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"Those who have read the early drafts of this book have all asked the same questions: 'Is this true?' 'Did it really happen?' 'Are these guys for real?' Thus, I find it neccessary to employ an old literal device... The following is a true story. It really happened."
The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists is a 2005 book that explains the techniques and concepts used by a society of pickup artists living within the United States, written in the form of a novel instead of a typical self-help book. Using himself as an example, former Rolling Stone and New York Times writer Neil Strauss tells the story of his transformation from an AFC (an "Average Frustrated Chump") to one of the greatest pickup artists in the world.
The book follows Strauss as he signs up for a pickup artist class held by "Mystery", a revered leader in the seduction community. Strauss takes on the Screen Name of "Style" and begins to assimilate the concepts, pickup lines and routines Mystery teaches them. Together with a group of fellow pick-up artists, the duo move to a mansion in Los Angeles and open a haven for other PUA's, which they dub "Project Hollywood". Eventually, however, Strauss finds himself rejected from the community, and learns that all the seduction techniques in the world don't mean much when he finds his true love. The book also breaks down the "codes" used by various PUA's, and details the different types of "seduction communities" that currently exist on message boards.
The Game was a bestseller, and caused a firestorm of controversy from fellow pickup artists who believed Strauss had sold them out. A companion book, "Rules of the Game", was released in 2007.
This book contains examples of:
- All Women Are Lustful / All Women Are Prudes: Discussed, the PUA artists claim that the former is the truth, but women have a last minute anti-slut defense mechanism that puts the latter as a facade, and the key is to appease the former.
- Assimilation Plot: Zig Zagged, possibly Deconstructed. The assimilation is unconscious and inadvertent. Everyone wants to mirror the top pickup artists, soon becoming what Neil called, "social robots."
- Being a PUA Sucks: Not an opinion which Style himself completely submits to, but it is more or less the conclusion the book leads up to.
- Camp Straight: Mystery specializes in "peacocking", which is wearing deliberately ridiculous clothing (such as tophats, feather boas, etc.) in order to attract women.
- Casanova: Almost everybody is one, including some women.
- Casanova Wannabe: However several people are actually this, spending more time looking for ways to attract more customers for the courses and playing videogames, than actaully seducing women.
- Cerebus Syndrome: Hits about halfway through the book.
- Cloud Cuckoo Landers: More than you can count.
- Crazy Prepared: Throughout the book, Strauss explains that pickup artists have to be prepared for every possibility, from the first line said to a woman to what would happen if another male attempts to hit on the same woman as the pickup artist.
- Daddy Issues: Most of Mystery's issues go back to this.
- Downer Ending: At the end of the book, Neil begins a serious relationship with a woman, one that he believes will last for a long, long time. Several months after the book was released, the woman (a former bassist from the rock band Hole) broke up with Strauss.
- Genki Girl: Courney Love (yes, THAT Courtney Love)
- I Love You Because I Can't Control You: The book ends with Neil realizing that the one woman he has feelings for, Lisa, isn't affected at all by his attempts to seduce her, and in the penultimate chapter, he comes clean with her by throwing all the phone numbers he accumulated from women over the years in his bed to convince her that he loves her.
- Instant Seduction: This is the basis of the techniques and openers used by Mystery and Style (to great effect), although it's later subverted when Style (months after he walked away from the pickup community) tries his original openers and lines on several different women, only to find that the PUA community had more or less discredited his techniques due to overuse.
- Knight of Cerebus: Katya
- Manipulative Bastard: All the pickup artists, but Tyler Durden and Papa take the cake.
- Mental Fusion: Tyler Durden practically teaches the students to BECOME Style.
- Not Making This Up Disclaimer: The author writes this in the intro. Who can blame him?
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Neil one time thinks whether Extramask is really crazy or just trying to be funny.
- Only Sane Man: Neil Strauss tries to portray himself as this. Any self-criticism or sense of self-awareness in regards to the many questionable or simply idiotic actions he undertakes is remarkably absent.
- Psychopathic Manchild: Mystery, to an extent.
- Quest for Sex
- Refuge in Audacity: This is what stems from Strauss' Not Making This Up Disclaimer, as he details several situations that he later admits seem too ridiculous to be true. He explains how he was stopped with three other pickup artists at a military checkpoint in Yugoslavia without a passport (and thought he was going to be shot on sight by the guards), expresses disbelief at being able to seduce Britney Spears and steal women from Scott Baio and Andy Dick, and later picks up a woman from a Russian casino while her boyfriend and security look on angrily.
- Schmuck Bait: All the PUAs out of which Strauss is just one feel the need to repeat endlessly the man has to approach all women worthy of interest, even if he gets rejected hundreds of times, to build up a thick skin and to get a sizable number of female contacts by the law of numbers, the more unattainable the woman is, the greater the heroism into approaching her. Now let the poor guy think unattainable literally and approach Angela Merkel or Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.
- Sensei for Scoundrels
- Shout-Out: Many, but the most obvious one is Tyler Durden, who blatantly took his name from... well, Tyler Durden. In fact it's a coincidence that the latter part of the book becomes close to the very plot of Fight Club, what with Project Hollywood and all.
- Spanner in the Works: While Project Hollywood was already decaying anyway, Katya turns it into chaos.
- Took a Level In Badass: Strauss goes from an "average, frustrated chump" who can't get laid to save his life into (for a time) the foremost authority in seduction and pickup artistry in the world, and gets paid thousands of dollars to teach workshops where he seduces even more women.
- Turned Against Their Masters: Papa
- Villainous Breakdown: The book begins with Mystery having a psychotic breakdown and threatening to kill himself when his girlfriend leaves, before being checked into a mental health clinic.