Here is the current issue with the KID wristband system at Gen Con.
As a parent bringing my 7-year-old child, the value of my badge is already lowered as I will not be able to participate as fully in the GenCon experience anyway. Ah well, such is the life of a parent.
However, at least I don't have to buy a badge for the child. That also makes some sense as they won't be a "full" attendee either.
Hrm, the KIDs events tend to have a pretty high $$. I'm OK with that, seems fair enough as I don't have to buy a badge for the child. Instead, I am paying a la carte.
Gee, there are a couple of events I would love to bring my child to. Maybe Catan Jr. Maybe the animation shorts exhibition. I would sure like to check out the game library. But are those things really worth the $60-$75 day pass to sign up for a single 1-hour event? I guess not. Framed that way it seems ridiculous, given that they are entering the event for free.
I don't understand why certain events are not labeled as kid events when they clearly are kid events. Because you have this "kids are free but they are not" system, I am left with this clearly overpriced choice. If kids simply weren't free (maybe have a reduced ticket price instead!?), I wouldn't feel this way. If kids events were all labeled with the KID category, I wouldn't feel this way.
I have never been to Gen Con. I don't know how it works out "in practice." I guess I could buy "generic" tickets and hope things will work out with flexible exhibitors. But the experience on the front end is very off-putting.
Last year was the first year that a wristband allowed you to buy any event tickets at all for a child. Prior to that a full badge was needed even for KID events. In other words things have been moving in a direction that favors families with young children in that way.
As far as categorization KID events all happen in one place, this year it looks like that is Wabash 1-3. Events in that location have Gen Con staff for that specific area available. Events outside of there might accept kids but are not part of the KID track. I'll have an 8yo and a 9yo at those events for a large portion of the con this year.
If you are looking at one day to buy a badge for your child I would go for Sunday since those badges are only $15.
Many events, like Catan Jr, are age-appropriate for younger kids but are not part of the KID track/programming and therefore require a full-badge. I'm pretty sure that Event Organizers, when they submit events, request categories for their events so you might consider reaching out to the event organizers (like Catan Studio) to see if they would bring some events to the KID track that you wish were available. The Gaming Group/Host is listed on the event descriptions and you can sometimes find an email address for more information further down the event description.
I admire you for bringing your young children to Gen Con - not something I would ever have done. I started bringing my son when he was 14 - old enough to explore the con on his own. Juggling a young child with the crowds and the costs and the etc, etc. was certainly more than I was willing to handle. You, my friend, are a TRUE ADVENTURER. I salute you! :)
In the past I have had no issues bringing my wristband kids with me to the board game area. I get the weekend pass and we try get there at least an hour or two each day.
There are also lots of games they can play in the dealer hall that don't require a full badge.
The problem the OP has is with ticketed events outside the dealer hall.
All games & demos in the dealer hall are free. Whether they are age-appropriate is a different issue.The problem the OP has is with ticketed events outside the dealer hall.
My OP is meant as constructive feedback for the GenCon organizers to hear about my experience up front. I certainly appreciate that they are trying to make the event financially accessible for families including KID activities for 6-12 crowd without a full event pass. But my experience with event sign-up has prepped me for an experience of a less-than-full attendee where I will be questioned/prevented from doing things with my son, even if age appropriate. I hope that isn't the case, of course, I just don't know what to expect after being repeatedly told I cannot sign up for X because he doesn't have an event pass.
If you want the child to participate in a non-KID event then they will need a badge for the day that event takes place.
The age appropriate category for an event is just an indicator of what the game organizer wants the age of their players to be. Sometimes the content is not appropriate for kids and sometimes organizers want their attendees to just be a certain age to participate. If it is not a KID event it lets you know that it is an appropriate event for a child with a badge.
The wristband allows you entry to the exhibit hall and all other open spaces at the convention such as the event hall and all public areas at the convention as well as all KID events.
