For anyone looking for true love in real life, pickup artists are to be avoided like the plague. But if you’re playing PUA Investigative Report, romancing sleazy con men is your ultimate goal.

It’s a new mobile game from China where you play a journalist assigned to probe pickup artists. The best place to find them, according to the game, is either a dating app, speed dating event or art museum. You need to flirt as eagerly as possible to make them believe you’re a susceptible target. In your pursuit to woo these men, you put your character in potentially dangerous situations.

It’s as disturbing as you imagine.

Langyi, a bartender who says he suffered from child abuse, convinced me to ditch my friends and meet him at a bar where he had clearly downed more than a few drinks.

Harmless-looking pickup artists?

One evening, Langyi flipped when he found out that I lied to him about being at home (I was at work meeting my editor). He texted the next day, instructing me to show up at a hotel room where he pressured me to have sex to prove my love. When he left to shower, I scrolled through WeChat messages on his phone and texted one of his victims. She was so emotionally scarred that she was cutting her wrists.

Yeah, this game gets pretty dark. But there’s a reason for it.

“I’m bleeding a lot, can you come see me?” pleaded one victim in a WeChat message.

PUA Investigative Report was created by four university students in the southern city of Guangzhou who wanted to raise awareness among women of pickup artists. The developers say they were inspired by news reports of online groups that teach men to manipulate women into total submission, sometimes using violence. Some of these courses were said to cost more than US$400, advertising techniques to get women to spend money on men or clean up their apartments.

Just last week, police in the eastern province of Jiangsu said they detained and fined a 24-year-old man for selling these so-called PUA courses online. They called it the first such conviction in the country.

Some players of PUA Investigative Report are sharing their own encounters with pickup artists on the game’s site.

“It’s only after playing this game that I found out I met a PUA in real life,” said one reviewer. “Back then I didn’t lose much because my friends stopped me and exposed him. It’s scary, though, now that I think about it.”

“Real-life PUAs are more complicated,” said another person. “They are also more clingy.”

Others say they hope the game will help women identify and avoid pickup artists.

“Remember this: Stay away from people who make you worse,” said one commenter.