This page in a nutshell:
Use common sense. Don't interpret policies and editors word-for-word.

Gaming the system means using policies and guidelines in bad faith, to deliberately disrupt the wiki and the process of communal editorship.

An editor gaming the system is seeking to use policies with bad faith, by finding within their wording, apparent justification for disruptive actions and stances that policy is clearly not at all intended to support. In doing this, the gamester separates policies and guidelines from their rightful place as a means of documenting community consensus, and attempts to use them selectively for a personal agenda.

Sometimes gaming the system is used to make a point. Other times, it is used for edit warring, or to enforce a specific non-neutral point of view. In all of these, gaming the system is an improper use of policy, and is strongly frowned upon. An appeal to policy which does not further the true intent and spirit of the policy is an improper use of that policy.

The meaning of 'gaming the system'

Gaming the system is a process of subversion. The wiki's few policies and guidelines exist to sum up the view of the community on how the wiki operates, and its core principles. To attempt to use those to derail wiki processes, or to claim support for a viewpoint which clearly contradicts those policies, or to attack a genuinely policy-based stance by wilfully misapplying policies, is "gaming the system", a form of disruptive editing.

Gaming the system usually involves:

  • Supporting a policy for some action or stance, which the user knows does not reflect the true intent and spirit of the policy, or
  • Misrepresenting policy in a way which the user knows will harm the wiki or its editorial environment in practice.

In each case, individual knowledge of each policy is important. The misuse of policy, guidelines, or practice is not gaming if it is based upon a genuine mistake. Continual "gaming" is, likely, deliberate. Violating the spirit of the wiki's behaviour guidelines may prejudice the decisions of the editors at large.


Examples of gaming include (but are not limited to):

  1. Using loopholes that were not willingly made during the creation of the policy in question
    This is generally referred to as arguing the word or grammatical structure of policy to defeat the spirit and intended purpose of policy.
    "I'm only making 1-2 daily reverts to Page X, so I'm not edit warring."
  2. Spuriously claiming protection, justification or support under the words of a policy, for a viewpoint or stance which knowingly actually contradicts policy
    For example, spuriously claiming support from policies to prevent legitimate discussion from progressing. (The gaming of consensus by means of sock or meat puppetry creates a 'false consensus'.)
    "People are voting for deletion, even though the wiki isn't a democracy. This discussion should be ended immediately, and the voters in question should be punished."
  3. Playing policies against each other.
    "You cannot block me because my "multiple acts of vandalism" were in good faith."
  4. Relying upon the letter of policy as a defence when breaking the spirit of policy.
  5. Mischaracterization other editors' actions in order to make them seem unreasonable, improper, or deserving of sanction.
    Example: Not actually providing a specific URL or details for a citation (or giving only vague details), then claiming an editor is being disruptive by repeatedly asking again. In this case, it is misrepresentative to describe a reasonable repeated request for information as "disruptive".
  6. Selectively 'cherry picking' wording from a policy (or cherry picking one policy to apply but wilfully ignoring others) to support a view which does not in fact match policy.
    Example of cherry picking policies: demanding support for an edit because it is verifiable and cited, whilst marginalising or evading the concerns of others that it is not based upon reliable sources or fairly representing its purported view.
  7. Stonewalling - actively filibustering discussion, or repeatedly returning to claims that a reasonable editor might have long since resolved or viewed as discredited (without providing any reasonable counter of the discredital), effectively tying up the debate or preventing a policy-based resolution being obtained.
  8. 'Borderlining' - habitually treading the edge of policy breach or engaging in low-grade policy breach, in order to make it hard to actually prove misconduct.

Gaming sometimes overlaps with other policies:

  • Mis-using wiki processes to put another editor in an invidious position, prove a point, or muddy the water in a dispute, can also be a form of gaming.
  • Using policies and guidelines to build (or push) a patently false case that some editor is editing in bad faith, with the 'evidence' for this itself being an obviously unreasonable bad-faith interpretation of that person's action. This is more often categorized as a breach of the policy assume good faith, and in particular, repeated unjustified "warnings" may also be viewed as uncivil.
  • If gaming is also knowingly used as a basis to impugn another editor or to mischaracterize them as bad faith editors, then this may also violate the policy of no personal attacks.

Note that actions similar to these where there is no evidence of intent to act improperly, are usually not considered gaming. The essence of gaming is the wilful or knowing misuse of policy.

Spurious legalisms

Since the wiki is not a court of law, many legal procedures or terms have no bearing on the wiki. Typically, wikilawyering raises procedural or evidentiary points in a manner analogous to that used in formal legal proceedings, often using ill-founded legal reasoning. Occasionally wikilawyering may raise legitimate questions, including fairness, but often it serves to evade an issue or obstruct the crafting of a workable solution. For example, while it is often impossible to definitely establish the actual user behind a set of sockpuppets, it is not a defence that all the sockpuppets which emerge were not named in the request for arbitration.

Wikipedia:Gaming the system

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