Now that GenCon has announced there will be no more sales of four day passes, and probably a very limited number of one day passes left, the chatter has turned to the practice of “ghosting” or coming to the convention without a badge.
There are two kinds of ghosting: one is sneaking into events that require a badge, the other is hanging around in the public areas without a badge for the con. Sneaking into an event is stealing — you are taking something other people paid for. Hanging out in the halls just makes it more crowded.
This is the first year that GenCon has limited attendance. Many people in past years bought four day badges at the con the day of the convention, but this is no longer possible. Buying four one day badges is much more expensive ($270), if they will even be available.
It is prudent for GenCon to limit badges simply because occupancy codes make sure that if there is a problem, no tragedies occur with overcrowded venues. Panicked, running crowds can literally trample people to death — so there are fire codes and other regulations on how many people can be in a building at any time to prevent it from happening.
The other reason to limit badges and attendance is the sheer number of people all trying to do the same thing. Frankly, the vendor hall is already way too crowded, and if there are just too many people no one gets a good chance to demo games or browse the vendor booths. It makes sense for the GenCon organizers to say they have a capacity and they aren’t going over it.
So why not try to get in without a badge and see what you can enjoy?
First of all, there’s little you can do without a badge. You can’t buy tickets to events or participate in most things. They do check badges and ask for ID at the ticket booth.
Secondly, “ghosting” means you are crowding the halls and public areas and making it more uncomfortable for everyone else. It really is crowded at GenCon — and this year it’s going to be wall to wall people who did pay for the con. It also requires more staff to check badges at every access point to events and in the convention center, which just creates more lines and bottlenecks for legitimate attendees.
Trying to get into events without a badge, or with someone else’s badge is stealing. GenCon, and other cons like it, work very hard to organize the event. Badge fees pay for the staff, the programs, the clean up, and everything else that makes the con a fun place to be. If you don’t pay to get in, you are taking advantage of what others paid for to be there.
Edit: The Indiana Convention Center policy is that it must be open to the public, so hanging out in the halls can be done — but please, there are plenty of places to meet outside the con in Indianapolis that aren’t nearly as crowded as the halls at GenCon.
Staff always check badges at paid events, so there’s no point in even trying to get in without a badge. If you are going to try to get in with a badge from past events, they check that, too — if your badge is flipped, for instance, they ask you to turn your badge around and they do scrutinize them carefully (again, making more work for everyone because people try to cheat the system).
For those who do have badges, please keep an eye on them. Sneaking in without a pass is one thing, but stealing someone else’s badge and using it is quite another thing altogether. Let’s face it, it does happen. With the sell-out, if you lose your badge you aren’t going to be able to purchase another one at the con. So be careful!
If you didn’t get a badge, there are still ways to get a pass into the convention center. Volunteer! Vendors and GenCon need people to help out. I am sure there are still opportunities to work. AEG was asking for volunteers for their Big Game Night, for example (you will see me there). As the con gets closer, confirmed volunteers will drop out, and there will be openings. Check out the BoardGameGeek.com GenCon threads, or the GenCon Facebook page, or ask your favorite game publisher if they need people to work for them (you can find a list of all the game publishers attending on BGG). It’s a little more of a commitment, but if you are determined to go, it’s a legitimate way to enjoy the convention and it can be a lot of fun.