Book Review: The Game by Neil Strauss

It was a hot afternoon in June back in 2010 - a friend of mine was wearing a polo, a vest, and a matching fedora hat. He looked quite whimsical with all the patterns he mixed and matched. There was a book inserted near his left armpit. I was quite intrigued with why he was wearing a haphazard look since this friend was, normally, socially awkward and unnoticeable. Today he stood out. He was like a black penguin in a sea of Antarctic white. “Let me see that!" I remarked while successfully liberating his book from his left armpit.

The book looked tattered and overused. The spine of that paperback had more creases than my grandma! I looked at the title printed in gold letters: “The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists.” Quite the mouthful! I asked my friend what this book was all about. He told me that it’s like a hand book for people who have little to no skill at interacting with females. Puzzled, I let my friend walk me through it.

Being an atheist, he sure was treating this thing like his own personal bible. He memorized different terms and concepts that were in the book. Everything was militarily drilled and the terms were all focal points for a spiral of concepts on the female psyche that got me lost in a daze. He was excited to try what the book offered. Much like an eager soldier ready to go into battle with a brand spanking new laser blaster, he asked me if I could go with him into the fray of the dark corners of Davao City’s clubs. I declined and retreated back to my half-eaten college student budget meal. Munching away while thinking of other things.

Seven years later and I stumbled upon this book once again. Another friend of mine asked me to read it. This magical tome of pickup artists sparked my curiosity once more. This time, I wanted to sink my figurative reading teeth into it. You know? Much like how I was eating my lunch seven years ago. I was perplexed at how Neil Strauss managed to encapsulate and contain what needed to be done between the covers of his book. And so, I decided to start reading it.


The Game tells the story of Neil Strauss, a balding bachelor who works as a journalist for the Rolling Stones magazine. In the midst of writing about rock stars and touring with them, he still noticed something was lacking. He realized that there was a gap which exists between him and women. He found it hard to communicate to women and this was becoming a problem for him.

In his desperation to meet his soulmate, he turns to the internet like any google-oriented individual. Neil comes across an online community of dating gurus. They called themselves pickup artists.

These pickup artists gave guys advice on how to establish themselves to a girl and, eventually, successfully pitch themselves for attraction. Their audience was a diverse group that consists of bankers, programmers, millionaires, etc. and all of them shared something in common – they couldn’t get girls.

Participants hid their personalities through a screen name so they could be free to ask anything. After getting a step-by-step guide on how they could get girls in bars or other establishments, the people participating would follow the steps, then file reports online to tell others of their exploits or conquests.

As the community grew, Neil Strauss found out that one of the pick-up gurus was organizing an actual workshop. The workshop included a seminar that served as a backgrounder and then would be followed by a ‘field test’ of sorts where different approaches to attraction would be put to practice. This eventually grew into a worldwide phenomenon of pickup artists meeting each other and discussing trade secrets or strategies. It was a secret society of people being schooled in the art of dating that resembled Palahniuk’s Fight Club. What started as small gatherings in different cities then built up into Project Hollywood. 

Project Hollywood was the main place where you could be schooled in the art of seduction while being exposed to crazy star-studded parties. People from all walks of life signed up to be tutored by Style and all the other expert pickup artists. The people seeking guru advice were all introduced into the world of attraction through different methods or strategies. This was the part where the participants of Project Hollywood were being schooled at what to do in a sort of classroom setup. After all the theory comes the application.

Neil witnessed how different relationship Gurus like Herbal, Style and hot girls like Katya lived together in a huge house and cultivated a complicated dynamic of partying, drugs, and workshops. Things were great at first but eventually, everything fell apart. Girls were being passed around from pick up artist to pick up artist and fights between the gurus started. Excitement was replaced with jealousy and trust was replaced with back-stabbing. The rough edges of the life of pickup artists started to show itself. 

In this part, you will notice that unlike the other characters in the book who were focused on the parties, Neil separates himself and actually falls in love with a girl.

Like all good things, Project Hollywood ended and, for Neil Strauss, this was a happy ending that left him finding the love of his life amidst all the chaos of The Game.

The Review

The book has its share of strengths and some few minor kinks. After reading it, I realized that the book was more than just a handbook for lonely guys that needed company. That friend of mine from 2010 sure saw this book in a different light. Perspective is the key component with which I could deem this book as more than the average dating handbook for dummies.

What’s to like?

The book starts off by using a narrative tone that’s reminiscent of crime/detective fiction. This is one of the things that I liked and believe that it would appeal to a lot of male readers. It kind of sucks you into the world of pickup artists by letting you start in the middle of Project Hollywood’s downfall. It doesn’t follow the typical linear telling of a story since it starts with a detailed description of the end of Neil Strauss’ and his fellow pickup guru’s attempts at living the life of rock stars. I also loved how Neil opened to me the different dating styles that spans across the world. From the United States to far-flung India, he showed that different cultures had mixed takes on dating.

What’s not to like?

Now, onto what’s not to like. I felt that the book did some patch work in terms of the different emails that the author cited in a lot of chapters. These exchanges of emails did give me a great view into the secret world of pickup artists but there were some parts that could have been omitted. I abhor this postmodern method of telling a story from the perspectives of different people since it can get quite confusing for the reader.

Another negative aspect of this book is that it may initially come off to female readers as sinister. The objectifying of women as mere trophies may drive a woman to be disgusted towards men. So, it would be best to read this book with an open mind and give it some time to sink in. After all, there’s more for you to like for you to forgive the rough patches of this book.

How can this book help me?

Neil Strauss’ The Game is like a sword and it is up to the wielder to use it for either bad or good. The different concepts like ‘negging’ or ‘routines’ helped me to understand how the female psyche works. And I believe other males who have difficulty in interacting with women can get a lot of lessons from Neil Strauss. His detailed step-by-step engagement process with complete strangers, for example, is going to teach readers how to ease up during social situations. The author then transcends from the shallow world of pickup artists to teach men that a life of picking up women isn’t worth living. And Neil embodies this by falling in love with a girl that wants to know him for who he is and not what he pretends to be.

Is it worth the read?

Hell yeah!

I highly recommend this book as a primer or backgrounder for men who are willing to inject some positive change into their lives. Despite all the negativity found in the world of pick up artists, Neil Strauss teaches readers on how to be confident towards other people by being true to oneself. And also adds some tips on how to conquer your fears by showing readers the experiences of other individuals who had a hard time talking to women.

This book can be relatable to socially-challenged individuals who just want to get out and meet other people. The Game can also be great for young adults who are just starting out in college since it can point them to the right direction when trying to meet the girl they want to fall in love with. Plus, it can also be a great influence when it comes to building one’s individuality.