the IdeasBlog

Gaming the System : Scam or Strategy?


“Gaming the system” does not inherently have pejorative implications for me or – in my opinion – many of the others who work professionally in the interactive design/analysis arena:

  1. Systems inherently have rules
  2. the rules are sometimes consciously intended to construct a morality (i.e. We won’t let you do this because it’s bad)
  3. many times the rules are simply unintended artifacts of functionality and implementation (i.e. We won’t let you do this because that’s just how we made it.  We wanted to do something else and … this happened.)

“Gaming the system” is any solution that gets around the limits/rules of the system in order to accomplish *what you want*

There’s blah-blah aplenty about INTENT (Gaining Advantage Over Others vs Getting Satisfaction). I’m kinda utilitarian about it. Both are true.

If you’re focused on Outrage, then you have your opportunity.

I prefer Solutions. An insight about “gaming the system” is that it often indicates the Need for a Solution. I believe that ‘gaming the system’ and ‘hacking’ underlie the creation of many solutions.

Gaming the System … out of necessity

I used Fontographer at the Newspaper Association of America in 1990 to “trick” our client newspapers’ Macs into customizing their sales presentations.

The Electronic Sales Assistant (ESA, based on a Hypercard/Supercard platform), allowed the Marketing department at member newspapers to use our online-delivered market data to craft customized sales presentations.

This was early days, so a design challenge was to integrate the local newspaper’s masthead logo into our PresentationMaker tool. I scanned and then recreated each member’s logo (not as a font, but rather as a piece of complex clipart), which was then loaded into a font titled ‘yourLogo”.

Each member newspaper received a generic copy of our ESA PresentationMaker software plus their own custom yourLogo font. This allowed each newspaper to construct printer-ready sales presentations fueled by fresh market data and branded with their own newspaper’s logo (yourLogo).

It was a kluge. I “gamed” the system in order to accomplish what I needed to accomplish … but it worked

Gaming the System … as exploration

[under construction]Our response when presented with the ‘magic’ of software or high tech toys is wonderment.  One of the first things you may ask yourself “How did they do that?”

The solution is insight.

Curiosity killed the cat.  But he died happy.

[under construction]


Gaming the System … as an art form

Our fellow animals engage relentlessly – almost compulsively – in ‘problem solving’ behaviors.  That’s why we consider them to be intelligent (i.e. “like us”)

Stakeholders almost inevitably have a compulsion to quash “hacking”

[under construction]

(c) copyright John Vaughan / The Communication Studio