Games Without Frontiers (NYC Mercs)

I’ve always loved the song “Games Without Frontiers” by Peter Gabriel. For me, the song has an incredible mix of depression and hope. There’s power and powerlessness in the face of “the game” at the same time. I never get a feeling that one person is going to “win out” over the next person. I never get the feeling that the situation will ever stabilize. To me, it’s a representation of ‘the game’ and how each person comes to the table with their own set of abilities and shortcomings and the chips fall where they may…….

*In researching, I find that there were some offensive/controversial lyrics that were changed to make the song radio-friendly.*


Bill vs. AnnieI woke up this morning thinking about this song, because for me, it exemplifies the mercenary nature of dating in New York City.

We’re all ‘Mercs’. We have to be, because people throw pretty heavy ‘game’ at us, and if you’re not a shark yourself, you’ll get eaten by the sharks. It’s just plainly not as simple as people lay it out in these fairy tale relationship stories where some guy in the sticks marries his high school sweetheart or the girl he met when he went to the General Store to buy cereal and gasoline at the same location.

The ‘problem’ is that we all want something, and we’re willing to play hardball to get it. It’s honestly like a war-time scenario. I’m not proud of that or happy about it, but that’s how it is. You just have to know that when you step to a chick and introduce yourself, you’re about to get whatever she wants to give you that will further her own agenda. It’s not “the truth”. It’s not “who she really is”. It’s what she’s willing to present to you in order to get you to do what she wants you to do.

Women have to be that way, because men are that way towards them. Obviously, guys are going to say or do whatever they need to in order to get laid, which is the bottom line. All this jockeying for position is a constant quest for CONTROL of the other person, usually for two different reasons…


Control is a fallacy… a fantasy… it doesn’t exist. The only person you control is yourself…… maybe.

Nevertheless, many people in relationships are fighting their “significant other” for control. Not physically fighting them, like Chris Brown & Rihanna, but mentally & emotionally waging war against each other with the hopes of breaking the other person’s will and subjugating them (Putting them in “Deep Check”).

In general, the goals of control are pretty common and redundant. The male wants to lock down sexual access to the female. The female wants to lock down “fidelity” or faithfulness from the male. This would seem to be the same thing, but it isn’t. The guy wants to make sure he can get on whenever he feels like it, therefore, he needs to block other guys from physical access to “his girl”. Women (again, in general) are more concerned with where the guy’s emotions are focused… Does he “love” her? Is she the most important woman in his life? (or, hopefully, the ONLY woman in his life) What are his future plans for the relationship? blah blah blah blah blah blah blah…..


BC & LCNow that you know what you want, it’s time to utilize tactics to get it. The woman’s goal is to make the guy feel she can live without him and force him to step up his game. The man’s goal is to make the gal believe he’s all about her, regardless of what he’s actually doing. What you end up with is lies. Regular lies and lies of omission. These are necessary, because otherwise, you arrive on the battlefield without your armor and lose immediately.

Unfortunately, what you DON’T have in this oft-repeated scenario is genuine and authentic interaction between people that are SUPPOSED to be in a friendly relationship. After a while, you get used to this and no longer expect people to be authentic with you. It’s no longer a requirement. You assume people are lying off the bat and learn to read between the lies.

This is fine for guys, because for the most part, we don’t care what women are saying anyway. Yak Yak Yak, it’s all the same as long as you’re looking good and we feel turned on by your presence.

Women have a much greater problem here, which is that they actually base their relationship status on what guys say to them. For guys, it’s basically “Who cares what she said, so long as at the end of the day, she gives it up?”. Meanwhile, all a guy has to say to a gal is “it’s over”, and she’ll honestly believe that her relationship to him is finished, just because he said so.


The effect is that we accept people on the surface, but never get deeply inside them. There’s no reason to expect people to be authentic with you upon first meeting you, so you listen to what they have to say, but don’t necessarily accept it as truth. Since we figure we’re all lying to each other, it’s an unspoken agreement that everyone’s going to check their weapons at the door. We can chat each other up and be friendly for the time being, but we all know that if we fall out of favor with each other, it’s “Get your gats and shoot it out at twenty paces”. If the chick is found to be messing with another dude… war. If the guy is found even TRYING to kick it with another chick… war.

Embargoes, no sex, no calls, no text messages, delayed returning of calls, avoidance of spending physical time together, putting each other’s business in the streets, commiseration with homies, arguments, vindictive looks, creation of jealousy… This is what you have to look forward to if you fall out of favor with someone that you’re supposedly in a “loving” relationship with.


There are a few typical reactions to the NYC game. Some people quit the scene entirely, since they don’t want to be involved with mind-games. Some people elect to remain naive and go out like a sucker over and over in their dating careers. Other people become jaded and get down with the program, adding to the pool of sharks. The best defense is a good offense, and they’re ready, willing and able to fight fire with fire.

