Game the system

Game the system is a idiom that has been in use for several decades. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the idiom game the system, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

To game the system means to exploit or manipulate the rules for a certain system to one’s advantage. Generally, when one games the system, he uses rules in a way that they were not meant to be used so that he is not explicitly breaking the rules or doing something illegal, but he is doing something that might be frowned upon. Sometimes, a person may game the system in a way that others might admire and emulate. The expression game the system is not related to playing video games on a gaming console, like a Nintendo entertainment system, Microsoft Xbox, Playstation 4, or Sony Playstation. The expression game the system was used as early as the mid-1970s to discuss systems engineering. The expression game the system did not become popular in the general culture until the 1990s. Related phrases are games the system, gamed the system, gaming the system.


Following the global financial crisis of 2008, the “complexity and opacity of internal models enabled some banks to game the system, resulting in unsatisfactory levels of capital to reflect risks during the financial crisis,” Cœuré said. (S&P Global Market Intelligence)

Nor did they care for the smugness of Team VanderLey’s response, which was basically: If the law lets us game the system, we will. (The Orlando Sentinel)

In response to some promoters gaming the system, YouTube changed its methodology for YouTube Music Charts in September 2019 to no longer count paid advertising views in 24-hour counts, which it said was to best reflect authentic fan engagement. (Variety)

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