It is a generally accepted standard that editors should attempt to follow, though it is best treated with common sense, and occasional exceptions may apply. Any substantive edit to this page should reflect consensus. When in doubt, discuss first on the talk page.
If an editor finds a loophole or trick that allows them to evade community standards or misuse administrator tools, it should not be treated the same as a good-faith mistake. However, Wikipedia sanctions are meant to be preventative, not punitive. A warning from an administrator is usually the best way to prevent gaming, because a clear warning should help correct both good-faith mistakes and bad-faith games. If an editor ignores a warning and repeats their behavior, or if they find new creative ways to achieve the same disruption, it is more likely that they are gaming the system in bad faith.
The meaning of "gaming the system"
An editor gaming the system is seeking to use policy in bad faith, by finding within its wording some 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. An editor is disruptive if they are using a few words of policy to claim support for a viewpoint which clearly contradicts those policies, to attack a genuinely policy-based stance by willfully misapplying Wikipedia policies, or to derail Wikipedia processes.
Filibustering the consensus-building process by reverting another editor for minor errors, or sticking to a viewpoint that the community has clearly rejected.
Attempting to twist Wikipedia sanctions or processes to harass other editors.
In each case, willfulness or knowing is important. Misuse of policy, guidelines or practice is not gaming if it is based upon a genuine mistake. But it may well be, if it is deliberate, where the editor continues to game policy even when it is clear there is no way they can reasonably claim to be unaware.
Actions that game the system may also overlap with other policies:
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 guideline to assume good faith, and in particular, repeated unjustified "warnings" may also be viewed as a breach of civility.
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.
Disruption of any kind merits being warned (or blocked) by an administrator. Violating the principles of Wikipedia's behavior guidelines may prejudice the decision of administrators or the Arbitration Committee.
There are several types of gaming the system. The essence of gaming is the willful and knowing misuse of policies or processes. The following is an (incomplete) list of examples. Actions that are similar to the below, where there is no evidence of intent to act improperly, are usually not considered gaming.
Bad-faith negotiating – Luring other editors into a compromise by making a concession, only to withhold that concession after the other side has compromised.
Example: An editor negotiates a consensus to remove well-verified material from one article, because it is already covered in a second article. Afterward, the editor deletes the material from the second article.
Example: Editors reach a consensus. The author of the final agreed text is supposed to post it, but never does. Weeks later, a second editor tires of waiting and posts a modified version, which the first editor immediately reverts.
Example: An editor withholds agreement to a change unless additional, more satisfactory sources are provided, but declares all the new sourcing to be unsatisfactory despite the citation work clearly fulfilling the core content policies.
Removing a large addition for a minor error. If the error is minor, then fix it (or at least tag it for clean-up). Perfection is not required, and Wikipedia is built through incremental improvement.
Example: An editor adds a paragraph of verifiable information, but it is removed entirely because of a typographical error that could easily be fixed.
Example: An editor performs page-wide, uncontroversial copy editing and code cleanup, but another editor thinks some ostensibly minor changes subtly altered the meaning of two sentences, and so reverts several hours of work instead of just the two disputed changes.
Mischaracterizing other editors' actions to make them seem unreasonable, improper, or deserving of sanction.
Example: Refusing to provide a proper citation to an editor looking to verify your claim, and accusing the editor of being disruptive for making repeated requests. Citations should be accurate so that other editors may verify them.
"Walking back" a personal attack to make it seem less hostile than it was, rather than apologizing.
Example: An editor responds to a disagreement by saying, "You're obviously wrong, wrong, wrong. Did you even pass grade 9 history?" Later, they defend this statement as a good-faith question about the other editor's education.
"Borderlining" – habitually treading the edge of policy breach or engaging in low-grade policy breach, to make it hard to actually prove misconduct.
Example: An editor never violates the three-revert rule, but takes several months to repeatedly push the same edits over the objections of multiple editors.
Retribution: Deliberately reverting an editor's edits in one article in retaliation for a dispute in another.
Example: Editor A reverts an edit made by Editor B because it did not adhere to a neutral point of view and they did not provide a reliable source. Editor B starts a discussion on the talk page in which Editor A participates, but the discussion fails to generate consensus. Later on, Editor B reverts a well-sourced, neutral addition that Editor A made, saying it did not comply with the Manual of Style.
Playing victim: Violating a rule and at the same time claiming that others are in violation of the same or a closely related rule. Also known as hypocrisy.
Example: Editor A posts uncivil comments while at the same time accusing Editor B of uncivil behavior, demanding sanctions and citing policies that Editor A clearly violates.
Example: A new editor makes 10 dummy edits to become autoconfirmed, and then makes controversial changes to semi-protected articles, moves a promotional draft to article space or otherwise edits disruptively/vandalizes articles.
Since Wikipedia is not a court of law, many legal procedures or terms have no bearing on Wikipedia. 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, it is often impossible to definitely establish the actual user behind a set of sockpuppets, and it is not a defense that none of the sockpuppets which emerge were named in the request for arbitration.
Various levels of intent
Use of the term "gaming the system" should be done with caution, as it can be interpreted as an accusation of bad-faith editing. Although users might engage in the practices described above, that activity should not be considered proof of malicious intent. The actual level of intent should also be considered separately, as to whether the action was premeditated, or spur-of-the-moment, or merely copying an older tactic that seemed effective for other editors in the past. The term gaming the system is not meant to vilify those involved, with the word "gaming" also referring to playful activity in the manner of a game of sport. The goal is to focus on Wikipedia activities as a serious effort to improve articles, not an arena for playing games and sparring with opponents as a form of amusement. Judging intent might include discussions with others, rather than escalate the situation as an issue for direct confrontation. The situation might warrant special mediation (see WP:Mediation) or perhaps even, in extreme cases, formal arbitration (see WP:Arbitration). The risks of continued involvement should be carefully considered, especially if the intent seems overly severe or obsessive–compulsive behavior. However clear such an intent might subjectively seem, one should not cast aspersions about the mentalities or motivations of other editors. Wikipedia has a variety of noticeboards for dealing with problematic editing behavior, patterns of which tend to speak for themselves when properly diffed with evidence.
Abuse of process
Abuse of process is related to gaming. It involves knowingly trying to use the communally agreed and sanctioned processes described by some policies, to advance a purpose for which they are clearly not intended. Abuse of process is disruptive, and depending on circumstances may be also described as gaming the system, personal attack, or disruption to make a point. Communally agreed processes are intended to be used in good faith.
What is "intent", consciously or otherwise, and what actually is "good"-enough-"faith" must also be clearly defined. Only then, the definers's power and status position must also be openly noted when making such any determinations. The common assumptions that what is claimed as "communally agreed" must include more than a select group, and thus is also a questionable number, perhaps unverifiable, and even if is said to be any legitimate majority of contributors – like those who were recently allowed to write on Wikipedia. Vague words of idealistic concepts are dangerous and may be misleading from what is then experienced in actuality when reading or writing on Wikipedia.