Welcome to the Debating Game

Over at AVfM, Paul Elam is hosting a debate on game and the MRM between himself and someone named Frost. Paul is critical of the use of game and game theory while Frost is defending it as a sort of science of how to get laid (he called it a “study”).

Paul’s position is that game has no bearing on the men’s movement. While some gamers are sympathetic to men’s rights and other issues or may be opposed to feminism, game itself is meaningless and those who extol its virtues are mostly in it for the money (selling books, DVDs, etc.). It is all about getting laid and nothing more. According to Paul, game is all about throwing one’s values and self-respect out the window in order to pass a shit test. Frost claims it is a legitimate endeavor and defines it as: “Game is the study of how women respond to men’s behaviour (sic)” and claims it will increase a man’s chances for success with women.

I’m not entirely certain as to why it is important to debate this issue. Game may very well be a waste of time, money, and energy. Its proponents may be con artists. Its practitioners may be superficial scumbags with little respect for women. So what? There are plenty of snake oil salesmen(women) out there and as David Hannum once said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”[1]

One the other hand, maybe it works. Again, so what? Lots of people use lots of techniques to get what they want. Car salesmen are taught a variety of manipulative techniques to sell cars to people who may not really want one or need one. Does that make them bad people? No, it makes them salesmen. So if a man wraps himself up in a thinly veiled technique to manipulate a woman into having sex, does that make him any worse than the woman who dons wig or colors her hair and applies expensive cosmetics to attract a man? I suppose that may depend on who is asked, but both are presenting themselves as something they aren’t in order to get something they want.

While Paul has only hinted at it, the best I can figure is that he is attempting to save gamers from themselves. He hasn’t succinctly stated it, but I can see the following problems with game. Once women realize they’ve been gamed, they may feel used and cheated. That opens the door for false allegations that could devastate their lives. Further, gamers appear to suffer from a lack of self-confidence, especially with women. This lack of confidence leaves them open to being exploited by unscrupulous con artists willing to take their money for the promise of increased access to sex. Thirdly, PUAs and gamers are typically viewed as sexual predators. They aren’t necessarily rapists or even doing anything wrong, but the practice of an art of luring women into bed may be seen by others as sleazy behavior.

Basically, its bad PR for men in general and in that respect it may be contraindicated as part of the MRM. Finally, it only confirms the feminist viewpoint that men are only after one thing. PUAs, they would say, demean and degrade women by treating them as sex objects whose sole purpose is to satisfy their desires.

From the gamer perspective, I suppose that Frost and others would believe that whatever they are paying for the services of their teachers, it is money well spent if it improves success rates. If they get laid often enough, it will increase their self-esteem and therefore game might be considered a form of therapy. The women they find are typically in singles bars, making themselves available. They want it, so what’s the problem. That PUAs might be seen as sleazy misogynists never enters their mind. These women want to get laid as badly as the PUAs do. No misogyny involved. In many respects, they have a point.

[quote style=”boxed” float=”left”]The flaw isn’t that the techniques may appear bizarre, but that they aren’t backed up by any sort of valid evidence. [/quote] There are lots of reasons women go to bars and consume alcohol, but meeting men is probably at the top of the list. Just as advocates of game can make considerable amounts of money selling game to vulnerable men, there are tons of writers and publications dedicated to taking money from vulnerable women by purporting to teach them how to trap a man. Where better to practice either art than a place where single men go to find single women, especially one that provides legal drugs that decrease inhibitions and provide a false sense of confidence. As such, there’s no real reason for a PUA to feel a sense of shame or guilt any more than there is for a woman to feel the same about her use of deception to trap a man. The reality is that both are there for the same thing.

But before we can decide which view is correct, we must define game. What is it? Frost stated that “Game is the study of how women respond to men’s behaviour (sic).” But this same statement could be used to define feminism; which is the ideology that describes women’s response to male oppression (or so they claim). Are they the same thing? Not hardly. So Frost’s definition is insufficient. However, he makes another statement a bit later that may enhance the definition, “The bottom line is that Game is a tool men can use to increase their success with women. No more, no less.” In other words, game could be defined as the study of how women respond to men’s behavior, and how men can use that knowledge to gain access to sex with women. I use the word sex instead of success because he also states “If a man chooses to eschew sex for life, I admit he will have no use for Game.” Thus, Frost equates success with sex and sex is far more specific.

