The Game: PUAs and the Secret Seduction Community

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "The Game" by Neil Strauss. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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What are PUAs in the book The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists? Who is the main The Game PUA?

The Game‘s PUAs included many mentors that Neil Strauss learned from. These PUAs, also known as pickup artists, developed strategies to pick up women. In The Game, PUAs developed entire lifestyles based on picking up women and hedonism.

The Game and PUA Community

Throughout his life, author and journalist Neil Strauss had always felt self-conscious and awkward around the opposite sex—which led to rejection, creating a vicious cycle. Neil assumed that it took natural charisma and confidence to pick up women, and that he simply didn’t have it. 

Then, in the early 2000s, when Neil was in his early 30s, he got the opportunity to write a book modeled after The How-to-Lay-Girls Guide, a guide to picking up women that had been circulating in an online community of men who exchanged tips and advice in the art of seduction. 

When Neil plunged into the seduction community’s online world of websites and message boards, he discovered an entire subculture. Members of the community wrote posts sharing strategies, divulging details of their exploits, or asking for advice—and, in the real world, men in cities around the world gathered weekly to share techniques and then go to clubs together to put the tactics to use. 

In The Game, PUA gurus became Neil’s friends and colleagues. Neil chronicles the two years he spent in the seduction community, the characters he met there, and their various hijinks. Along the way, he exposes readers to many of the methods that pickup artists (PUAs) use, as well as the history and context of this underground community.

Neil Meets Mystery 

The seduction community’s leaders were a handful of PUAs who were considered gurus. Each guru taught disciples his distinct set of rules and techniques—including psychology, magic tricks, and hypnosis—to seduce women. In The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, Strauss goes into the community to learn the techniques.

Neil wanted to meet all the gurus, and he planned to integrate techniques from each. The first guru he met was a Canadian magician named Mystery, who had just started offering workshops for PUAs-in-training. 

The workshop consisted of three nights of lessons and in-the-field practice in bars and clubs. As students practiced the techniques, Mystery and his wing (aka wingman) critiqued and coached them.

Neil somewhat stumbled through pickups during the workshop, but Mystery saw huge potential in Neil as a PUA. 

The Game PUA Neil Hones His Skills

It was the first night of Mystery’s workshop, and, as Mystery and Style prepared to take their students into the club for some on-the-ground training, Style felt intense pressure to prove himself in front of Mystery and the students. 

Style had a chance to put his skills to the test when a pair of gorgeous, confident-looking women walked into the bar. Style was nervous, but he knew all of the strategies—now he just had to use them with confidence, or else the women would see right through him. 

Style thought strategically. A successful pickup was a multistep process: 

  1. Approach: The women were facing the bar, so Style approached on the left side of the so-called obstacle, who sat between him and the woman he wanted to pick up. 
  2. Get in position: Style recited an opening line, and, meanwhile, he thought about how he would maneuver around the obstacle to get next to his target. When the women responded well to his opener, Style said that he wanted to show his target something, which was a ploy to move next to her. 
  3. Join them: Now Style needed to find a way to sit down, because if he spent too much time standing over the women, they would start to feel uncomfortable. Since there were no open stools, he instructed his target to stand up so that he could perform a trick—and, as soon as she did, he sat in her seat. 
  4. Develop rapport: Style joked with his target that he’d stolen her seat, and when she joked back, he knew he hadn’t overstepped. 
  5. Create a false time constraint: Style told the woman he had to leave soon, in order to ease any concern that he might hang around all night.
  6. Number-close: When Style’s artificial time constraint was up, he told the woman he’d like to see her again while he was in town. With no further prodding, the woman wrote down her number and handed it to Style. 

Style’s performance demonstrated not only his credibility, but the credibility of the Mystery Method, giving the workshop students hope that, with some training, they could achieve the same. 

Style Develops His Own Techniques

Style had mastered how to pick up women, but he struggled to go any further; he was too nervous to attempt a kiss. 

He posted to the seduction message boards, asking for advice—and he received an array of tips, from holding the woman’s gaze for three seconds to instructing her to take her pants off in order to give her a leg massage. Style took pieces of the advice and developed his own strategy; it worked flawlessly every time. 

