This Is Common Courtesy, Right?

One thing I’ve noticed about some of the gamers I’ve been with—or some of the more high-stakes group projects, particularly academic, but gamers seem particularly prone to it—is a certain unconscious disregard for everyone else’s convenience, probably because “it’s just a game” or “they’ve got it under control”. You get the ones who will schedule something else in conflict or not tell you until it’s too late to plan a contingency. Or that one who only shows up half the time, and is guaranteed to vanish if you create a plot that has to involve his character. Or the ones who have a definite plan right up until the last minute, then scrap it for something else.

And for some reason, nobody can see the problem with this. I can’t understand why; it seems like common sense to me.

Disagree? Let me put it this way:

Imagine for a moment you’ve gotten together with a couple of friends for a class project. It’s big, and complicated, and everybody’s going to need to work hard on their specific part, and it’s really hard to get together because everyone has so many difficult activities. Now imagine that, a week in advance, you’ve chosen a meeting time, figured out who’s going to do what in preparation for said meeting, and in all gotten ready to the best of your abilities. And then somebody decides with a couple days to go before the meet that this project isn’t resonating with him and he wants to do something else. Or someone else, after the meeting has been scheduled, schedules something else entirely that conflicts with it, meaning there’s only a certain amount of time in which things can be done, then shows up late, without an explanation or an apology.

That’s just not right, is it?

So why should it be any different in gaming?

While not all gamers are very busy people, some of us are. And some people’s work requires more lead time than others. It may not seem like much for a player who decided last week to climb to the top of a tower to instead go check out that cave on the other side of the hill, but for a GM who’s been planning just the tower ever since the group committed to it, discovering this change of heart the day before session can lead to massive stress. Similarly, you’d think one person’s presence wouldn’t be missed too much, but when a storyline was written specifically to bring them back into the group and they know it, not having them there to play their role can be crippling. Doing anything that would mess up the GM’s plans without at least giving the GM grace time to accommodate for it or having a very, very good reason for doing so strikes me as blowing off the effort she needs to make for the game—and a stressed GM can cause problems for the entire group’s experience. So shouldn’t it be polite to try to minimize the inconvenience, or at least give fair warning?

And punctuality and lead time in rescheduling? This doesn’t seem like too foreign a concept to me either. Group’s getting together to do something they enjoy, and may or may have bent their schedules in pursuit of this enjoyment. To show up late as well as leaving early shows a certain amount of disregard for their feelings in the matter, moreso when the schedule has specifically been rearranged on your behalf; if they’re going to go out of their way for you, is it not polite to at least make an effort not to inconvenience them further? Wouldn’t it be annoying if, say, you were going to meet with some friends to watch a movie, had to take the movie with you when you left, had to leave early, and then to add insult to injury showed up late enough that it wasn’t possible to watch the whole thing?

Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, but I take my social obligations with gaming almost as seriously as I do with life-necessary things. Yes, academics trump gaming when the grade’s on the line. Yes, family emergencies trump EVERYTHING, and I will personally chew out anyone who implies otherwise. Yes, showing up sick and contagious is a very bad idea, particularly when the group’s prone to communal food or it’s clearly bad for you to be anywhere but in bed. Lesser matters, though? Last I checked, prior engagements trumped later ones, and trying to inconvenience as few people as possible was common courtesy. Isn’t that still the case?

My question to you, my readers: Is it wrong to consider the above points to be a simple matter of common courtesy?

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