Frost takes exception to the belief that:

[game] must include shiny clothes, effeminate mannerisms, hoop-jumping, and whatever other behaviours (sic) that they would like to associate with we ‘Gamers’.

I don’t blame him. While these things are hyped by some gamers, there is more to game than that. To think otherwise is to believe in a caricature. What constitutes real game is found in the next statement:

We’re just a community of men, sharing what we know about women and relationships.

which is a very telling statement.

Frost stated that game is a “study.” This implies some sort of methodological approach. But what kind of methodology? A bunch of men sharing what they know is definitely not science. It is personal experience; anecdotal evidence. Any scientist will tell you that anecdotal evidence is simply not evidence. It might have some value in helping to formulate a hypothesis, but it is insufficient to test that hypothesis.

For example, if I were to go out and buy a new pair of shoes prior to jumping off a ledge, I might conclude that I survived because the shoes absorbed the impact and that they were the reason I lived. I might then go out and tell everyone I know about my experience and that wearing these shoes will increase their chances of survival if they intend to jump off a ledge. But I might not have considered that the ledge I jumped from was three feet off the ground and not from a five story building.

Likewise, a gamer may tell all his buddies about how he negged some chick at the local bar who later went home with him. But he may neglect to consider that she had a thing for tall, skinny guys with blond hair and blue eyes and that he just happened to fit that description while all the other guys in the bar that she rejected did not. It may have been the blond hair and blue eyes that attracted the woman, not the neg, just as it was likely the height of the ledge that allowed me to survive, not the new shoes. A more scientific approach might be more beneficial in determining what works and what doesn’t.

Frost stated that one objection to game may be that the “specific teachings are flawed.” Frost may have been correct, but he was correct for the wrong reasons. The flaw isn’t that the techniques may appear bizarre, but that they aren’t backed up by any sort of valid evidence. An objection to a comment I made on the debate was that “What works for someone won’t work for you…” game must be custom-fit to the person using it. While this may be sound advice, what does it say about game? Game is supposed to increase success with women, but if the techniques are prone to failure, does it actually increase success?

I drive a car to work because doing so will increase my chances of getting to work on time. Provided that the car is in good working order, the make and model won’t make any difference in my chances of success. This doesn’t mean I won’t prefer one model over another because it fits my personality better, but regardless, cars have been proven successful at getting people to work on time. If game is a valid theory, a practitioner may have certain preferred techniques, but any technique of game should work to improve his chances of success.

A valid theory should contain a set of principles for the practitioner to follow that allow that practitioner to make decisions in order to achieve a desired outcome. In other words, the techniques that are applied should not be dependent upon the personality of the practitioner or selected at random, but should be chosen based upon the reactions of the target (woman). For game to be valid, the practitioner must be given a set of techniques that work in specific situations and a method for determining when a particular technique will be most effective, and the application of that technique should result in an increased chance of success with any given woman than the practitioner would have if the technique were not used.

From what I have seen on game, some theories and theorists attempt to address the above and therefore legitimize game as a scientific theory. To do this they draw upon a variety of social and psychological theory. Evolution psychology seems to be popular with gamers. They tend to talk in terms of alpha, beta, and omega males when describing men. These terms, however, seem to be poorly defined. There doesn’t appear to be any real consensus as to what differentiates these men or even whether or not it is possible to move between classes.

A couple of years ago a famous golfer appeared to be the pillar of success, everything anyone ever said was “alpha.” He was perhaps the greatest golfer in the history of golf. He had more money than most of us could spend in several lifetimes. He was quite good-looking. He had a beautiful wife, and apparently a ton of mistresses. But after his wife discovered his affairs and allegedly beat him with a golf club, there were plenty of folks who claimed that he was not and never had been an “alpha.” This seemed rather odd since prior to the incident, he appeared to fit the definition to a tee (pun intended). A good theory requires consistent, well defined terminology or “jargon” that can be understood by those who study it. Without this, a theory is impossible to communicate or discuss.

