What is the incidence of “game”?

by on October 1, 2010 at 4:44 am in Current Affairs | Permalink

You know, "game," the use of signaling tactics to persuade, nudge, or trick a woman into treating you like a higher status male than otherwise would be the case.

Let's assume that game advocates are correct that, at current margins, "game" can yield the individual gamer higher returns without having to pay an offsetting price in terms of greater expense, less pleasant conquests, etc. and thus game is a net gain for the individual practitioner.  Maybe not, but let's say.

Let's also say that any particular game tactic won't work on all women, even if you think that some form of game will succeed, if you know enough about the woman or have good enough intuition.  In other words, you have to pick a strategy and aim at a sector but can't target all types of women at the same time.  I don't think it's unfair to ask for that assumption back in return.

Why am I suddenly thinking about the tragedy of the commons and the Harberger corporate taxation model?

If there is no price mechanism to choke off the returns from game, the implied result is the crowding of men around each group of game-ready women.  Over time, the average returns of game are competed down to…by the typical equalization assumption…the returns of non-game.

Which men end up better off?  Ask: would you rather "buy" in a market where there is an equilibrating price, or in a market where there is no price but lots of crowding?  Men with a relatively high tolerance of queuing should prefer the market without a price, namely the gaming scene.  In the markets with prices, you can be pretty sure you get what you most prefer, that is by paying the price.  (I'm not talking about prostitution, I'm talking about broader mating markets where you have to be something or give something to get something.)  Non-gamers therefore dislike queuing, know what they want, and recognize the trade-offs in succeeding.

Oddly, gamers themselves might be better off if game "worked" by spending a lot of money buying women drinks (this seems not to be the case).  It would then return to being a market with an equilibrating price, which is maybe where it is headed anyway.

If circumstances exogenously shift an extra man into "game," who loses?  The other men playing game, who now have higher queuing costs.  Who gains?  The non-gaming men who pursue the women who have been abandoned by the new, marginal gamers.  

There are comparable propositions about free roads and toll roads.  Let's say you have a pay road and a free road, covering the same route.  Usually the move toward a social optimum involves a tax on the free road.  In other words, social norms against game benefit the practitioners of game by limiting crowding.  In contrast, spreading publicity about the potency of game benefits the non-gaming men.

If gamers are disillusioned romantics, the women who are courted by sensitive romantics also lose when there is a shift of male effort into game.  Those women now find there are fewer bids of truly romantic interest.  Consistently romantic men, who do not grow disillusioned and shift into game, will gain through superior selection and more favorable terms of trade.

1 Robert October 1, 2010 at 5:13 am

The good thing about game is that a man can stop worrying about the availability of sex. After this worry is gone, a man can focus on what more he wants out of a relationship: which (surprise) is a loving romance.

One conclusion could be that going “into game” is a phase for men before the can settle into a long-term relationship. Another conclusion is that women who are non-game-able would do better if they made sure to take care of their partners physical needs.

But as a combination of these two conclusions, we can hypothesise: Since women tend to get more relaxed about physical aspects of relationships as they get older, game is just a temporary phase for younger men as they wait for the normal age range of there dates to get older.

2 Joseph Dantes October 1, 2010 at 5:33 am

I started reading this article thinking, interesting but wrong, and as it progressed I realized it was so far out of touch it wasn’t even wrong.

Garbage in, garbage out. Despite your economic analytical capabilities it’s clear you know nothing about this area.

If you can narrow all this down to your single strongest non-tautological contention, I’ll be happy to provide a refutation of it.

3 Zach October 1, 2010 at 5:44 am

Wouldn’t a better model be simple substitution of inferior goods resulting in a new equilibrium at a lower price and lower quality?

4 Sauce Money October 1, 2010 at 6:28 am

I agree with Joseph. This article is “garbage” (no offense Tyler), definitely out of touch.
The way I see it to have game means to seem interesting. You use as many tools at your disposal to gain the most amount of interest and you focus your game on a specific target (in your words you don’t use the same strategy on everybody).
While I was in university student I started working as a model in Europe. I was basically forced to up my game when competing with another 50 guys for a job. Anyone with good looks can pick up a girl without necessarily having to be interesting. But when 50 people are competing for the same goal (and they’re all good for the same position) that’s when game comes in handy. You can have a certain walk, grin, look, certain manerisms that spark a tinge of curiosity which create that “je ne sais pas† that makes the perceiver want to have a second look at you. Conversation is a great tool (but not the only one) to generate interest.

When it comes to applying it on women you barely ever use the same game (strategy) when talking to anyone. You wouldn’t talk the same way to a bartender, than a coworker than a co-student, than a girl riding the bus. Intuition as mentioned makes you adapt your conversation to whatever girl you’re talking to. Just depends on whether your game (strategy) is good for a variety of situations or just one (bars and clubs).

I’m getting off topic, but it seems to me that girls consider many things not just someone’s game. So it’s hard to measure when compared to other players. In the casting for models scenario you do have a more level playing field and I think there is a better chance of measuring game in that case.

My twocents

5 Pat October 1, 2010 at 7:00 am

This is the most interesting post you’ve written in a long time – will be thinking about it all day.

6 8 October 1, 2010 at 7:12 am

A significant portion of game is just relearning the natural male-female dynamics that various social movements tried to destroy during the 20th Century (there are even benefits for married men to improve their relationship with their wife). In that regard, it has positive externalities which your model fails to account for. Game is to modern Western culture as capitalism is to post-1978 China. A whole generation of men will be lifted out of sexual poverty.

7 Rational October 1, 2010 at 7:15 am

I really can’t understand what anyone should except from anything, including relations, than profit.

