I was at Presbytery this last week, and, like good Presbyterians, they were using Robert’s Rules of Order to conduct business. This isn’t really anything new, and I’ve been around long enough that I’ve seen it done before. But, for the first time, it occurred to me that Robert’s Rules are just another form of game design. Roleplaying design, even. Consider this: you have stake-setting (by moving and seconding a main motion) and conflict resolution (through subsidiary motions and finally voting). You have a GM (the moderator). You have folks responsible to know the rules and check things in the rulebooks (the parliamentarians). You even have someone whose is responsible to write the Actual Play report (the secretary).
That’s right. Robert’s Rules are just another way of roleplaying.
Being serious, I wonder how much insight we game designers could gather from the procedural structures of Robert’s Rules. Their existence to structure a formal social situation is anecdotal evidence that System Does Matter, yet their design is such that the group can hack them on the fly, by moving to suspend certain rules and the like. They also acknowledge that human judgment is necessary as part of the System, and also provide a way for the GM/moderator to be overruled by the rest of the assembly. There’s a lot that we could glean from this resource.