Dating Advice

“No Games”…Meaning What Exactly?

Well, if you’ve ever read an online dating profile anywhere, you’ve invariably seen some version of today’s Phrase Of The Day in there somewhere. This can come in the form of, “No Games!” or “I am sick of playing games!” or “I do not play games, and won’t put up with it”, among others.

Having read this phrase a few hundred times, I got a bright idea. I started asking people what they meant by that. The conversations, predictably, went about like this:

Me: So you say you don’t want to “play games”. What are “games”, exactly?

They: Uh, you know, “games”.

Learn the SecretHow to go down on a woman so she's begging for more!

Me: Such as…?

They: Well, you know, all these games people play.

Based on this pattern, there are three conclusions I could make:

1) People have no concrete idea what they mean by “No Games”,…

2) …If they do know what they mean, it’s not a standard definition that the rest of us can relate to immediately, and…

3) …It’s altogether possible that people put “No Games” in their profiles just because everyone else did and it sounds like the thing to write.

My bet is that #3 is more often the reason than not. Lack of creativity has never been in short supply on dating web sites! That said, when so many people bring the “games” thing up-even putting it at their very headline in multiple instances-there’s got to be something going on here.

So what’s up with it? What DOES it mean?

After considerable thought and conversation, here are just some of the possibilities as far as what people are talking about here. I don’t see this as an exhaustive list, and I welcome additions from readers. For your convenience, I’ve broken it down by gender.


1) What’s a “game” without a “player”? — Now, what a “player” is, exactly, is a whole ‘nother topic, thereby adding complexity to this entire thing. Whoever he is, some women are “sick” of him. For the record, other women are inexplicably drawn to “player” types. So thank you, ladies, for clarifying up front what your preference is?assuming, um, that’s what you meant.

2) The dating “rules” of engagement — This involves doing things or acting in a certain way based on unwritten “protocol”. For example, when a guy gets your phone number/takes you out on a date/etc. he should wait three days to call you afterward, right?

3) Lying about intentions — He “loves you” and wants a relationship. Or vice-versa.

4) Overpromising/underdelivering — He says he has a “wonderful evening” planned for you. You are all excited, and you end up doing absolutely nothing, again. Another version of this is right after dinner out, while it’s still early, he says he’s really just ready to go home and “chill”. This is categorized as a guy “game” because in my opinion the guy should have dates planned for the couple to enjoy, largely based on (hopefully) her favorite things to do/places to go.


1) Playing “hard to get” — She leaves him hanging. A lot.

2) Marking territory — This is all about getting involved in a guy’s life in such a way that before he knows it, you are most certainly not going away anytime soon. (e.g. making friends with his friends, introducing his and her kids to one another, etc.)

3) Meal ticket — She keeps him around because he’ll buy her dinner, and stuff, and that’s really all. My personal opinion on this, BTW, is that if it’s going on, it’s the guy’s fault. He has failed to create attraction on her part and besides, who can blame her?

4) Sexual control — Anything under the general heading of “manipulation by sex” is a “game”.


1) Flakiness — Generally described as saying something will get done and not delivering. Some people are legitimate all-around flakes/deadbeats, and that’s no game. The game here generally involved flaking out on someone after committing to a date, etc. because a “better option” came along. That’s “Game City”, baby.

2) Mind games — Either hinting or outright saying something is so, and then pretending it was never said later. Acting in approval of some activity at one time, disapproving of the same thing another time. Carrots and Sticks. Carts and Horses. You get the idea, and this can take any form whatsoever. Everything from where the relationship stands to what size boxers the dude wears is fair “game” for this type of thing. This gig is all about controlling someone by weakness-usually in a passive aggressive manner (Which is, ahem, another topic for another day).

3) Presumptuous assumptions, what’s your function? — Whenever someone imposes on another person and says, “Oh, I just assumed?” you have this going on. Example here would be A invites B (note careful avoidance of X and Y variables here) to drinks. A automatically expected B to pay the bill, and doesn’t have money. Someone has been “played” here. Anything involving presumed use of the other’s time, resources or talents is this sort of game. Ladies, if you automatically assume your guy is going to help you move (unless maybe if it’s in with him?) you are looking at a problem waiting to happen.

4) Guilt trips — A major tactic of manipulation, often characterized by projecting blame upon someone else rather than accepting any responsibility for one’s actions. (In fact, run away from anyone who runs this brand of smack on a regular basis.)


Just for the record, there are a few things that may seem like games, but be careful before you consider them such.

1) Not knowing what one wants — If someone wants a relationship and the other isn’t quite there yet, for whatever reason, the one driving the relationship often thinks the other is “playing games”. Assuming everyone has been honest about intentions here, this frustration is merely to be called “not getting what one wants immediately”. It’s not a “game”.

2) Details surrounding non-exclusivity — If you are not in an exclusive relationship with someone, it is not a “game” when the other person is dating other people. Further, it’s not a “game” when you are not being given details. In fact, if one person is asking the other for said details (for which there is no answer that will make said person happy, of course) that might in fact fall under the “game” category. Assuming exclusivity, by the way, is not a good strategy. People in exclusive relationships should have a common understanding that it’s the case.

3) Outright stupidity — Laugh hard if you must, but you know it happens. A or B did or said something in a bonehead moment, and the other thinks it was a deliberate tactic to derail things in general. Yeah, well, it may actually derail things. But it wasn’t deliberate so it wasn’t a “game”.

So the summary here could theoretically be that if someone isn’t being up front about something, the “game” is on.

Visited 1 times, 1 visit(s) today

Scot McKay

Scot McKay is a professional dating and relationship coach, author and podcast host. He founded X & Y Communications in San Antonio, TX, which focuses on equipping and empowering men and women who want to go from good to great in their relationships. Scot is now married to his wife Emily.

Leave a Reply