There’s this truly brilliant investigative journalist who creates a career out of learning about others’ experiences and then writing novels about them, but unlike other journalists, he embraces the subjects of his novels. I sort of liken him to a modern day Studs Terkel, but instead of interviewing people on the street, he became those people and wrote about his varied experiences. One novel was about survivalism, which I’ve read and found to be entertaining and informative, and another, which is linked directly to this game, is a book about his experiences learning the art of sexual psychology from the underground “seduction community”, which fancies itself a bit like the Freemasons, but instead of trying to manipulate world events, they’re trying to nail your wife.
I actually read that one as well because, above all, the author in question is an incredibly talented writer that I first learned about while reading an article in Rolling Stone on a plane. Turns out that I was a natural, apparently, because I had been doing that stuff for years, and really, still do, which is why I’ve been married to a truly hot woman for going on 17 years. Above all, though, I think Neil is a world-class grifter, which is why he is so successful at everything he does and is able to blend himself into his subject matter with such ease. Honestly, if you are a fan of the art of the grind, this guy should be on the top of your list. To hell with Bernie Madoff; he’s in prison and took his whole family down, while Neil is walking free, getting celeb trim, and likely has offshore bank accounts loaded with tax-evaded money that he learned about while writing Emergency. Personally, I like the guy, having never met him, to say the least.
So, moving on, a game designer named Adam has been tasked with marketing a new board game, “Who’s Got Game: The Game With Benefits”, but it appears that in addition to going with mainstream product reviews like the spot on Attack Of The Show, he is passing out review copies to guys who would normally be writing about Dune, or Rise And Decline Of The Third Reich. Apparently he doesn’t know our market, since this is really a boutique social game, and if you’re playing old Avalon Hill war games, there is a distinct possibility that you may have never seen a vagina in person, except at birth, and that’s only if you were looking backwards. But alas, I accepted the copy because I am a fan of the author whose book the game is based upon, and as an added bonus, it gives me something to write about. Plus, the guy who is handing out the review copies actually is really funny, and in my estimation, a guy who knows how to laugh is someone I don’t have to worry too much about writing me hate mail or starting a 7 page diatribe about how I am, in essence, Satan, Hitler, and Pol Pot all wrapped up into a fat little sausage.
I cracked open the box which depicts Neil in a terrible “orange sweater over yellow Oxford” look and a woman with a red dress holding a Cosmo glass and hair dryer. Suffice it to say, I was, at best, skeptical about its claim that it is “The Game With Benefits.” Since it essentially tries to act as social Astroglide in a party environment, I believe that this assumes that you’re single or swinging, looking to hook up, and actually know women who would come over for a party. I think that this game’s core audience is really more the Barnes and Noble hipsters who have cocktail parties where vintage LPs play on Naim turntables in the background, not necessarily for hobby gamers, although our demographics are changing, slowly. You see, this game assumes that there will be women at your parties, and men to take advantage of them, or at least try.
I mean, it can be played by traditional couples, but I warn you, if you try to pick a woman other than your girl to play, your ass is absolutely on the line. You will most assuredly not be getting any benefits when you get home if you’re not careful. There are segments in the game that have you rubbing on other players various parts, massaging and flirting. While that’s great for singles, or if your spouse is playing as your partner, it can be bad if you’re a hobby gamer. When I was perusing the cards, reading the footsies card instantly put a scarring image in my mind of a couple of five hundred pound Magic players with two inch long, thickened, yellowing, Harkonnen toe nails rubbing their feet together sensually. No, this may not be for everyone. If your erogenous zones are the drive through at Dairy Queen and the comic book store, this is definitely not for you.
Despite the title, I have seen some forum posts asking if this is appropriate as a family party game. Allow me to elaborate on that: unless you are a stereotypical West Virginian, this is not remotely a family game, and it especially isn’t appropriate for kids. I mean, there’s a charades mini-game that asks you to demonstrate putting on a condom while the other players guess at what you’re doing. If your seven year old knows how to do this, or worse, can correctly identify an adult doing so, you need to seriously reconsider your parenting.
This is a game that, on the surface, lets individuals at a party get to know each other without the annoying small talk, but underneath the surface, in the spirit of Neil Strauss, it’s about trying to shoplift the pootie. Make no mistake, when the box says, “The Game With Benefits”, they’re not talking about altruistic benefits. This is about getting laid. If you’re playing with kids, you’re a sick, sick bastard, unless you’re Jacko, in which case it’s the perfect game and this is the perfect icebreaker.
Inside the box are some pencils, score sheets, response sheets, a sand timer, and a cornucopia of cards. Now, most of the cards have all kinds of pickup artist lingo all over them that you’d recognize if you’re a pickup aficionado, such as “DHVs”, or “Demonstration of Higher Value”, which amounts to being able to convince a potential coital target that you are inherently better than the next guy. There’s also “Negs”, which are backhanded compliments that are used by pickup artists, which amount to proving that the other guys are douches, for the purposes of this game. The entire game is loaded with techniques that Neil learned during his adventures that he chronicled in his book, with the object of trying to prove you’re the better guy in the room for the purposes of getting some action. I’m not entirely sure that the stereotypical GenCon MTG players crowd can overcome the abject lack of personal hygiene by being able to do some basic handwriting analysis, which is also in the game, but perhaps I underestimate Neil’s cunning and ability to purvey the fine art of the hookup approach upon players. If he can get “Francis the MTG freak out guy” laid, he’s far more powerful than I had first anticipated.
