It's NOT allowing people to do it that might "help a little". As event tickets are often cheap, particularly for RPGs, I've always thought that some people bought tickets "on spec".
Personally I think the onus should be on the game to plan for situations with less than the desired amount of players. Whether it be a decrease in difficulty or perhaps a friendly npc helping out. Maybe a buff to players. Whatever. The point is that it's the players perogative to choose to do something else should they wish. It's your job as the gm or organization running an event to deal with it in a positive way.
In events that are heavy on combat, what you're suggesting is doable. If you have half the players you were expecting, you can let each player take two PCs if they wish. Or you can make adjustments like reducing the number of giants they fight in the finale to three instead of six.
But in scenarios that rely heavily on roleplaying, what you suggest is a lot harder. Many of those events are a lot less fun with a significant reduction of players, and some may even be unplayable. Examples are games where some or all of the PCs have secrets. The "there's a traitor amongst you!" scenario isn't really manageable if two players show up.
You probably didn't mean to do this, but the last two sentences of your post suggested not just entitlement, but cheaply bought entitlement: "We paid four to six dollars for your time, so shut up and dance whether we show up or not." The repercussions of that viewpoint aren't pleasant for anyone.
First, while the adjustments the GMs can make may keep that scenario afloat for that session, it's bound to hurt the morale of the GM if it happens on a regular basis. We've already lost one GM. Every event he ever did was a sellout, but he only got a full table of six players once. 2-3 no-shows every other time.
Second, even if the GMs decide to stick it out, Gen Con might not let them. You won't keep getting space for your events when you're only getting 50-60% of the players to show up. Gen Con will think you're just running them to get the badge or partial hotel reimbursement, and give the space to someone else.
Third, even if Gen Con still lets the GMs run those events, they risk losing other perks, too. Premier Event Groups like ours need to return 80% of the tickets that Gen Con gave us slots for. If we fall short of that, we lose the status, which means among other things that we no longer get the preferential location assignments.
Knowing that, the players can still choose to do something else. As you said, their prerogative. I wrote the original post and this one so that if they continue to make that choice, they'll at least be fully informed of the costs and the consequences.
Now, if blowing off a game would drop you 100 spots in the event queue next year, or 100 spots in the housing queue, I bet folks would make a much greater effort to make it to games. It ought to be possible for GenCon to figure out who didn't show up for their games when the tickets that the GM's turn in get scanned after the convention.
Even if all they did was send an email admonishing the player for skipping a game and it might make them realize that people did notice their absence. It would be a start.
If tickets 'stuck' to badges that would work...but they do not. They are, in fact, designed to be 'shared' among friends. Heck, they can be shared to strangers. I've seen it.
"I really want to play with my friends, can anyone trade slots? Yes? Awesome thanks!" --leads to that group playing together, and the fellow who traded sleeping in or just missing it or whatnot.
For another instance...I had planned, this year, to only gm 16 hours, so signed up for events with my kids. However, things being things, Catalyst being Catalyst, I ended up at 32. I was going to turn them in but...one daughter ran into a friend who was able to attend virtually last minute(he had a thursday and friday badge)...so he was the recipient of all my thursday and friday events.
Now, he did actually attend. But if he had not...if tickets were reconciled with badges...then it would appear as though I had missed the events, not him!
The case of a straight-up trade is tougher. If Player 1 buys a ticket for Session A, and Player 2 buys a ticket for session B, but they switch, and Player 1 does go to session B but player 2 blows off session A to get drunk with a friend, my proposal would penalize player 1. So that's not great, I agree. In the long run it would tend to discourage trading tickets. But I suspect the frequency of that scenario happening is much lower than the frequency of Player 2 blowing off a session under his own ticket.
So maybe the test for sending a nastygram, or assessing a penalty should be "were there fewer players than had registered, and were you one of the missing?" If the game was full without you, no harm, no foul.
I should note I found out about the bump to 32 the Wednesday before and would have returned the tickets that night.
But yes people have usually already made plans so that might have indeed penalized the events. I suppose the effect of four games now covered might offset one player missing but at least in this case it was good news all around.
I wouldn't expect, or even want the GM's to handle it themselves. I'm proposing that GenCon should send out the emails. That probably wasn't real clear in my original statement, so sorry for that.
If GenCon sent out emails to the effect of "Just so you know, game RPGXXXXXXX was cancelled due to no-shows, including you. Please be more careful to only schedule events you are able to attend in the future" it might get people's attention. It wouldn't prevent every no-show, but I bet it would help.