Ultimately, if you’re in demand in NYC, there’s no escaping ‘the game’. If people perceive you has having something they want, they’re going to come after you… There’s a domino effect here of people passing experiences and personal baggage on to other people. Of course, the media adds fuel to the fire by seeking out the worst relationship scenarios possible and putting them on the news every night. “Reality” shows (which are EXTREMELY edited and produced, thus not actually ‘reality’) do the same thing as they strive to show us the most entertaining (read: assholish) aspects of human beings’ personalities. Add that to the sheer number of people on the scene in this town, and you end up with a cycle of people who don’t actually trust each other, but are perfectly willing to call each other boyfriend & girlfriend in order to advance their own agendas.


NYC DatingStrangely enough, the solution is to “Do you”. Whatever’s natural to you, that’s what you should focus on. Receive the education from the NYC game and utilize it to get tough without becoming jaded. Don’t get upset about what happens, just internalize it and learn from it and make sure you don’t go out the same way next time.

You also have the option of hopping on the Metro North Railroad and traveling out to the sticks to meet people who are still living the simple life and aren’t caught up in mercenary dating behavior.

Maybe you could start a meetup group where people practice honestly telling other people how they feel about them.

It would seem like the obvious solution is to only become involved with trustworthy people. Unfortunately, most people’s ability to judge character is WAY less refined than the snake oil salesperson’s ability to pull the wool over your eyes. It’s your own arrogance in believing that you have a proper grasp on what the other person’s capable of that blinds you and makes you even MORE susceptible to their manipulations.

This is what’s simultaneously depressing and hopeful about both the song and the dating scene. There’s a collection of powerful people involved, and it’s a game, which is fun… but it’s also a competition. Everyone’s playing, but they’re not all on the same side. One change at one end of the playing field can cause a chain reaction that someone feels far away on the other end of the field. While there’s the likelihood that several people will win, and win big… that’s probably going to mean that several people have to lose big as a consequence. The NYC dating scene is not for the faint of heart. It’s a gamble… It’s a knockout…

if looks could kill, they probably will
in Games Without Frontiers
war without tears


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  1. “After a while, you get used to this and no longer expect people to be authentic with you. It’s no longer a requirement. You assume people are lying off the bat and learn to read between the lies.” – There are salesman that let you enjoy the ride, then there’s the other kind.

    Bill, do your statments apply equally to people actually raised in NYC as wells as to the striving long term tourists? Is there an economic divide or regional, like does this also apply to all those emo-arty folks out in Brooklyn? Is NYC truly an end-to-end shark tank or does it just look that way to you because you’re in the deep end and you tend to seek out competitive games? AND you probably excel at being a shark. You stated somewhere else here that you never attended a school that you didn’t have to take a test to get into. You’ve also gone to a very prestigious technical school as a payoff and the accomplishments and accolades continue from there. Sounds like you’ve been training to be very competitive for a long time so I question whether you’re taking a step back and getting a broad enough view and if it’s people similar to yourself who are “reluctantly” keeping the game going. IF you’re not happy or even proud of it (c’mon Bill, you don’t take pride in doing something well?) THEN do the ends really justify the means? I don’t mean this as a knock but something didn’t ring right about this piece. I almost smelled a cop-out “victim of circumstance” plea.

    1. Interesting and potentially valid points you bring up, Steve. 🙂

      I think my statements apply equally to everyone… as much as *any* generalization can potentially apply to anyone (or not). What I’m saying is that you can either get down with the sharkery or continue to rely on pot luck to get on. Meanwhile, more and more people become jaded and enter the shark realm. Normally when someone’s bubbly and happy, I ask them where they’re from. It’s normally somewhere OTHER than NYC. I’d love to see a study on how long that demeanor lasts.

      There is no economic divide. Again, generalizing, women want to date men that make more than they do, across the board. If it’s not directly money, it’s ambition, achievement or influence. Basically, women want a guy better than they are, though they’ll call it “their equal” in order to feel good about the classification.

      As far as being a shark, I didn’t word that line about “being proud” very well. Of course I’m proud of being a shark, because it’s an achievement, as you point out. I’d rather be a shark than depend on put luck to get chicks. Pot Luck Sucks! 😀 What I didn’t accurately state there is that I’m not proud of the environment we live in. I’m not happy about the fact that there are a lot of chicks in this town that make it tough for guys to get raps and simultaneously, there are A LOT OF GUYS that will say or do anything they need to to get on, regardless of the consequences to the chick when she finds out the only reason he was speaking to her at all was to get her to lay down.

      As far as those Brooklyn-types, there’s something weird going on over there hahaha. I don’t have anything to say about that culture, except that every time I went there, I felt like I was walking through an episode of The Burg. Very weird ish going on over there.

      I think “victim of circumstance” is exactly the term for this situation, except it isn’t a plea… it’s an explanation. If the chicks in NYC weren’t so souped up on themselves just because the media tells them they’re worth more than they really are, then guys wouldn’t have to be so deceitful to pull them. Meanwhile, if the guys weren’t such underhanded jerks, chicks could afford to let their guards down more and accept raps from more guys.

      Unfortunately, the ball doesn’t roll uphill.. it rolls downhill. The cycle continues, where we all become better players in the game against each other. If you’re lucky, you learn to spot players by their demeanor and the look in their eyes. If you’re not lucky, New York City will test your faith in people, and you’ll probably get jaded, get smart or get out.

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