Style had cleared another seduction hurdle, and his confidence was growing. However, he began to realize that he was increasingly objectifying women. Men in the seduction community constantly rated women’s attractiveness, and each man’s status in the community was measured by the quantity and the attractiveness of the women they could pick up. 

Style had begun to view women as benchmarks of his pickup ability, and his interactions with women had become scripted and strategic, substituting for genuine connection. 

Launching Project Hollywood

Style began to realize that he’d been focusing too much on memorizing pickup routines and simply picking up women at clubs. He now saw that the real purpose of the game was in creating a lifestyle that was interesting, exciting, and fulfilling. Men with that lifestyle exuded confidence and vibrancy that naturally attracted women. 

Style was ready to graduate from sarging and build this lifestyle. He decided it was time for him and Mystery to create Project Hollywood, which would be a seduction headquarters. In The Game, PUAs had businesses revolving around their seduction tactics, and as Style’s status grew, he wanted to launch his own business.

Style and Mystery found a mansion in Hollywood—Dean Martin’s former home—and they planned to use it as a home base for PUAs, a venue for parties and seminars, and a meeting place for Mystery’s workshops. Since they didn’t want to take on the risk of putting their names on the lease for a massive party house, they got Papa to sign the lease (despite the fact that he’d recently betrayed Mystery).

Without approval from the rest of the housemates, Papa invited Tyler Durden to move into Project Hollywood. 

Style had a gut instinct that Tyler couldn’t be trusted—and he soon found out he was right:

  1. Tyler told Style that he sometimes pretended to be Style (more accurately, Neil Strauss, a Rolling Stones writer) in order to impress women.
  2. Tyler had created a new technique, in which he undercut fellow PUAs. For example, while talking to a group of women, Tyler would point out Mystery from across the club and say that Mystery loved attention and often made rude comments. This made it impossible for Mystery to approach that group with his own routines and negs (backhanded compliments). 
  3. Tyler had invented a technique called Stylemogging, in which he imitated Style’s phrases, mannerisms, and habits. Since Style was a top PUA, Tyler studied him incessantly in order to understand what made Style so successful. Tyler then broke down everything Style did into a formula and taught it to workshop students. 

Style saw Stylemogging as a symptom of a larger problem within the community: Men were becoming robotic pickup clones who were obsessed with the game. They developed no real interests or hobbies outside the community, and, as a result, they had no real substance beneath the rote pickup lines and routines. In The Game, PUAs actually suffered as a result of their constant reliance on pickup lines and strategies.

The irony was that the purpose of the techniques were to make men appear interesting, but their obsession with the game prevented them from being interesting, which was the most effective way of attracting women

Style Exits the Community

During Style’s two years in the seduction community, he’d learned pickup techniques from top gurus, enjoyed unprecedented success with women, and—most importantly—developed inner confidence. 

Style’s newfound confidence had helped him get into a relationship with Lisa, with whom he felt a deeper connection than he’d ever had with a woman. Finally, in The Game, PUAs become too much for Style.

Lisa was so confident that none of Style’s seduction techniques had worked on her—in fact, they’d almost ruined his chances with her. Ultimately, he had to toss his lines and routines out the window and be himself in order to win Lisa over. 

However, even though Style’s pickup tactics had pushed Lisa away, Style recognized that, before joining the community, he wouldn’t have had the confidence he needed to pursue her. 

So much of the game was artificial—the scripted routines, the peacocking outfits, even the aliases—but mastering the game had helped Style develop the inner confidence to be himself. Style could now graduate from the community. 

In The Game, PUAs are a group that base their lifestyle around partying and pickup up women. Though originally enchanted by the PUA lifestyle, Neil Strauss eventually discovered in The Game that the PUA lifestyle was making it harder to truly connect with women on a deeper level.

The Game: PUAs and the Secret Seduction Community

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of Neil Strauss's "The Game" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Game summary:

  • The secrets of the Pickup Artist community in seducing women
  • How key Pickup Artist leaders fought with each other and split the group apart
  • What author Neil Strauss took away about women from his years of training

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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