In The Game: The Game, It’s You Vs. Pick-Up Artists

In The Game: The Game, It’s You Vs. Pick-Up Artists

The Game: The Game

Years ago, at an outdoor bar in Brooklyn, my best friend and I were enjoying whiskey drinks when two well-groomed men approached us. Making polite excuses, one told my friend that he needed a woman’s opinion on something. “He’s been dating a girl for three months,” he said, gesturing to his buddy, “and she’s moved in with him. He’s still friends with his old girlfriend from college, though. Is that ok?” My friend responded, Yeah, sure it’s ok. The gentleman went on, “Here’s part two of the question: He happens to keep her old letters along with some photos of her. His girlfriend found the box and wants to destroy it. I think it’s extreme and insecure, personally, but I’m a guy.”

It was at this point that two women sitting next to us interrupted him. “Hey,” one said. “That’s a pick-up line. That’s a line from The Game. That Neil Strauss book.” My friend and I looked at him quizzically.

He and his buddy baulked. “Well, good luck with online dating,” they said before leaving the bar. Later on, when we typed his words into Google, “Jealous ex-girlfriend opener” returned as a result. In all of the phony dialogue we saw, meant to replicate the seductive real-life conversation, the women’s response is either absent or a simple “blah blah blah.”

Lots of dating strategies trumpeted by pick-up artists expect you to go with the flow, which is one of the things that becomes very clear when you confront them in The Game: The Game. Currently on exhibition at The Museum of the Moving Image, The Game: The Game parrots at the player real-life methods from six real-life pick-up artist in a bar scenario straight out of millennial women’s most regrettable nights out.

Unlike the $US20 ($25) pick-up bibles and $US3,000 ($3,780) seminars promising the secret, one-size-fits-all key to “sealing the deal,” The Game: The Game is up-front about how creepy and fabricated these come-ons might appear. By design, it’s painful and taxing to say no to these men.

The Game: The Game

The Game: The Game

“For people who aren’t familiar with this field or may have seen it being dismissed or made fun of online, they will understand the gravity of this field and how real it is,” artist and professor Angela Washko explained when I asked why she made the game.

Initially, she was going to make a book about it, something analytical and informative. Washko quickly realised that a playable game would better relay how “coercive” these tactics are, she said.

To women like me who enjoy going to bars, The Game: The Game might make you physically ill. It’s a tactical visual novel with the emotional impact of a piece of reported journalism. The player is a woman who is approached by any of six real-life dating coaches at a bar, their natural habitat, and subjected to their manipulations – negging, faux compliments, self-depreciation.

Its dialogue is entirely informed by over 50 seduction coaching videos, 20 books and endless hidden camera footage from the coaches, including Julien Blanc, Roosh V and Neil Strauss, who in 2005 wrote The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, thereby bringing the subculture of picking up women into the mainstream.

These so-called artists charge up to $US3,000 ($3,780) per seminar to shape their devotees’ words, body language and tone to come off as confident alpha men.

Here’s a line from pickup artist Julien Blanc: “Afterparty. Now. Adventure. Now. Let’s go. Now. This second. Now.” More a string of commands than a come-on, Blanc’s strategy to get women in bed with him is to remove opportunities for choice. “Take the responsibility off the girl,” he explains in one video.

The world of pick-up artistry is, by design, one-sided. It exists for and speaks to the dater, not the datee. The less decisive and the less present the woman, the easier it is to score.

The Game: The Game

The Game: The Game

Blanc is the most aggressive of the pick-up artists in The Game: The Game, and immediately forces familiarity between himself and the player. He asks her to twirl under his finger. He picks her up and places her elsewhere in the bar. “I loved you in Lord of the Rings,” he demures. When you tell him you’re not interested, he begs you not to embarrass him and presses onward with unflappable confidence. Ignoring him, you still receive an endless slew of questions, comments and commands from him.

Anything less than “Fuck you, get away from me” appears, to him, as a tacit acceptance of his intentions. Blanc’s real-life website advertises, “Make Girls BEG To Sleep With You After SHORT-CIRCUITING Their Emotional And Logical Mind Into A Million Reasons Why They Should.” The Game: The Game shows just how intimidating that can be.

In The Game: The Game, turning down Blanc’s repeated advances feels like paddling a canoe up a tidal wave. “There’s already a flow chart they have developed that I’m kind of providing the missing perspective to,” Washko told me over the phone. “Sometimes, the outcome may be the same despite whatever option you pick. The pickup artist might just continue down the same route even if you do express resistance.”

Prior to making The Game: The Game, Washko inserted herself into the underworld of pickup artistry with a combative piece of art. Inspired by Roosh V’s infamous pickup textbook Bang and informed by his apparently successful efforts to get laid, Washko launched a public campaign to interview women whom Roosh V had slept with.

She wanted to construct a narrative of those nights in which Roosh V was not the only agent. She called it Banged. Her obsession with the “other side” of these dark arts led to The Game: The Game, which, instead of imagining what it’s like to encounter these avatars of the manosphere at bars, lets people play out those encounters minus the gnarly, real-life consequences.

