Book: The Game

I’m currently reading an ebook, which will take me an epoch to finish. In the meantime, I think a back-dated review is in order. I miss blogging already.

Here’s one I read in 2011…

The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists
Fiction? Non-fiction? Porn? Thriller?

Thrilling, disturbing, true. A tale of self-reinvention.
452 pages, ☆☆☆☆☆

Hidden somewhere, in nearly every major city in the world, is an underground seduction lair. And in these lairs, men trade the most devastatingly effective techniques ever invented to charm women. This is not fiction. These men really exist. They live together in houses known as Projects. And Neil Strauss, the bestselling author, spent two years living among them, using the pseudonym Style to protect his real-life identity. The result is one of the most explosive and controversial books of the year — guaranteed to change the lives of men and transform the way women understand the opposite sex forever.

The Game is a story of management, success, sex, psychology, drugs, sleaze and celebrities laced with porn and self-help. The Game is a ‘true’ story about how a small group of “average frustrated chumps” (AFCs) deconstructed the art of seduction into a series of learnable steps, and transformed themselves into “pick-up artists”, or PUAs.

Enter the club, hunt out a gullible model-type, and start entertaining her less-attractive friends with jokes and magic tricks. Divert attention from the target and throw mild insults at her to erode her confidence (“that large nose looks great on you”; “is your hair supposed to look like that?”). Wait for three indicators of interest (IOIs) from the woman (touches her hair, adjusts her breasts, licks her lips, or touches you). Exit with a phone number (and not too late) and call her later for sex. The men in this book seduce hundreds of women with this routine. Supposedly, it works.

To understand The Game, it helps first to understand Fight Club…

Fight Club’s protagonist felt oppressed by his job. He created an alter ego, a schizophrenic hallucination, called Tyler Durden, who was “free in every way you’re not”: single, carefree, without want or ambition, yet Tyler was happier (in a hedonistic sense) and more successful than the protagonist’s real self. Tyler Durden gave the protagonist the strength he needed to leave the career-obsessed, materialistic life that he hated.

The Game’s protagonist, Neil Strauss, couldn’t get laid. He, too, created an alter ego called Style, who was bald, tanned, smooth-talking and, most importantly, women found him irresistibly seductive. Style was everything that Neil Strauss wished he could be: popular, respected, and promiscuous. He even became rich by running his own “how to be like me” seminars.

Neil Strauss (before, right) and his alter ego, Style (after, left).
Neil Strauss (before, right) and his alter ego, Style (after, left).

Both Fight Club and The Game are coming-of-age, transition-to-manhood stories, with struggles and pitfalls, and surprisingly tragic endings. Fight Club’s protagonist destroys the “capitalist world” with nitroglycerine, then shoots himself in the neck, destroying his alter ego. The Game’s protagonist quits when he finds himself surrounded not by beautiful young women, but by creepy “pick-up artist” men. Both characters give up their chosen image of manhood just moments after they achieve it.

Objectively, there’s little difference between struggles against the upper classes in Fight Club and against gullible women in The Game. But while I could sympathise with Fight Club’s anarchist/Maoist ideology, and find some humour in it, I had no sympathy for the manipulation of women for sex in The Game. My moral compass, I learned, was inconsistent.

I’m happy that this novel ends in tragedy. It’s the only way it could have been published, yet still be socially-responsible. Like Fight Club, the tragic ending is brought forward to Chapter 1, which depicts a down-and-out pick-up artist called Mystery needing drugs to stay awake, sleep or stop him from killing himself:

Mystery was beyond understanding. He was out of control. For a week, he’d been vacillating between periods of extreme anger and violence, and jags of fitful, cathartic sobbing. And now he was threatening to kill himself. — Page 1

The middle of the book builds towards this anti-climax.

The Game is loaded with promiscuous sex scenes. Between sex scenes, the characters talk about sex with lucid description, and discuss women and flirting tactics. Its mixed writing style (prose, dialogue, email, text message, and illustrations) suits a young audience—but read it carefully to avoid getting the wrong message.

I needed to read this in 2011. Whether The Game is true or not, pick-up artists like those in The Game really exist. This book taught me that everyone chases something—be it women, money, drugs, stamps, or gadgets… everyone plays a “game” of sorts.

My game is books. What’s your game? ☆☆☆☆☆

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