The Game: The Game is a feminist video game created by Angela Washko. This work explores the importance of consent and the culture, politics and practices of the pick-up artist (PUA) and seduction community. Throughout the game, players walk through a crowded bar and engage with various PUA’s who are employing their learned pick-up techniques, in an effort to seduce the player. The seduction techniques that these characters are practicing are taken directly from instructional books and video materials that exist within pick-up artist culture; creator Angela Washko traversed popular PUA’s websites and books in order to create game characters that extensively embody the politics and practices of PUA’s. Pick-up artist training refers to “to a very particular set of knowledge-practices organized around the belief that the ability to meet and attract women is a skill heterosexual men can cultivate through practical training and personal development” (O’Neill 3). The Game: The Game presents the experience of what it is like to be a femme-presenting person entering a bar filled with PUA’s attempting to seduce and attract you, without asking for your consent to be included in this game.
As players move through the bar and interact with various characters, they are prompted with options for how they want to reply to characters and move the interaction forward. These options cover a breadth of responses that include going along with the pick-up artists’ techniques, completely ignoring them, or reacting angrily. Each interaction requires that players decide how they want the conversation to progress, within the context of the various pick-up artist’s tactics, therefore, creating a different game-play experience each time. This multilinear approach creates a different experience for players every time they play The Game: The Game. With each experience, players create their own narrative in response to the interactions they have with each character. Each interaction necessitates engaging with the characters in some way, often resulting in listening to parts of the PUA’s seduction script before being prompted to intervene or respond. In the game, there is no audible dialogue; instead, players read text throughout their interactions. As an alternative to audible dialogue, there is music composed by Xiu Xiu that plays throughout the duration of the game. At the beginning, the music is quiet then builds in volume as the players interactions with characters builds in tension. This creates an eerie affective feeling for players since the music grows louder as interactions become more and more uncomfortable, then once a tense interaction is diffused, the music returns to its originally quiet volume.
The Game: The Game can be situated within a larger feminist conversation surrounding PUA’s and the misogyny and objectification of women that tints the pick-up artist community. “In PUA communities, men attain a sense of self-confidence through seducing and controlling women, which is achieved through learning ‘game.’ The training is predicated on the instrumentalization and objectification of women, who become vehicles for masculine senses of success and achievement” (Bratich 5012). While traversing this game, players are able to live through the embodied experience of objectification and having your space invaded by men attempting to ‘seduce’ you, through bizarre, nonconsensual and often offensive techniques. The Game: The Game reimagines the lived experiences of many femme-presenting individuals who have interacted with pick-up artists, and presents these interactions in a safe way for people to access. In creating this game, Washko highlights the toxic nature of pick-up artists or seduction communities and provides tangible proof of the harm these communities can cause.
“I think it is totally possible to be empathetic toward men who find these teachings appealing and useful for building the confidence to approach and meet women...and still be critical of those pick-up artists who ultimately undermine, disregard, and fundamentally loathe the concept of consent” (Washko in “The Game: The Game”). In creating this game, Angela Washko aims to return agency back to folks on the receiving end of pick-up artist’s seduction tactics and restores the importance of consent in all interactions.
This entry was written by Rhiannon Duval, a graduate student in Dr. Astrid Ensslin’s DH 510 Digital Fiction class, taught at the University of Alberta during the Winter 2020 semester.
Bratich, Jack, and Sarah Banet-Weiser. “From Pick-up Artists to Incels: Con(Fidence) Games, Networked Misogyny, and the Failure of Neoliberalism.” International Journal of Communication, 13, 2019, pp. 5003–5027. Available at http://ijoc.org.
ONeill, Rachel. Seduction: Men, Masculinity, and Mediated Intimacy. Polity Press, 2018.
“The Game: The Game.” NET ART ANTHOLOGY: The Game: The Game, 2011. Available at http://anthology.rhizome.org/the-game-the-game.
Washko, Angela. “The Game: The Game”. Available at http://thegamethegame.org/download/.