The Game: The Game

The Game: The Game

Roosh V’s chapter in The Game: The Game, Washko said, was the least difficult to write. It’s easy to see why. He’s all or nothing. He approaches you with the intention of separating you and him from the crowd: “It’s ironic that the place most people meet each other is the place where it’s hardest to do so,” he says casually.

He’s soon brimming with sarcasm. His personality signals “Get with me or get lost,” but at the same time, his acceptance made me feel unique. Unless the player is completely submissive, Roosh won’t waste his time with her. He’ll turn his back on her, concluding, “You’re pretty weird. And too old for me.”

Playing through the scenarios to their icky morning-after conclusions, it became easy to tease out common threads: Make the girl feel bad, then make her feel good. Make her earn your respect. Don’t make a move too soon when she’s at your place, so she wonders what’s up.

These strategies relied on women seeking validation from these guys. At the end of some scenarios, Washko drops hints about the research materials she was using, or about how maddening reading them had become for her. “If somebody does the work to go through these horrible experiences,” Washko explained, “I wanted to make them feel like it was going to a takeaway.”

The Game: The Game will be available on late February.


  • Seems like this is trying to say that girls who “fall” for this kind of bullshit should feel icky or ashamed.
    Maybe they just want to get laid as well and just play along with the sharade.
    It’s not like girls don’t actually like sex.

    Playing devils advocate here for a bit, most of these “Pickup Artist’s” are complete douche bags, but the basic idea of it is to build confidence for guys that have very little of it, not to be scared in aproching women for fear of being rejected.
    This is what the douches prey on though, guys (and sometimes girl’s) with low self-esteem and no confidence, they say you won’t be happy until you can pickup girls, look at what I do I’m the happiest guy alive.

    • Sex with these guys sounds like the most depressing thing in the world though. Roosh himself even openly states in his book that he doesn’t even think sex is supposed to be erotic, or particularly enjoyable. He just forces himself through it so he can get the validation of having had sex with a woman. In some of his stories she’s not even conscious.

    • Well said, everyone says confidence is key but very few tell you confidence is almost 100% faking it and not taking anything personally, a rejection isn’t a reflection of you or the opposite sex.

      I actually relied on the question “You are very confident aren’t you?” and would answer positively with a cheeky grin, but in my head my brain was always yelling “No your not you drunk turnip!!”

    • Let’s part from your premise that some girls DO want to have fun and get laid as well. So I ask you then: If so, why would be such premeditated, studied attempt to manipulate their thoughts and emotions be necessary?

      I get your point that some guys need help to raise their confidence and assertiveness, but if you have taken even a cursory glance at the “techniques” from these PUAs, they teach to get your confidence by undermining that of your “prey”. Why not teach confidence based on self-acceptance? On understanding that the person that you are approaching, even if only for a one-night-stand is a human being like you who deserves respect and who is in all their right to use their agency to reject you if they don’t feel a connection with you?

      • I did day that “most of these “Pickup Artist’s” are complete douche bags” most of what they say is bullshit, some of what they say however,
        (and I can only go by what I have read/been told about one of them Neil Strauss) He first says not to put women on a pedestal, don’t look at them like goddess or someone better than yourself, women are just people too.
        He talks about building your self confidence is the first part, learning to approch a woman and not take rejection to heart. If you are rejected move on don’t hate yourself.
        All of what he says after that the negging and shutouts going cold or whatever else he says is crap.

        If you can get past the first hello than your fine.

        I was never condoning every thing they do, some of them are literal sexual assulters, having to resort to manipulating thoughts and emotions is more of a reflection of the person doing such.

        There is also the point that the sex really isn’t the goal of the
        “Pickup Artist” have you watched
        How I Met Your Mother Barney’s whole deal is to challenge himself to pickup women in weird and different ways, is it a bit douchey yeah it is but I don’t think he’s a complete asshole either.

        • You may be right. However, the problem is that that leaves a too vague a line for each individual to cross, regarding douchebaggery and misogyny. (by the way, the fact that I am answering to you doesn’t mean that I believe you are that).

          Moreover, these PUAs are merely (admittedly talented) salesmen with a coat of paint. This means that they will start you on simple, positive-sounding things that you can agree with, to insidiously, slowly, making you start agreeing with other things, building your trust until you reconsider your initial misgivings. Again, then it falls to the individual to trace the line not to move into full douchebaggery… and the problem is that the men who are their target (after all, it is a business) are more often than not, the desperate, the clueless and the ones with few social skills or understanding of relationship dynamics. You can imagine that with very little other referents, they’re more likely to cross the line than not.

          So what I’m saying is that while there may be a few useful pointers in their “methods”, the same can be found in healthier sources, so it is best to just steer clean of the whole thing, lest than one or two noxious but harmless-sounding ideas get stuck in your brain without your noticing it.

  • We all know the way to pick up a girl is to invite them to a sports bar right Cecilia? That’ll make their night!

  • Wow that’s really a pick up line?
    Aside from the fact it will likely be a lie unless you’ve experienced that exact situation, it sounds an insanely boring conversation to keep up.

    I used to down some liquid courage, dance and sing like nobody is watching and then eventually see who takes an interest. From there some fake confidence and a simple hello usually did the job.
    (I’m not some chiseled jaw fireman eye candy either)

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