The composer John Cage has a great quote that, if you can live by it, makes life a lot more interesting. "My credo," he says, is, "be open to whatever comes next."
And so, despite getting over a hundred unsolicited offers, propositions, requests, and ideas in via email a week, every Monday, we sit down here at my home and go through the best of them.
And every now and then, one captures our imagination.
So let this small article be not just the story of the development of a board game all about attraction and seduction, but also about how to blindly solicit a collaboration with someone you've never met before.
One day, a young New Yorker on my reader mailing list sent in an idea: He'd previously designed and developed a game that was released by Hasbro (makers of Monopoly, Cranium, and Trivial Pursuit), and said he'd been turning some of the tactics from my book Rules of the Game into a bar game, which he'd been using to meet women. (He's engaged now, so evidently it worked.)
A lot of people send in emails saying, "We can make a lot of money together," and it tends to be a turn-off. First of all, obviously I would've chosen a career other than writing if I wanted to make money (or at least I would've written about underage wizards or underage vampires), and secondly, anyone who's only interested in money is usually only interested in ripping you off.
However, his email contained two things that made me pay attention to it: First of all, credibility and a track record (a Hasbro game). And the second thing was passion: he created this game all by himself just for himself, field-tested it, and didn't seem to be interested in money, but just sharing something he felt was great and would benefit people.
So those two qualities led to a two-year collaboration on a board game called Who's Got Game. Once I got involved, I didn't just say, "Let's put it out." We both started playing it with friends and strangers. And after each game, we masterminded on every element of the experience. Gradually we began adding in an element that I thought would be unique to a game: An intimate knowledge of social dynamics.
After all, the lessons that I learned while researching my books on pickup artists and the game, applied to any social context: Since then, I'd trained everyone from Fortune 100 CEOs to government intelligence agents. And a board game is ultimately a social experience: you play not to win, but to have a shared experience with your friends.
So we took the knowledge of social interactions from approaching thousands of strangers in bars, clubs, cafes, shopping centers, and dark alleys (okay, maybe not the dark alleys), and funneled into a party experience. Though the overt goal of Who's Got Game is to win, the real objective is to end the game with a deeper, more genuine connection with the people you're playing with than you had before sitting down to play the game. In particular, to forge a connection with the partner you're playing with, especially if it's a person you're romantically interested or involved with. (Who's Got Game can get a little awkward if you're playing with your mother.)
So, in a world in which social networking is making people less social in real life, we added in elements of the game that would actually improve people's social skills: Rapport cards to help people get to know each other better, Neg cards that generate teasing laughter, Coldreading Cards that break down people's personalities, Social Intelligence Cards that teach people the counter-intuitive rules of male-female interactions. And, my favorite, Secret Cards, which are social engineering missions that players have to pull off in the group, without anyone's knowledge. This way, even the small talk that takes place during the gameplay becomes part of the game itself.
In order for me to actually take the final steps and release this, however, there were a few other important features the game had to have:
--It had to be just as fun for men to play as women. In other words, it had to be a party game that's primary purpose is fun and social lubrication. Like the game itself, it had to elicit comfort and trust if someone brought it out to get a party going.
Yet at the same time
--It had to allow a player to move through the real-life steps of the game with a partner they were romantically or sexually interested in (rapport, connection, attraction, kino).
--It had to also serve as a teaching tool, so anyone learning the Game could easily add new material to their repertoire.
--It had to still serve the additional function of being a tool guys can take into the field and use to meet women. And vice verse.
--It had to be fun on its own, separate from any game or social dynamics element.
If you do get Who's Got Game, send me field reports or photos, and I'll put my favorites on the facebook.com/neilstrauss page.
And, to make this more interesting, if you send in the best true field report or gameplay photo, I'll send a free copy of Who's Got Game to the friend of your choice.
Of course, the real benefit is if it helps your relationship or gets you into one. Think of it as Twister for the mind.
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