Customer Service & Event Team Manager
Gen Con LLC
This year is my first time bringing my kids, and (once I eventually grokked when faced with error after error trying to sign up for events that "KIDS" is an separate event category rather than simply being an all-ages or age-capped regular event) something that has struck me about the KIDS events:
They are ALL age-capped at 12, having the unintended consequence of making it impossible to play a ticketed game together with your children without getting full badges for everyone. Opting-into the KIDS track effectively prevents parents and their children from participating side-by-side.
A parent is thus faced with the bad options of being reduced to spectator while the kids are doing their thing (as these events are not drop-off/child-care things) or having to multiply their badge expenditures to cover the children for the privilege being able to co-participate in all-ages events.
While the free-wristbands/KIDS thing is no doubt well intended, this is something of a critical flaw. Frankly, I don't need to truck my daughters across two states and pay for the privilege of watching them do a craft or play a game. What I was hoping for was to be able to be a player alongside with my girls, rather than Dad always being the GM. That is an opportunity that an event like this could provide, but as implemented is only possible if you're paying full fare for everyone. I respect that GenCon needs to avoid having free kids push full-price attendees out of seats, but this approach is short-circuiting participation as a family.
If all these dynamics were clear up-front, I might have budgeted for at least one day of full-badge for the kids (I probably have enough set aside to badge them on Sunday if I tighten up our shopping and meal expenses). However, there is no reference to any of this on the "Get A Badge" page where the wristbands are described. All it says there is "Children ages 10 and under are free but must be accompanied by a Parent or Guardian with a valid Gen Con badge."
The "Policies and Show Info" and "ToS" docs don't acknowledge kids with wristbands being able to register for any ticketed events, and where the FAQ does talk about it, it doesn't make clear that a "KID" event is not simply an all-ages or youth-aged event. The mention in the FAQ certainly gives no indication that no ticketed events are open to both banded children and their badged parents.
I can accept that my ignorance is ultimately my responsibility, as is my vacation budget, but for everyone's benefit - there should be a brief summary and a link to a more detailed explanation on the Get a Badge page. It is currently misleading, and none of the current policy/ToS/FAQ docs fully or accurately describe the situation as it currently stands.
WRT the KIDS events themselves, they're heavy on crafts and light on games. More troubling is that there are things like the Shake-Ups concert (minimum age 6+) that require full badges. I can't imagine that anyone intended to exclude banded children from attending that show, but as as of this writing they've only sold 29/350 available tickets. This dynamic is not really serving any of the involved parties here.
I don't doubt that we're going to have a good time and that the girls will have an amazing experience, but it will be less great than it could have been had these dynamics been better communicated or implemented with fewer unintended consequences.
For the parent/child RPG games you want, I'm sure they could create relax the 12 & under restriction on KID events for things like that. In that case though, anyone over 12 would have be a parent/caregiver/whatever to one or more of the kids playing in the event. Then, you'd need to find people to run those events, which might have a decent demand, since I'm sure you're not the only person who would like to play a game with your kids. All the KID events seem to be run by a group called "Motley Kids"; suggest it to them and see what they say.
I have also corresponded with a publisher I've GM'd for in the past about putting together a youth track in their line-up for next year. I'd be back to GM Dad duty, but at least we'd get to do things together.
I'll start with a suggestion. Play demos and games with your kids in the event hall. Their wristbands will get them into the hall and nothing inside the hall requires a ticket.
It looks like when Gen Con made the change to allow KID events to be registered with wristbands they did not update all of the documentation which, I agree, is an issue. Prior to last year a kids' wristband got the child into the con but did not allow them to register for any events at all. Reading your post it really seems like you would have preferred that.
I am bringing my 2 kids who will both only have wristbands this year. I think it is great that there are events that they can participate in without me having to buy them a full badge. The way I look at it the events that they can get into are things to keep them entertained and having fun at the con. If they wanted to do full-on gaming it makes sense that they would need to pay for a badge which helps pay for the event space and staff needed for the con to run.