The Game
While "The Game" might be full of outdated pickup advice, its lessons on hook-up Culture remain. (Illustration by Eunhye Cho, Laguna College of Art and Design)

Neil Strauss’ ‘The Game’ Should Be Required Reading for College Kids

‘The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists’ can teach plenty of lessons — some more valuable than others.

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The Game

‘The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists’ can teach plenty of lessons — some more valuable than others.

“The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists” is a memoir of a two-year period of author Neil Strauss’ life, documenting his time becoming the world’s best pick up artist. Strauss tells about his discovery of an online community of pickup artists that leads to him traveling around the globe to meet womanizing gurus and gaining the ability to attract literally anyone he wanted. Using anecdotes, Strauss also teaches you methods, strategies, theories and just about everything you need to know about approaching women.

“The Game” is, honestly, a good book. With eccentric characters, unbelievable stories and a casual writing style that makes it feel as if Strauss is speaking directly to you, “The Game” is a captivating and enjoyable read. And even 14 years after its initial release, the book contains some important life lessons that are especially relevant to college students. Just maybe not the type of lessons you might think.

Because you, like I did when I discovered the book, might be saying to yourself, “Wow! If I read this, I’ll be able to pick up so many girls!” But that surprisingly was not my biggest takeaway. Because although reading about Strauss’ sexual conquests and multiple girlfriends sounds great at first, you see that one-night stands and meaningless sex can be a really unfulfilling lifestyle.

Strauss makes this abundantly clear when he says things like, “But beyond attraction and lust, there were deeper feelings that few of us felt and none of us had mastered.” And: “We were all searching outside ourselves for our missing pieces, and we were all looking in the wrong direction. Instead of finding ourselves, we’d lost our sense of self.”

You see this in several of the characters in the book as well. Almost all of them, including Strauss, neglect family, friends and their jobs for the pursuit of women. One character, codenamed Mystery, uses women to fill a void left by his father and his desperate need for attention and goes through several bouts of depression and rage when he can’t hold down relationships.

Tyler Durden and Papa become so power-obsessed they end up isolating themselves and severing friendships. Those are just some of the many characters and the reality of the downfalls they experienced as a result of this lifestyle.

So, while Strauss seducing and sleeping with as many girls as he wants to might sound like a great gig, he ultimately shows that that kind of life really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, which is an important lesson for college students to learn due to the prevalence of “hook-up culture” and the pressure and self-loathing it can induce.

Hook-up culture is this belief that a large majority of college kids are having a lot of sex. And despite the fact that the numbers show that this is extremely exaggerated, it still creates an environment on campuses that pushes students to have hookups that lead nowhere instead of relationships.

That isn’t to say there is anything wrong with no-strings-attached hookups, but it can become a problem when students feel like they need to go out to have sexual encounters and feel terrible about themselves if they aren’t having as much sex as they think they should be or matching their peers. Hook-up culture can also pressure college kids to have multiple partners instead of developing serious, more intimate relationships that they might actually desire.

That’s why “The Game” is such an important book for college kids to read. It shows how empty casual sex and one-night stands can be. That the void some people try to fill by having sex will still be there the next morning. That you don’t need to sleep with tons of people to increase self-worth and there is nothing wrong with being in a committed relationship.

And this means so much more coming from a person with Strauss’ background. He experienced what it was like being able to seduce any woman at any time, yet he believes that having a significant and committed relationship is more fulfilling and has made him happier.

Toward the end of the book, Strauss gets into a monogamous relationship and in the acknowledgments, he says he is still with her. “Being together has required a lot more time and work than learning to pick up women ever did, but it has brought me far greater satisfaction and joy.” Hearing Strauss say that can resonate much more with youth than hearing it from your high school health teacher.

With that said, there are positive lessons to be learned in terms of approaching women highlighted by Strauss. After all, this memoir also serves as a guide on how to pick up women. It teaches that looks aren’t everything. You don’t need to have a model’s body to attract women, which is beneficial for young adults to hear in a society that can make you feel insecure for not having an ideal body. The book also shows that women can be as shy and nervous when it comes to flirting as men are. After all, they are human.

There are of course negative aspects as well, like manipulative tactics, pre-planned conversations and fake personas, which can be very misleading to women. It also causes relationships to go nowhere, even after a hookup. And many characters heavily objectify and mistreat women.

The dating world and how men and women operate in it might have changed drastically since “The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists” was published 14 years ago. But in an age of hook-up culture on college campuses, it can’t be more relevant in showing the possible downfalls of meaningless sex and that it isn’t as great as it sounds.

And if you enjoy Neil Strauss’ writing, he has written several other books including a sequel to “The Game.” Titled “The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships,” the memoir follows Strauss as he attempts to tackle a long-term relationship after sleeping around for two years.

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