So last night I was playing Burning Wheel (which has been kickass fun so far except for my damn dice), and I had the opportunity to make a skill roll that would help me advance something. I puzzled over helping dice and challenge types needed to advance. At one point, Thor (GM) says to me, "if you really want to game the system..." and then pointed something out to me. And now today I'm not entirely sure if he meant that derisively or not.
I remember a time when that phrase, "gaming the system," was nothing but derision, a term for exploitation of loopholes and players ignoring story in favor of bonuses and strategies and so on.
But now a great many games depend on it for those games to be the most fun they can be. Imagine playing Nine Worlds or TSOY or AGON without gaming the system. Gaming the system is an essential part of play.
So what I'm wondering about now is the idea that when a game system becomes so complex it inevitably creates exploitable loopholes that become counterproductive to play. Can a game system develop the same problems as, say, a legal system, while still being an excellent, well-designed game system? I think so.
And I'm not really comparing BW with the legal system, for crying out loud. It was just the first thing that popped into my head when I thought of systems with loopholes. BW is undoubtedly less vulnerable to rich people.
But the game text does have warnings and admonishments. Are they indicative of those inevitable loopholes, or are they just the crazed ramblings of a poor game designer broken down by players with contrasting creative agendas?