On courtesy, phones and the generation gap in tabletop roleplaying

So I came across this on Twitter. But first, a quick caveat.

This is a rant. It is not a rant aimed at @GMRaphi in particular, even though I’m using his Tweet as a springboard for the rant. I’m taking issue with what he’s saying — and okay, with his generation (or what I assume to be his generation) — but not with who he is. Because a) that would be a dick move and b) I don’t know the man but he looks like a decent chap.

And an extra caveat a few days later. Yes, it’s all generalisations, that’s what a rant is. Do I think entirely in generalisations? Do I assume what I’m saying applies to each and every possible situation? Of course not. Do me the courtesy of understanding that and understanding that a rant is, by its very nature, a complaint against a general order of things. Yeesh.


I couldn’t find a way to respond in 140 characters so here we go.

  1. It’s impolite, at least to basically anyone of my generation or older. I’m 47 — which, by the way, doesn’t make me decrepit, doesn’t make me incapable of understanding the internet (we invented it, assholes), and doesn’t make me stupid — and where/when I come from, using your phone at the dinner table or while you’re out with your friends is just plain rude. It’s the same at the gaming table — we’re gathered to be here together, not to sit here individually checking our Twitter feed. If you want to sit in your social media bubble, do it somewhere else.
  2. It’s beyond self-centered. Just because my character isn’t in the limelight and it’s somebody else’s turn to act, I get to switch out and do something else? Seriously? Why exactly are you getting together with 3-6 other people to play a game if all you give a shit about is your character’s rolls and shining moments? If I were older and more curmudgeonly I’d say this is a perfect example of how entitled and self-centered the millennial generation is, but instead I’ll just glower and tell them to get off my lawn.
  3. To me, it’s a sign that you can’t really be bothered to be there, and/or that you’d rather be tweeting about what you’re doing than actually taking part in what you’re doing. Which, I know, is life these days — we don’t go to events to enjoy the event, we go to events so that we can take selfies of ourselves attending the event so that… I dunno. I don’t get that, which is probably another sign of my lack of hipness with the times. (Which my use of the word ‘hip’ just confirmed.)

I also know that responding in any way to what could just as easily have been a troll on some random forum is largely pointless. I don’t know the chap in question, he might just want to be provocative (because I’ve never done that, nope), and I just happened to come across some Twitter friends’ responses. If it’s a troll, responding is useless. If it’s a generation thing, responding is equally useless because we have the cellphone-grafted generation that prefers to read a thing on social media than to be at the thing and we have the pre-cellphone generation that still understands what it’s like to attend a thing and not just for the sake of filming it on your iPhone — and never the twain shall meet.

It’s ironic. Not so long ago, I was of the generation of young assholes that were destroying all that was good and kind about the world and the reason we couldn’t have nice things. Now I’m the one complaining about the young whippersnappers.

Except in this case, I’m right. If you’re going to attend a tabletop game (or a virtual tabletop game for that matter), ask if it’s ok to use your phone or tablet or whatever. Some GMs won’t have a problem with it. I sure as hell will. And if it’s not OK, then don’t pout, don’t sulk (no matter how good you millennials are at the whole passive aggressive thing), just fucking put your fucking phone away and BE AT THE THING like a normal human being. Show some interest in someone else other than as a link to your own coolness.

In short: don’t be a dick.