Dating Lessons is an interactive dating course created by VR developers Cerevrum Inc. and self-styled seduction coach Manish “Magic” Leone. Supposedly tailored for heterosexual men with low self-esteem or shyness with the opposite sex, the dating course offers 11 lessons and 7 practical interactive sessions that promise to “give men tools to enhance their power of attraction and develop behavior patterns to handle stress and anxiety.”
‘Dating Lessons’ Details:
Developer: Cerevrum Inc.
Available On: Gear VR, Oculus Home, SteamVR (Vive and Rift)
Reviewed On: Oculus Rift, Gear VR
Release Date: December 17th, 2016
Before diving into the review, I should first start off with an advisory message: I don’t need dating lessons because I’ve been in a stable relationship with my partner for the better part of a decade, so I’m simply not in a position to put seduction extraordinaire Magic Leone’s pick-up artist (PUA) theories and practices to the test. What I am able to do however is show you exactly what sort of content you can expect from Dating Lessons, which hopefully will help you determine if its right for you. As in all reviews, the thoughts that follow are my own.
Secondly, before the review begins, how do you introduce someone who calls themselves Magic? Straight out of the gate, Magic. Anyway, here’s what he has to say about himself on The Gotham Dating Club blog, one of the regular outlets for his articles such as ‘My Power Pose to Show Her You’re a Superior Man’ and ‘How To Project Dominant Body Language The “Right” Way’:
Magic Leone is an unusual dating coach. He came to the U.S. from India after his failed attempt at suicide when he discovered that his fiancé of 7 years was cheating on him.
Magic studied the deep emotional and physical needs that fuel women’s sexual desires while counseling them on sexual health. Working with women, Magic developed an understanding of how most women want to be seduced. This knowledge led him to sexual encounters with more than 400 women, and ultimately to marry the woman of his dreams.
Magic is known to be a tough coach who runs military-style workshops that force men to evolve overnight, but you may not know that he is actually a softy who craves chocolate 5 times a day. In fact there was a time Magic’s clients brought him chocolate to workshops as part of his compensation, and sometimes even as a form of bribe to make him go easy on them. Magic is also a movie buff. In his spare time (after he is done indulging in women), he secretly works on the screenplay that is his dream project.
According to Magic’s website, with his help you can become “The #1 Choice Of Every Woman. They’ll Choose You Over All Other Men Resulting In Ultimate Power To Have Sex With Any Woman You Choose!”
You can also take solace in the fact that with Magic’s guidance you’ll finally say goodbye to “Feeling Like A Desperate Loser Who Fears Rejection And Does Not Know What To Say To Women. Good Looking Women Will Chase You And Do All The Work – Even Your Female Friends Will Compete To Get In Bed with You!”
Furthermore, Magic promises that anyone can “Attain High Status Among Men And Every Man Would Want To Be Friends With You Hoping To Get A Little Piece of The Action By Getting In Your Good Books!”
That may be illustrative enough for you to understand what sort of person is behind Cerevrum’s Dating Lessons. Now for the proper review.
Dating Lessons is an app that combines 360 video with interactive elements. Video quality is actually quite good. In fact, I wasn’t even aware that I didn’t have positional tracking for the first lesson or two because of how well interactive elements and 2D video was interlaced. Saint Petersburg-based VR studio Cerevrum has also produced a number of educational VR games including Speech Center VR, House of Meditation, and eponymous brain training game Cerevrum, all of which are available on Gear VR.
Lesson topics run the gamut from subjects such as What Triggers Attraction, Eye Contact, Energy, Self Deprecating Humor and also more sexually-charged themes like Body Language, and Touching. Despite this, everything is pretty much PG-13 in Dating Lessons.
