5 on Friday: 5 Ways to Experience Gen Con Without Buying a Badge

Gaming in the hallways of the convention center.

Gaming in the hallways of the convention center.

Going to conventions is expensive (speaking of which have you checked out our Spreadshirt and Amazon shops?). There’s the badge to get in itself than can range from anywhere from extremely rare free (Who’s Yer Con) to the reasonable $25 or so (Cincinnati Comic Expo) to the pricey $80+ (Gen Con). Then you have to add on the cost of hotel and travel. Even if the convention is in your town, parking can be expensive (I paid $45ish on parking last weekend). Claire had some excellent tips on how to see Gen Con on a budget, but what if you don’t want to shell out even $50 for the one day badge? Or you don’t want to go on Sunday for $30 (for four) when the festivities are winding down? Here’s how to experience Gen Con festivities without buying a badge.

  1. Win a Badge – Ok, this may seem like it’s kind of cheating but you’re not buying a bad you’re winning one! I actually won a badge for my derby wife from Doing Indy this year. Keep an eye open on your favorite Indianapolis blogs when Gen Con is approaching, and enter all the contests.
  2. Check out the Convention Center – You don’t need a badge to get into the convention center and wander the halls. In fact, this is how I got my Gen Con experience the past couple of years. You’ll find gamers scattered along the hallways, checking out their latest purchase. This year, the food court turned the tables into game boards. There are performers putting on shows. There’s a lot to see without going in.
  3. Georgia Street – This is where the food trucks and Sun King beer garden were this year, which made it an awesome place to hang out and people watch. You’ll see tons of costumes, and overhear some interesting conversations. Food (and beer) brings us all together after all.
  4. Restaurants – Restaurants around town paired with game publishers and themed their restaurants. Scotty’s had Paizo and Pathfinder. The Ram had Privateer Press. The Colts Grill had Fantasy Flight. Even if a restaurant didn’t have an official tie to the convention, some of them would decorate anyway. Noodles and Company stood out the most for me, with their painted windows and Game of Thrones inspired “House of Noodles” insignia.
  5. Themed Events – Around Indy leading up to, and during, Gen Con there are unofficial (and sometimes official) events that don’t require a badge. There’s usually a nerd burlesque show or two. And the beer tapping party the day before Gen Con, hosted by Sun King, doesn’t require a badge either.

The trick to getting to experience Gen Con without at badge is to pay attention. Look for events being promoted online. Pick up an issue of Nuvo. Gen Con brings a ton of money to the city and local businesses want to tap into the market.

In the meantime, stop by Arsenal Game Room to get ready to play games in the halls of the convention center next year.

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2 Responses to “5 on Friday: 5 Ways to Experience Gen Con Without Buying a Badge”
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