Disclaimer: We were provided free passes courtesy of SFGE. All opinions expressed are 100% our own.
Celeste and I try to hit up as many conventions as we can in and around the Atlanta area. This past Saturday, we got the opportunity to check out the Southern-Fried Gameroom Expo, held at the lovely Renaissance-Waverly Hotel (the home of Anime Weekend Atlanta) from June 10-12. The SFGE is a little different from the usual conventions we’ve hit up in the past in that it is, first and foremost, a gaming convention. I’m not the world’s most hardcore gamer, especially since tabletop RPGs have sort of elbowed them out of my heart to make room for themselves, but I still look back fondly on my days as a dedicated player.
Hundreds of arcade games were on display and free to play when we visited SFGE. The main show floor felt very reminiscent of the mysterious, dimly-lit arcades of my youth. Back then, before the spread of the internet and the rise of the nerd community, arcade halls like that were a sort of mecca for gamers and geeks of all shapes and sizes, so the feelings of nostalgia are very strong with me. In this age where arcades have almost completely disappeared from the collective consciousness, it was nice to reconnect with those feelings, even if it was only for a little while.
Pinball had a very strong representation at SFGE- I would wager that more than half of the machines we saw were pinball, with only a few repeats of the same model. There were quite a few Ghostbusters machines, shiny and new from what I understand, gathered for the purposes of a tournament for which I was absolutely not qualified.
I’m no pinball wizard by any stretch of the imagination, but I do enjoy a good round or two from time to time. In fact, while touring the halls, one pinball machine in particular caught my eye: an old foe from days long past had risen from the depths, seeking revenge…
A grueling grudge match with Roland Emmerich’s late-nineties imposter monster ensued. Alas, my pinball skills are a bit rusty, and GINO, with some help from conspirators Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno, won the day. I intend to lick my wounds by rewatching a particular scene from Godzilla: Final Wars on repeat until I’m satisfied.
We stumbled across some of my favorite classic games, including Ghosts ‘n Goblins and Shadow Dancer, and Celeste and I got in quite a few rounds of Tekken 4 while we were at it. It definitely scratched my itch for some retro gaming, but I was surprised there weren’t more fighting games on display, considering how competitive a scene Atlanta has. Sure, there were a few MAME Arcade cabinets set up running some iteration of Street Fighter III or another and a Mortal Kombat 3 machine, but not a single Neo-Geo in sight! Word to whoever provides the arcade cabinets for next year’s expo: I want to see some Fatal Fury and Metal Slug in there! SNK represent!
Other Atlanta conventions like DragonCon, Momocon, and AWA feature extensive dealer’s rooms and Artist’s Alleys, but that was not the case here at SFGE. There were a few vendors set up, but nothing too elaborate. A tabletop gaming area was also provided, though there was not a whole lot going on there when we checked it out; we might have simply missed the busy period.
There was more going on at SFGE than just games, of course. An assortment of films were screened, including a number of gaming-related documentaries, but the highlight for me (considering I missed the actual showing) would have to be The Last Starfighter- a movie I loved as a kid and had nearly forgotten until it was brought up (over and over again) in Ernest Cline’s novels. Lance Guest, Alex Rogan himself, was scheduled to appear for a Q&A as well. That’s pretty awesome!
I was somewhat disheartened to learn that there was a wrestling show on Friday night. I can’t keep missing these wrestling shows at conventions- I couldn’t get in to see DragonCon Wrestling last year, and now SFGE sneaks one past me. There is no justice in this world!
There was not a whole lot of cosplay going on at SFGE, despite there being a Costume Contest that night. I did spot an adorable Pac-Man and a few solid Final Fantasy cosplayers, but something tells me most people attending SFGE were there to play some games- an activity best done without thirty pounds of costume weighing one down.
So, the question begs- was SFGE fun? Absolutely. Considering the number of games available, there should be something there for anyone who considers themselves a gamer, old-school or new. If you’re into that classic style of stand-up gaming, pinball in particular, you’d be out of your mind not to make time for this expo