In the first lesson What Triggers Attraction, Magic tells us he’s going to teach us the building blocks of getting the girl:
“How do you approach her? What are those kind of things you can say that makes her want to stop and continue the conversation with you? What is it you need to tell her during the interaction so she continues not only to enjoy your interaction, but also feels more and more interest for you, more and more desire for you? And then I’m going to teach you how to position yourself, how to walk up to her, the right tonality, the right body language, how to make eye contact, how to touch her. Basically, these building blocks will teach you every single thing you need to know that next time you see a woman you know exactly how to charm her, you know exactly how to get her so excited that she gets eager, she gets desperate to be with you.”
Then Magic has me set goals, telling me to choose an arbitrary max of 3. He reassures me that this is “even something I do with my very high-end customers when they come to my program.”
This is all well and good, but these goals that I’ve set have zero bearing on how the rest of the course goes, and offer no tailoring to my individual needs as a paying customer who just wants to simultaneously find out how to date multiple women, attract one special woman and get my ex girlfriend back. (I wonder why she left me in the first place?)
Going through all the lessons and interactive interludes takes about 2 hours. Most lessons start out with some common sense tactics that more or less culminate in a generally understood dating maxim: Thou shalt not be an unpleasant weirdo. That includes staring for too long, not smiling enough, talking too quietly, hitting on her while she’s clearly doing something else, initiating an uncomfortable, albeit entirely innocent touch; basically not having a clear grasp on basic social interaction cues.
But then each lesson takes a brief turn for the frighteningly manipulative, leaving me with some serious questions.
Why do I have to drop fake hints that I’m actually constantly talking to models, and “it’s refreshing to finally meet a girl that is so down to earth”? Why do all of my questions directed toward a woman necessarily have to be self-referential and long-winded? Why do I have to pretend I’m so much more important than I really am? I can’t help but think that these tactics aren’t really about breaking the ice, but actually reveal Magic’s true intent of teaching the user to build a quick report based on artifice and deception. He never tells you the advice “talk about your hobby and maybe you’ll find out she likes it too.” It’s always based on a meticulous extraction of data about her that you’re then supposed to leverage so you can build immediate trust.
Here’s a quick bit on how Magic uses self-deprecating humor to his ultimate advantage.
In the interlaced on-location shots, I found Magic at points somewhat unrehearsed, and even at times a bit incoherent, almost as if he was making up his points on the fly. Outdoor scenes sometimes suffer from bad audio due to the constant wind blowing into his lapel mic.
The virtual visual aides presented during the video were helpful in illustrating some of Magic’s more concise points however, and were well used throughout the entire 11 lesson course to good effect.
The 7 interactive modules were at times painfully ineffective, and left me questioning if there was any point at all to the exercise. In a few trials, you’re asked to talk to a prospective woman with the goal of introducing yourself, chatting her up, etc. The problem is the resultant grades given have no basis in reality. As far as I could tell, the only thing measured was the volume of my voice, which I verified by repeating the phrase “turd-flavored soup” in a constantly descending volume. Jessica, my new female prospect from California with a heavy Russian accent, was pleased to meet me even though I kept whispering “hamburger hamburger hamburger.” Who knows, maybe she just likes hamburgers.
I wasn’t expecting to have a realistic conversation with an advanced AI, but I’m not sure how Dating Lessons wants me to practice having a conversation with a cardboard cut-out of a woman either.
Immersion & Comfort
There’s only a single environment in the app, a beach-side bungalow filled with projection screens that Magic pops in and out of for his on-location lessons. There’s not much of reason why this couldn’t be executed on traditional monitors, and I fail to see how virtual reality makes this content any more compelling.
Another annoying bit is the omnipresent gaze reticle. Despite the fact that you only need it for cursory selections and some minor button pushing, it quickly becomes a big distraction personally and I wish it would disappear so I could focus better on the content.
Since the Dating Lessons is entirely based on 360 videos and no positional tracking is afforded to the user regardless of you choice of headset, the same caveats apply as with all non-positionally tracked experiences, i.e. extended use can be mildly uncomfortable and make you feel removed from reality.
Pretty much how I felt through the entirety of Magic’s PUA dating course.