8 S. October 1, 2010 at 7:32 am

BTW: My complete social life is built upon economics models, mostly tightly integrated with models of other utility-generating activities. One day, I might publish some of the assumptions, diagrams and formulas which I usually apply to optimize personal utility. I hope that’s going to appear on MR as well.

9 Manto October 1, 2010 at 8:06 am

the returns from Game and non-Game are not necessarily fungible.

Such a cool point. A properly gamed woman knows only one thing: she is in an extremely satisfying relationship. And when she is satisfied, the man’s reward comes double.

10 Tony October 1, 2010 at 8:53 am

I’ll second TomB. Finding a mate isn’t much like purchasing a product with your “game.” It’s more like interviewing for a job.

I’m going to partially agree with 8 that the “game” movement is about re-skilling marginal daters, although I disagree we’re returning to a perfect state of nature. A lot of pre-Women’s Lib relationship dynamics were welfare-reducing.

The big problem with Cowen’s analysis is that equilibrium is never reached. People are usually only in the “game” phase for about five years, after which it gets replenished with a whole new group of “players.”

I wouldn’t say “garbage,” though. This has been a fruitful course of thought.

11 Kevin K October 1, 2010 at 9:16 am

How does analysis apply to girls who read ‘Seventeen’ magazine?

12 anon October 1, 2010 at 9:25 am

You assume that learning and applying “game” is costless. Perhaps in equilbrium, the higher returns from game will just balance the effort involved in learning and using it. Oddly, this implies that non-gamers gain from the existence of game in some way, such as by expending less effort on non-game-worthy women.

Your post also assumes that the attention of “game-worthy” women is in fixed supply. If game know-how increases men’s social capital (there are many plausible mechanisms for this to occur) then gamers will draw attention from more and more women as their proportion increases. In this respect, the gaming scene is not different in character from the “broader mating market”: game know-how is a valuable quality which is exchanged for attention.

Lastly, there might be equilibrating prices even in the gaming market. Perhaps as the proportion of “gamers” increases, owners of “game” venues such as clubs and bars will charge men more and women less. In general, there is no reason for wasteful crowding to occur. In this scenario, gamers pay a rent in order to gain women’s attention, and this becomes the equilibrating price.

13 steve October 1, 2010 at 10:00 am

Game is not zero sum. And it isn’t necessarily predatory–although it can be used that way. I have a little experience in this area–very much a positive sum proposition. You have a lot of “idle factors” out there because perfectly good men don’t know how to demonstrate their value to women. Its just a matter of bringing those factors into production. There is some crowding out when you have guys who need to sleep with 50 women a year and don’t care about the ethics of how they get there. But, on balance, I’m very glad the information is out there and available to everyone. And the skills of demonstrating value to a woman are actually highly complementary toward being more fun, being a better friend, and other good things. There is sort of a “dark side of the force” that you can use as well… Tyler, I think you read some of the sleazier practitioners out there and have an unbalanced impression because of that.

14 John October 1, 2010 at 11:05 am

Let’s be more specific.

Here are three examples of “game”
A. Women applying make-up
B. Learning to be a funnier person
C. Having more confidence, even if initially you have to “fake it ’til you make it”

What’s the equilibrium for each of these specific aspects of game?

15 anon October 1, 2010 at 11:36 am

OHHHH this is a homage to xkcd.


i see what you did there TC. satire is good.

16 anon October 1, 2010 at 12:51 pm


It is undisputed that men come in two forms: bankers (i.e. those in finance) and non-bankers (people who do something else.) “Game” is just an effort to make non-bankers more attractive at the margin (women from New Jersey.)

Hard to see how this is an area of interest for those outside the Snooki crowd.

17 josh October 1, 2010 at 1:13 pm

But what is the incidence of cheap chalupas?

18 whatever October 1, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Neologism and cheap talk signaling…

19 AHE October 1, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Jim nails it here:

“You don’t have to buy this, but you can’t start your analysis of the theory by rejecting the theory. ”

TC thinks he makes a reasonable assumption that there exist different strategies for different women, since it is true that gamers gear their tactics toward specific women. However this adjustment is quantitative not qualitative. e.g., the hotter the girl the more forcefully she should be thrown off her pedestal. The strategy remains the same. Behave in a manner which women find attractive. To reject that such universal male behavior exists is to reject the theory in its entirety.

20 Dale October 1, 2010 at 10:01 pm

We are all playing the same game, but some of us don’t know how (we know the rules, but using golf for an example, using the putter on the tee and the wedge on the green doesn’t violate the rules, but doesn’t work very well.) Learning game raises the status of some men, giving women better lovers. (It does hurt other men.)
Also, game is more like the mask in Beerbohm’s “The Happy Hypocrite” then like fraud.

21 Ross Parker October 2, 2010 at 12:29 pm

This was today’s XKCD.

22 Zanon October 2, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Be a man and link to roissy

23 Matt T October 4, 2010 at 8:34 pm

“If circumstances exogenously shift an extra man into “game,” who loses? The other men playing game, who now have higher queuing costs. Who gains? The non-gaming men who pursue the women who have been abandoned by the new, marginal gamers.”

Tabula rasa, this is a perfectly valid analysis, but when you bring in real world factors, it falls apart. Men into game go for the chicks worth going for: young, cute (or hot if the guy has tight game), and sexually comfortable. What’s left besides those girls? Fatties? Evangelicals? They’re not worth giving the time of day to.

24 David Collard October 5, 2010 at 1:13 am

As the commenter above said, game can be applied in marriage. I have been married a long time, but learning about “game” principles has helped me to understand my wife and have a happier marriage. I get what I want in all the rooms of the house, partly because I understand and use “game”. This stuff is not a joke. In a healthier age, it would be seen as common sense.

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