I'd love to see some brainstorming about ways to incentivise and facilitate filling no show seats with willing occupants. You'd need a rapid way to get the word out to nearby people(that isn't screaming down the hall, I'm thinking an app integration), and preferably a way to get people who are interested to be nearby. Some combination of app and an incentives structure, like giving out special badges for being a spot hero, raffle tickets to a prize, (the more event rescues you do, the better chance to win something). I'd be a rapid responder to something like that.
Look, I get that people no showing isn't good for GMs, but GenCon counts as vacation time for me. If I want to get penalized or berated for stuff, then I'll stay at work - where they penalize you or berate you for not showing up.
Also, I've seen it the other way - where GMs no show. Kinda uncool when there's a bunch of players standing around at 2am waiting for the GM to show. Maybe everyone should reconsider the wisdom of scheduling an RPG event at 2am?
A no-show isn't just bad for the GM, it also isn't good for the other players. Particularly if the event cancels due to no-shows. It has consequences for everyone except the people who blew off the session. The notion that you shouldn't be held accountable because it's your vacation is absurd. It's vacation time for the GM and the other players, too.
No-show GM's do suffer consequences: if the lost player-hours drops them below the threshold for badge or room compensation there's a serious financial penalty, and in any case they probably won't get to run events the next year.
I also stated that one important difference is that GenCon can and does take action against GM no-shows but not against players.
This may or may not surprise you, but thousands of events are being run by independent GMs and gaming groups like ours. We're not on the clock for a gaming company. This is our vacation, too.
So what if we shared your attitude? "Yeah, I submitted an event to run, but I decided to do something else. Hey, if I want to get penalized or berated for no-showing an event I was supposed to run, I'd stay at work?"
If not, then the two cases are simply not comparable.
In any case, if a GM drops it cancels the game for all players, if a player drops it does not.
Even in a Premier Event Group like ours that has to run more events than average to qualify for that status, not everyone gets compensated. In 2016 out of 6 GMs, one of us ran enough to get badge and partial hotel reimbursement. Two more got badge reimbursement, and three got nothing.
Quick note on the partial hotel reimbursement: it's definitely a nice feature, but it's not guaranteed. Groups need 800 player hours of events to qualify for a GM room. We don't run enough for that, which means we're each using the same housing block that everyone else is. If we don't win the housing block lottery, we don't get the partial reimbursement. That's for in-block reservations only.
If enough players no-show to cancel an event, the GM gets no credit for those player hours. And even if enough show to keep the event running, if the GM's events are consistently going off with reduced attendance Gen Con will eventually not let that GM run those events.
Finally, my original post already stipulated that GM no-shows are worse than player no-shows, so I'm not sure why you and others feel compelled to keep making that point.
Perhaps it's to say that players should be allowed to use the "vacation defense" where GMs should not. If so, I would counter that unless the player is making sure that the game will still be able to go on without him/her, the vacation defense isn't a valid one. Especially when the vacation in question has so many alternate activities that do not require the purchase of an event ticket.
Firstly, I can't say strongly enough that the people running games deserve whatever recompense that Gen Con gives them. Evil Fleet puts a lot of work (and money) into their games. And they do it because they enjoy making other people happy.
As for a solution, there probably isn't one. Gen Con could, and IMHO should, keep the money for no-shows, and credit the event organizer. It doesn't solve the problem of not having enough people available for your game, but it doesn't penalize the people who have put in the hard work in favor of the people who wanted to sleep in.
The Idea of an App is wonderful, but developing a multi-platform App that works in a challenging bandwidth environment like Gen Con is a lot of cost and effort with little ROI for the company.
As to the GM-no shows. Of the few i know of, most have been cause of family emergencies they had to LEAVE the con for, or cause they were sick. Things like that you cannot prepare for.
Additionally, as Watchdog said, THOSE of us GM's who are no-shows DO Get penalized by Gencon. Shouldn't players be held to the same level of responsibility?
I previously GMed to get reimbursed for my badge and this year I did it for fun, enough to get my fill but not enough to get compensated. Just out of curiosity however, did Gen Con change their policies for badges? I thought it's independent of player turn out. However, I do see the issue for next year when you don't turn in the tickets to warrant your space.
I kind of feel that it's likely better that Gen con were to not offer refunds, taking account of the proposed attendance, ticket return and sold attendance for your GM 'reputation', provide that it was run. That said, it doesn't fix the issue of under attended games and ruining it for the players. It also sucks when you've slaved hours into a module and stressed every detail to have it never run at Gen Con. I've lamented that possibility before.
J7cheng: You're correct, with (I think) the exception of having to cancel an event. I don't believe you get credit for it in that case.
Otherwise, you're right. You still get credit for the size of the event when calculating badge & hotel reimbursement.