John Ruscio wrote a book in which he outlined the 10 characteristics of pseudoscience. Number one on the list is that it masquerades as science. The use of vague, obtuse language is one method in which a pseudoscience can appear to be scientific. Reference to scientific theory is another. As previously stated, game theorists tend to rely on psychological principles and social science generalizing real scientific research into areas in which it may not apply.

Reliance on personal experience is another of these characteristics. By his own admission, Frost demonstrates that game theory is developed by a bunch of guys sharing what they know, i.e. personal experiences and anecdotes. Another is the avoidance of risky tests that might disprove the theory. I have never seen reference to any scientific study of game (That is not proof, however, it is reliance on personal experience and such a study may actually exist).

One characteristic of real science is that it is falsifiable. It is possible to conduct an experiment in which the scientist can attempt to disprove the theory. That game must be adjusted to fit the personality of the gamer leaves an out for game theorists to claim the theory is true even when it doesn’t work. The technique works, it just doesn’t work for him It doesn’t fit his personality. Frost make such a statement “We learn from each other, we experiment for ourselves, and we use whatever helps us achieve our goals with women, discarding the rest.” Someone says a particular technique works. The rest give it a try. It works for some, it doesn’t work for others. What works is incorporated, what doesn’t work is discarded, that’s pretty scientific until you realize that the theory is different for everyone who uses it. Nothing is ever entirely wrong and nothing is ever entirely right. There is no rhyme nor reason. As such, the theory is not falsifiable.

Another characteristic that fits game is the appeal to authority. In the absence of any scientific data demonstrating its efficacy, gamers use authoritarian pronouncements. I wrote a book. My book sold a million copies. Therefore, I am an authority Trust me. I know what I’m talking about. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Ok, so game is not a science. If it were, its practitioners might be known as pick up scientists, not pick up artists. I have previously compared game to applied psychology because of the influence of psychological theory. This isn’t an entirely valid comparison, but it isn’t entirely invalid either. Counseling and therapy are examples of applied psychology. Psychotherapy, when correctly performed may be quite beneficial. Many would consider practitioners in these fields to be more artist than scientist. I’ve already conceded that some gamers may view game as therapeutic. So even if game is more art than science, game may have some benefit, then again maybe not. Providing counseling and therapy may be an art, but it is art grounded in scientific research. Game is not.

This still doesn’t mean that game is worthless. I’m beginning to view it as the placebo for a man’s lack of confidence. A socially awkward man unable to impress the ladies decides to study game. He learns a few techniques that someone has convinced him will get him laid. He goes to a bar and with his newfound confidence, manages to approach a woman, try out a couple techniques, and ends up getting laid. In other words, he does something different than sitting at home watching porn on the internet. Simply by doing something, he increased his chances of getting laid. Was it game, or was it just that he finally approached a woman and asked her for sex? My bet is on the latter. He did something different and it worked. He might simply have gone to the bar, clubbed the woman over the head, dragged her by her hair back to his cave, and raped the hell out of her. That might have worked just as well, but it might also have landed him in jail. The result may have had nothing to do with game and everything to do with trying something, anything that led to approaching a woman instead of sitting at home.

Game, as described by Frost and some of the other gamers who commented on the debate, is not much more than trial and error. One man says this is how you pick up chicks. Another man decides that if it works for the first guy, it may work for me. The second man tries it. If it works, he does it until it stops working. If it fails, he discards it and moves to the next suggestion. Its practitioners pretend that it is a systematic approach that has been studied and determined to work. Most likely they do this to deal with the cognitive dissonance arising from having made a purchase of a book, dvd, or class and having invested the time when all they really needed do was something other than what they’ve been doing.

Other than wasting time and money, game is probably harmless; at least until the woman discovers she’s been deceived by a man pretending to be something he’s not and comes to regret her evening. It probably takes more than a shower and a bit of Old Spice (or are you an Aqua Vulva man, Paul?) to give a shy man the confidence to approach a woman, but hey, one man’s placebo…

[1] This phrase is often incorrectly attributed to P.T. Barnum. Hannum and Barnum were both exploiting people’s desires to view a “petrified man.” Hannum claimed Barnum’s stone man was a fake and made the statement referring to Barnum’s customers. Barnum claimed Hannum’s was the fake. The fact is that they both were fakes.

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