The aesthetic of “The Game: The Game” couples lurid fluorescents with hazy shadows to create the same disjointed feeling of standing in a loud, dark bar.
While the player's character is femme-presenting, the other avatars are all men. The goal of the game is to navigate a bar that's been infiltrated by a group of so-called "pick-up artists."
"You play through interacting with several of these pickup artists [who use] material from their books and their video coaching materials and hidden camera footage that they sell to their devoted followers," said game designer Angela Washko, an assistant professor of art at Carnegie Mellon University.
One of the source materials Washko used when creating "The Game: The Game" is the 2005 seduction how-to book, “The Game” by Neil Strauss. Washko also pulled from Real Social Dynamics, which bills itself as the “world’s largest, international dating coaching company,” though it markets exclusively to heterosexual men.
"Coach" Julien Blanc is one of the pick-up artists who appears in “The Game: The Game.”
A YouTube video from last year features Blanc demonstrating different seduction techniques, including one called “Only If.” The tactic is to insult a woman so that she’ll feel vulnerable and look to the man pursuing her for validation.
In the video, Blanc gives the example, “I’ll introduce you to my friends, only if you don’t embarrass me.”
“That one I’ll use all the time,” he explains. “It’s powerful [expletive].”
As the game progresses, the men approach the player one-by-one to employ their come-ons, which include bizarre questions and uninvited touching.
“You accidentally make eye contact with one of them,” reads a text box displayed on the screen. “Before you can react he grabs your arm and tries to spin you around."
Washko said part of the reason she created this game was to let femme-presenting people know that their experiences with aggressive men are not happening in isolation. She said it’s also to help men analyze their own behaviors.
“I've gotten [emails] from men who were formerly in the seduction community who left,” Washko said. “[They] found that ‘The Game: The Game’ to be really helpful in terms of helping to illuminate some of the issues embedded in the strategies in the community.”
“The Game: The Game” has been featured at a number of art festivals and galleries. Eventually Washko says she would like it to be free to play online.