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Book Review: "The Game: Penetrating the Society of Pickup Artists", by Neil Strauss

Rapport equals trust plus comfort.

From “The Game” (William Murrow / HarperCollinsPublishers, 2005, Page 315), by Neil Strauss

This is the last unread book of the “relationships” section that I had purchased way back late last year, when mastering dating seemed a more significant priority than today. An intriguing read, “The Game” details a time in Neil’s (nicknamed “Style”) life when he joined a society of pickup artists in a desparate attempt to get into a relationship. What he ended up discovering about the community, in a sense, freed him from it.

The book can almost be described as living in Neil’s friend Dustin’s shadow. To Neil, Dustin was the go-getter, the hustler, the guy who always got the girl in the end. After Neil became “Style” the pick-up artist and became highly ranked in the pick-up game, he discovers that Dustin joined a “yeshiva”, or a kind of Jewish monastery, as picking up girls didn’t bring him satisfaction anymore. Neil initially brushes this off, but things get worse and worse in the pickup community and Neil eventually leaves. His girlfriend at the end of the book, Lisa, explicitly tells him she would have liked him even if he wasn’t a pick-up artist. Neil and Dustin are like sine and cosine waves, following the same life trajectories some amount of time apart.

“The Game” provides an interesting lesson in psycology, especially with regards to two characters, Katya and Tyler Durden. Katya is originally the girlfriend of Neil’s mentor, “Mystery”. With a falling-out, Katya then dated “Herbal”, who is “Mystery”’s and Neil’s housemate. Katya’s presence and personality precipitated “Mystery”’s meltdown, which in addition to the meltdown he had in Toronto, lessened his legitimacy in Neil’s eyes and ended up getting him censured in his house.

While Neil states that if Katya and “Mystery” never met, the pickup artist community called “Project Hollywood” might still be ongoing, he also states it may have been doomed from the start due to the machinations of “Tyler Durden”, a pickup artist who doesn’t pick up girls but rather sells to wannabe pickup artists. Tyler organizes a coup of sorts against Neil and “Mystery” after Neil kissed Tyler’s pickup one time. “Mystery” and Neil are isolated and divided against the rest of the house, controlled by “Tyler Durden” and his subordinate, “Papa”.

Very “Lord of the Flies”, and Neil says as much in the book too.

Ultimately, what Neil describes pickup as appears to be a simple assortment of character traits:

  • Confidence: being able to approach a woman and say “hi”, being able to face her boyfriend or any other suitors down, etc.

  • Skills (card/magic tricks, palm reading, etc.), or something to say after you say “hi”

  • Social awareness

  • Some amount of genuine likability, if you’re not Casanova and want to continue a relationship

  • The ability to lose the girl and still wake up before noon the next day


I don’t exactly regret purchasing this book, but this is probably the least relevant book I’ve read about relationships thus far. The audience is different (I’m too proud to play pickup), the reward is different (party/clubbing girls, which are not my type), and the methodology is different (I’m pretty traditionalist and boring).

I can’t help but wonder whether the rising incel community may be related to the pickup community, a number of automatons who, after paying some guy thousands of dollars to learn how to pick up girls and fail because they’re automatons, believe that all women are evil or don’t like them and that they are entitled to sex. I can see the slippery slope after reading this book: Neil found that the demand to learn pickup was fairly inelastic, and Mystery charged $1500 per person per workshop. Neil’s description of “Tyler Durden” and his business also seemed much like Robert Kiyosaki’s methodology of self-help getting rich books; if it’s not bad advice (which it might well be), it’s advice catered to those with deaf ears.

It’s a dangerous slope to be on if you’re at any point emotionally unsteady (Mystery’s experience as described by Neil being Exhibit A), which is why I myself will avoid this and these people.