I GM all day Thursday to get my 4-day badge for free.
it takes 70 player hours of judging to get a four day badge. Run 1 four hour event for 6 players Thu, Fri, Sat, and you've earned your badge. And to me, being the judge is more fun really.
For those of you who are thinking of being a GM for the badge. If your job does not require you to speak, at length, in a louder than casual conversational tone, you need to keep in mind that speaking is a muscle and needs to be worked out or you will strain it. Ask any teacher, singer, professional speaker. Bring throat lozenges, skip sugary drinks, more ice-tea with lemon and honey.
First of all, I'm going to second the idea of GMing to try to earn your badge. I'm running my very first ever event this year (excited!) and I was surprised at what a good deal it turned out to be. Especially if your own flavor of nerddom lends itself to running events that generate a lot of player hours or can reasonably command a higher ticket price. (I'm doing a LARP, with 24 players, $16, $12 is mine, four hours long.) I know people who have gone the volunteering route, and it seems like it varies a lot. Some companies offer downtown rooms and badges for a reasonable amount of time. Others you have to work the WHOLE weekend for the same perks.
Leaving that aside, though, $800 for two people is tight, but not undoable. This is what my budget is looking like this year, without the GM reimbursement. (Me plus one other person, assuming both ppl spend the same, tiny bit of rounding.)
Hotel 300 (motel about 20 minutes from the parking garage)
Events 230 (we picked A LOT of expensive events this year)
(we'll pack food for breakfast at the hotel and bring coffee to make the first cup of the day. We'll also pack snacks and I'll make cookie bars for rations. We eat a lot of food court, and the occasional nice meal to ward off the scurvy. And more coffee. And the tradition of a Cinnabon Sunday afternoon before we head home. And also coffee. Coffee?)
TOTAL: 1,130. So a few hundred bucks over that 800 goal, but not by a ton, and not in a way that you couldn't make up most of it by sticking to free and very cheap events. It also doesn't leave you anything left over for spending in the dealer hall, so that's something to consider as well. CAN you go to gencon and not buy dice? If you're a pod person, I guess, maybe....
I like to get myself some toys and not worry about if I can budget just one more coffee or if I can afford a sit down dinner instead of more food court, so I would not try to do Gencon in $400. But up it to $500 and GM my way to a badge? Totally reasonable.
We're spending about $1,100 as well, and that includes a 3rd badge, food, and event tickets for a 3rd person. It doesn't include our game buying budget, though.
If you live close enough to drive and keep an eye out for good deals on hotels and parking, eat the free hotel breakfast, pack snacks for lunch so you're only buying dinner, and stick to free/cheap events, you could do 2 people for $800. You wouldn't come home with a lot of new games, but you could have a full 4 days of gaming, demos, and fun at the con and then pick 1-2 "must-have" games to buy and bring home.
most of the publisher game rooms on the second floor across from the dealer hall are free demo's that are rarely crowded. You still need a ticket to make sure you get a seat and don't spend a 2 dollar generic for a free game but I've played 1 and 2 hour demos of popular games many times in those rooms. You can also hit the BGG hot games room for a couple of hours for 4 bucks and play the lastest and newest games. You can hit the first exposure room for free and 'playtest' games that are on kickstarter or about to come out. The Games library gives you tons of options for 2 bucks for a couple(4?) hours. Many of the film events are free, as is the Manga Library. Seriously you could go to Gencon and just spend money on a hotel (bring most of your food in a cooler, I know people who do) and still have a very full schedule. Hit Walmart on your way into town and stock up on snacks and soda and stuff to avoid paying con prices for those.
My biggest piece of advice when this comes up is to not buy anything at the convention. Anything you can get outside of the con, take a picture of, and then decide a week after the convention if you really want it. Its really easy to get excited and decide that every game you demo is the best game of the con, and soon enough you have a bunch of games that not only take up space, but ate through your budget. If there is something that is convention-exclusive (these are few and far between), then figure out if you can wait until Sunday to buy it. If so, do that. Basically, try to avoid impulse purchases.
Tons of events are free, so sort by those and get in to as many as you like.
However, the biggest single expense is going to be your hotel and parking. You're not likely to find anything remotely budget in the city, so look in the surrounding areas and dont be afraid to drive in every day. I did that my first year and it was fine.
Not that I needed to, but at Origins I did the free breakfast + PBJ lunch deal. Had a nice dinner or 2. It can be done if necessary. Just plan ahead.
