GEN CON STAFF/ Repeat attendees:
I have never go to GEN CON and I am just a little overwhelmed by this website. What does the badge get me aside from entry, because I see a lot of price tags next to events. So I spend $90 to get in then each individual event has its own price? When I purchase a pass to say Akon, I have access to all events (minus VIP stuff).
Click on the Experience menu above and you'll see a hell of a lot of things that don't carry an additional charge to attend. There are some free events; but, yes, most carry an additional charge of $2 per two hours (but many are more expensive).
I've attended several Gen Cons where I didn't buy any event tickets, but your experience with that will all depend on your preferences.
So what will your badge cover for "free"- All Dealers Hall Demos (enough of these going on to keep you busy the whole weekend), The costume contest, all seminars, Cardhalla (yo can build anything you want using old cards), the Ennie Awards ceremony, Most of the film and Anime Screenings (there aren't a lot listed but will start fill up after the the opening event rush next Sunday).
Most board games and RPGS will run on a $2 for $2 a hour rate but check the prices... some GM's will add some extra cost in to cover extra props, or prizes for the game or just to turn a little prophet. The basic 1$ dollar an hour cost is to cover Gen Con's rentals fees. (the money Gen Con pays out for table, chair, and table coverings)
Other events like True Dungeon or the Escape rooms will charge a larger fee to cover prophets or make a buck.
Origins in Columbus runs on a similar model with the play to pay format. Since thosse are the 2 main conventions I go to I'm kind of used to it.
almost for got.... I think the Dance on Saturday night and the minis paint and take are free as well.
There are also a large number of seminar and panel discussion events that are free. I've enjoyed many of these much more than some of the gaming events that I've paid for.
The Auction is free to watch; a bidding card will cost you $1
Yeah I mean, I have only been to one A-Kon, but this is like comparing apples to 5,000 oranges. You could not pay for a single event at Gen-Con and never run out of things to do. I enjoyed wandering around A-Kon for an afternoon, do not get me wrong, but it is an entirely different bag. You probably could not even see all of the Exhibit Hall and Auction/Auction Store at Gen-Con in a single day (or two) if you actually looked at everything. You will not run out of things to do, particularly if you look at the $0 events. And welcome! :)
Edit: I also had a thought I hope you will find delightful; as someone for whom Gen-Con is his default idea of a convention, it never occurred to me that I might be able to go to an event at A-Kon, so I think back to the fascinating-looking events going on in rooms I walked past, never understanding I could have just joined in! Oh well.