The Game is at heart a cautionary tale, the sort told by rock stars. Strauss, a writer for Rolling Stone and other publications, has co-written books by porn star Jenna Jameson, rocker Marilyn Manson, Motley Crue, and Jane's Addiction bandmember Dave Navarro. Strauss' PUAs appear as implausible and out of control as any rock star, including a pre-rehab Courtney Love, who visits Project Hollywood, a house near the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles that Strauss moves into with several other PUAs.
Other PUAs employ other techniques, including the "Mystery Method," a technique based on the concept of an "indirect approach," befriending the companions of a target while ignoring her in order to make the PUA more attractive. Strauss befriends Mystery, a profoundly damaged professional magician, who developed this technique, and learns his secrets. After learning and some practice, Strauss shaves his head, trades in his clothing, and becomes "Style." Style successfully hits on dozens of women, possibly hundreds-if this story is to be believed. (Strauss insists that this is a true story.)
The cautionary tale, of course, must also have its unsavory or unappealing aspect. Strauss describes a world that dehumanizes not only the women but the men; a world in which many of the men are social robots, unable or uninterested in any activity beyond seducing an endless number of sex objects; a world without the friendship of women. Soon enough, this insular world consumes itself in arguments over women, over money, and over status. Some fail to escape, or fall into depression; others look to fill the holes in their life with religion; and Neil Strauss gets himself a girlfriend.
References to the novel and film Fight Club abound: one PUA goes by the name Tyler Durden; another turns Project Hollywood into a dormitory for aspiring PUAs; Strauss consistently describes the PUAs imitating him as an army, or a group of clones. At one point, consciously or unconsciously echoing Fight Club he writes: "Every time we left a city, a lair sprung up if one didn't exist already, bringing together students eager to practice their new skills." (p. 149)
At times, The Game beggars belief. Style's exploits seem so implausible, so cinematic, that it's hard to be sure that the story is true, despite Strauss' assurances. Strauss seduces the reader using the program of the cautionary tale so perfectly that the reader must wonder if he or she is the one being played.