As for "con'ing" on a budget... it's possible, but can get uncomfortable. I know gamers who attend every year, and do not have a room. They park their car, use it as a base camp, keep changes of clothes, a cooler with some food in it. And otherwise roam the halls. Hygiene can become an issue. But if you use products like "Action wipes" ( I use these when I camp... they're pricey, but worth every penny, and you smell like you actually showered after using them ) and disposable tooth brushes. The hygiene issue can be dealt with. Washing your hair can be tricky, but the hours between midnight and 5am are quiet, and it's possible to "camp shower" in one of the off the path bathrooms. If your going with a few friends or a "buddy" you can cat nap around the con without too much hassle. Lets be honest. The Con really doesn't want you sleeping there, and I get it, however a lot of gamers are going all out, all weekend long, and getting very little rest. So most of the staff typically turn a blind eye if they see someone napping for a few hours here and there. Set up a schedule, your buddy sits next to you, reading or whatever, while you cat nap. Then move to somewhere else and return the favor. Just be ready to move at a moment's notice if your asked to move. The hours between midnight and 5am are best for this.... gamers still wander around the halls, games are still going on, but it's quiet. I WOULD NOT suggest napping in your car, even if your in the garage across the street from the convention center.... that's just not very safe. I believe the daily cost for parking in the garage is under 30 bucks for 24 hours... if need be, move your car around in that garage. So... if your saving cash without a room, you can splurge a bit here and there on food, or purchases. It's all up to your level of comfort. Again... be smart about it, you don't want to smell like you've not showered in days, and napping in your car can be risky. There are people in Indy who know when the con is in town, and they look to take advantage of that, either by begging or I'm sure of pick pocketing or other petty crime. The homeless can be dangerous... typically I've had no issues, but again... sitting for hours in a parked car in a dark parking garage can be setting you up for a bad day!
Something else I forgot to mention.... I would not suggest eating a lot of the food vended in the conversation center. That stuff will tear you up. It's cheap con food that they charge a fortune for it. Instead, spend some money and get a salad with chicken breast, or something a bit healthier at one of the many restaurants around the center, every year I see someone's disposed pants in a bathroom garbage receptacle. And the cacophony and stench that your assaulted with as you enter some of the bathrooms is truly disgusting
(someone else mentioned this in a previous post... and man are they dead on)
Going to Gen Con on a budget is doable. It all depends on what you can endure as far as comfort
Just be considerate to your fellow gamers and try to keep yourself clean and tidy.
Sleeping four days at a convention is not safe or sanitary. Just don’t do it.
I have to respond to the posts above. If you go to a con by sleeping in the halls and using action wipes, you're doing it wrong. With a little bit of adulting, you can go to the cons and have a good time. I did the number crunching and I could do the con this year for $355 (not including food). This is 3 hours of travel, a hotel with four people out by the airport and splitting the cost of everything except for my $130 worth of tickets. I could even save a few more bucks by only staying 3 nights instead of 4 (~$20).
Save $10 - $20 a week throughout the year and you can do GenCon right. Don't be a "homeless gamer". You'd never go to Disneyland and sleep on the streets just to save a few bucks...
I live in Indy, about a mile from the ICC. I know several people that have a room or a house for rent in AirB&B. A bus ride, Uber, or scooter ride are options, cheaper than parking downtown.
Download both the Bird and Lime apps for the scooters in town. They are fun and a great deal. Bikeshare is good but afternoon in August can be a scorcher here. I bike to th Con but get there early and leave late. Uber and Lyft are available, but I have seen out-of-town cabs that charge over the city approved rates. They come to town for the Con and hold the don 't get caught.
Bring a water bottle and at least snacks if not a lunch. Like any convention center, the food is overpriced. Maybe if I am there on business with an expense account i might not be so frugal. Also pack WetWipes or a wash day and soap. It is amazing the funk you can get on when gaming till 1:30 AM and returning at 9 the next morning.
Have a good Con but visit Indy...Mass Ave or the Slippery Noodle near the ICC.
Krom432, thank you for introducing me to Action Wipes, even if investigating the product has led to me discovering they just discontinued them a few weeks ago due to increasing costs and production times. Definitely tempting to order a pack of this elusive product from Amazon now to see what I was missing, hah.
Qwaserity, I do mostly agree with you, as hotels on the outskirts of town (particularly split a few ways) can be quite cheap, and especially if you are at the airport and take the cheap shuttle in to downtown every day, you could definitely keep your costs low enough that you would think the improvement in quality of life would be worth it. But I can never bring myself to tell someone they are too poor to go to Gen-Con; I mean, would I personally choose to go to this luxury event if I did not have any money? Well...probably not, but boy, I sure would miss it.