Game the system

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Game the system is a idiom that has been in use for several decades. 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)

Want to have more idioms in your arsenal? Check out some others we covered: