go if you don't hop in and sift through town searching for the entire Holiday Furniture collection.

Stuff like this happens all year round, usually resulting in broken plans with angry friends just so you can meet KK Slider at the railroad tracks Saturday at 10pm - but hey, as long as your animal friends aren't pissed, it's all good.

Oh sure, you can mess with the clock, constantly setting it back or advancing to June 2054, but cheaters never win, and winners don't use drugs. If you're one of "those people" that effs with the clock, consider yourself banned from the village. You have to cancel plans and alter habits just like everybody else.

Brett Elston

A fomer Executive Editor at GamesRadar, Brett also contributed content to many other Future gaming publications including Nintendo Power, PC Gamer and Official Xbox Magazine. Brett has worked at Capcom in several senior roles, is an experienced podcaster, and now works as a Senior Manager of Content Communications at PlayStation SIE.