Game is pick-up-artist lingo for external representation of general mental states ("frame") to help with courtship. In practice, game means different things to different pick-up artists, but among major PUAs 'game' retains the concept of signaling qualities other than the make-up of the physical body or real-material-wealth, i.e. personality.
In it Strauss describes game as boldness, speech patterns, standing out, smiling, awareness of surroundings, not using questions, love, and being able to take compliments.
RSD Nation, perhaps the largest PUA group in history, argued that looks and money did not matter in dating, and therefore game. RSD Nation defined, "natural game", as, "how you expect the world to respond to you". This boils down to thinking positively about yourself to make others do the same. In general, RSD nation promoted game as a neoliberal or self-help project, such as literally asking people to read Ayn Rand to develop game. Unnatural game, promoted by followers of Roosh, rather than RSD, was about "becoming the best man you can be", rather than thinking-it-to-fruition.
Multiple studies on face-to-face, online and blind dating concluded that among a variety of physical and personality traits, including extroversion, only physical attractiveness predicted initial romantic interest and strongly so. Since game largely amounts to extroversion and confidence, this suggests game is ineffective in such settings.
Similarly, when OkCupid asked users to rate looks and personality separately, users did not distinguish between the two. To confirm their hypothesis that pictures were what people were rating as good personality, OkCupid followed up with another internal study which showed that online bio text accounts for less than 10% of what users think of the profiles. This means game in terms of witty and confident textual self-descriptions is also largely ineffective. Meeting online is notably now the primary way people meet for relationships, however, this includes meeting up through social networks and chats, where personality may play a larger role than in the blind and semi-blind dating.
Arguably, game may work outside of the face-to-face dating context, e.g. during socializing in a group, which is the more natural human mating context anyhow. In a social context, confidence, game and charm may act as means of gaining social status and intimidating other males in intrasexual competitions which, in turn, enables men access to women. This intuition is perhaps what lead PUAs to mistakenly apply the same to the face-to-face setting. There is possibly a cultural element, in that anything beyond looks is not valued in the modern world, but one of the studies that found personality to play no role dates back to 1966s, so superficiality in face-to-face dating is unlikely a novel phenomenon.
Other studies on frame-projection
A study claimed that humor was seen as a desirable long-term-partner trait in men by women, but only if the man is good looking. A different study found self-deprecating humor by high-status presenters (but not low-status presenters) increased long-term attractiveness for both sexes.