Gaming the System

Steven Den Beste:

Apropos nothing in particular, a couple of days ago I discovered that neither Encarta dictionary as installed on my computer nor any of the online dictionaries listed here include any definition for the word “game” used as a transitive verb in the phrase “game the system”.

It actually took me a couple of days to come up with a reasonable definition: To abuse a system without technically breaking its rules so as to get an advantageous result that isn’t deserved.

I don’t have any idea how or where I first heard that usage of the word “game” but it isn’t recent. I wonder why none of the dictionaries have picked up on it yet.

That is, indeed, weird. His definition strikes me as a good one.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. bithead says:

    Well, rather than using the word “Game”, perhaps the phrase “Kerry the System” would fit better?

  2. Anderson says:

    The Shorter OED doesn’t have it either, looking under both “game” and “system.”

  3. Art says:

    What about the system gaming the people… We already have the robotics in place.

  4. Steve Verdon says:

    I think that is a bad definition in that it isn’t necessarily abuse, IMO. For example, many firms “game the system” when setting prices. They aren’t abusing the system, but being good business people and trying to earn the highest profit for their shareholders/investors…precisely what they are tasked to do.

  5. I don’t agree with the definition. I would propose:

    “To use existing conventions and rules in an unanticipated fashion for the purpose of achieving an unusual result.”

    There are value judgments in the original definition: “abuse”, “without technically breaking”, “advantageous result”, “isn’t deserved”. These are not appropriate.

  6. Steve Verdon says:

    Caliban,

    I think “advantageous result” should be left in, maybe something like,

    “To use existing conventions and rules in an unanticipated fashion for the purpose of achieving an unusual, often advantageous, result.”

    After all, why go to the trouble of being novel and showing ingenuity if not to get an advantage of some kind?

  7. RJN says:

    “To use existing conventions and rules in an unanticipated fashion for the purpose of achieving an advantageous, result.”