Game Theory

Neil Strauss. The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists. Regan Books. September 2005.

Neil Strauss. Rules of the Game. Harper. December 2007.

The Pickup Artist. 3Ball Productions, VH1. August 2007

The “seduction community”—most insidious of oxymorons—grew up on message boards and newsgroups when the internet was still a place of social exile. The early adopters were people prepared to start life anew—that is, losers. As in recovery movements, acknowledging the problem was the first step.

These were hard-up men perplexed by women and determined to figure them out, as they had figured out the algorithms of the computer programs they wrote, or the patterns and strategies they mastered to make it through the video games they played. They were nerds who had been pushed around by jocks and made envious of cool guys all their lives. There were things that cool guys did, innocently, as a function of their social programming, that made them cool. The losers were going to study their behavior, and they were going to start replicating it. And once they were done with the process of breaking down what the successful behaviors were and why they worked, and once they were done rewiring their own brains (which are far more plastic, the neurologists tell us, than we have ever imagined), they would find they could react in new ways to the old, scary stimuli they got from women—ways even more effective than those of their persecutors. In fact, because they were taking a methodical approach to what others did only by instinct, and because they had an analytic understanding of what others did in an unpremeditated way, they were going to be better at being cool guys than any truly cool guy could ever be.

They renamed each other, taking on talismanic handles, each of which declared a secret hope. Mystery. Extramask. Juggler. Playboy. Sin. Lovedrop. Matador. At sites like alt.fast.seduction.com, men from around the world posted detailed narrative accounts of their dates, soliciting, offering, and receiving critical dissection of every statement and gesture. The men volunteered their experiences as data in a vast scientific trial that no responsible researcher would ever attempt. You could even say that these men were engaged in a strange parody of the activities of the men of the Enlightenment, who used the printing press to diffuse a new attitude toward life that broke with the inherited traditions and dogmas of the past. It was a free and open exchange of ideas across international borders in which men distilled the chaos of experience into universal principles. Together they created a body of knowledge that was rational, pragmatic, purposive, and—above all—subject to the test of experiment.

By means of the collective efforts of hundreds of recovering AFCs (average frustrated chumps, in the literature) and aspiring PUAs (pickup artists), they were able to observe, tag, categorize, and devise a winning response to every twitch, flutter, or hesitation that a woman might offer in the progress, as their eventual leader Mystery would flatly put it, “from meet—to sex.” If a subject looked back at all his successful sexual encounters, he would see that each and every one of them passed through a sequence of three stages. Mystery defined these as attraction, building comfort, and seduction. By detaching oneself from the welter of passions that afflict us in our everyday behaviors, one could arrive at a method to move through those stages, consciously and with maximum efficiency.

All of us who have tried and failed to break through to the opposite sex think about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to the entirely unnatural sociability one must learn to master in a city full of strangers. The internet created a new space to transform that blind empirical groping into what would become, in the hands of its most gifted practitioners, a positivistic system of human relations.

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