As to the actual game play, the game is really quite varied as there’s several categories of cards in the box, some a little bit on the racier side, and others on the tamer side. The game really seems to attempt to be educational in a really slick way, too; the flavor cards tell you little tidbits about handwriting, about human nature, but they frame them in such a way that they pose the underlying idea as fact so that players will agree with them. So, it’s a clever confidence trick: frame things as truth in an environment where someone is relaxed and prone to believe, and suddenly, what is simply a statement becomes fact. Really, the entire game concept is brilliant in that it is clearly targeted at convincing the women in the room that if someone has a specific skill, they’re a better match for them, and therefore, “do-able”. I guess what I’m saying is that this game is amazing in its effort to get the guys playing some action. I’m not sure it works, but it does seem to break the ice very well and get the giggles going.
Now, for my long time fans, I want to point out that I didn’t play this game, personally, because I was not about to put my own junk on the chopping block. What I did do, however, was bring it over to a friend’s house who is not a part of “geek culture”, but who is a partier, drinks a little, smokes a little weed, and most importantly, always has people around, especially girls. Now, I’m not going to discuss the quality of the girls as one has a featured spot on “TheDirty.com” as a total skank, but since the scope of the game is to get women to want to rub on your junk, I figured that this was the perfect setup.
|The unwitting victims, faces obscured to protect the innocent.
So, we set up a pool party/barbecue session so that there were dudes and girls there, already scantily clad, between the ages of 19 and 25. And we dropped this little bomb in the middle of it. I simply observed it, because quite honestly, I don’t need to be involved in macking to a 25 year old girl. Not only would she not stand a chance, but I don’t need half of my stuff and both my kids to be in a United Movers truck on its way back to Cali with my would-be ex-wife, had I done so.
The game breezed along and the party people were all very visibly having fun. I also saw how the girls were being manipulated by the game to take, at face value, that a guy who has no job, no education, and really, not a damned thing going for him is somehow a prime target for mating because he simply did well on a couple “Demonstration of Higher Value” cards. I mean, this guy lives with his girlfriend’s parents, rent-free, and sits on his ass all day playing Wii games. His high school diploma is a well-made forgery printed on some nice certificate paper from Wal-Mart. I mean, he’s not even in good shape. Yet, two girls who initially didn’t have any interest were eating his apparent pimp abilities up, thinking he was the dog’s bollocks.
It was hilarious to me, but the one person who didn’t appreciate it was his girlfriend, who was not one of the two girls, and who was not amused a damned bit. In my heart of hearts, I was really hoping to see a cat fight. I’ve sparred with this girl, who is an orange belt in Shorin-Ryu, and she’d beat these other girls damn near to death, which would’ve been absolutely hilarious. Anyhow, she was getting really steamed when there was some “touching” going on, especially since Ms. TheDirty was at one point a stripper. Now, because I am a truly rotten bastard, I should mention that I purposefully chose teams to split up the only couple, without telling them anything about the game’s scope. My co-conspirator was all too eager to help convince them, and in retrospect, he noted that it was a bad, bad idea. In other words, we were gaming them all before the game ever began, and it was awesome to watch it unfold. Drama in your own house sucks, but watching drama in someone else’s house is epic.
So, let me close with this: this game is a really well made ice breaker game for the twenty-something crowd, even if you’re not someone who is part of the hookup culture. There are some more risque parts of the game, but not perverse or crass in how it presents itself. There’s not anything that would make anyone put the most prudish Puritan blush, but there are references to sex, and there are “hidden goal” cards where the object is something like attempting to get another player to kiss you and the like. This really just seems to be built as a game for singles or even swingers looking to get to know one another, like I said. If you buy this, you’re the kind of person who likes to party, knows women, and is into getting to know the women a little better. It surely will help people open up a little, and most importantly, it tries to teach players a little bit about what it’s like to be an effective pickup artist, all while actually picking up girls. Because if you were already a real pickup artist, you wouldn’t be playing this game to try to get laid, you’d already be knee deep in jibblies.
Why This Game Has Some Serious Game:
– As a social tool, it’s a pretty clever way to go from “alone with your fist in a dark room” to “crew crushing stallion”
– It’s quite informative, and I found myself actually interested in some of the subjects
– There’s a surprising amount of variety in the cards
– Neil Strauss gets world-class ass and wants to share his secrets with you! #WINNING
Why This Game Will Never Get The Benefits:
– Play this with your single friends, not your in-laws or kids; that’s just perverse
– I’m not sure that you can play this more than twice or thrice with the same group
– I can’t help the nagging feeling that this isn’t somehow a branding thing
This is a clever social activity more than a “game”, per se, with the main purposes of both breaking the ice at a gathering and potentially getting someone interested in you. I say that because, although there are winners and losers, the objective isn’t actually to win, but to open up a little and put yourself on display. This would be an especially good product for wallflowers as it really does force you to come out of your shell a little. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, to be honest, and I think that it’s not especially great if compared to Say Anything or Taboo on the merits of actually being a traditional “party game”, but really, as a social activity for people with a little buzz on to try to get some action, this is a really good time for players and observers both. If you play your cards right, you may well may “get some benefits”, and not too many party games can claim that.
And it’s available at Barnes and Noble (AKA Hipster Central) and online at Amazon.com if you’re looking to start your adventure in jibblietown anytime soon!
*(I have recused myself from the voting on this as I only observed it, but I polled the 6 players afterward. This game also does not fall under the purview of the normal Circus review methods as it was played only once. Further, this was not reviewed by “gamers”, but by regular folks outside of the geek world. This was a total ambush, and the folks that played it don’t even know that I write for a website! -SFC Ed.)