It can be hard to stand out in the Atlanta convention scene. The calendar is crowded and ATLiens only have so many free weekends. If you’re going to be successful your event needs to do at least one thing better than everyone else. In its sixth year The Southern Fried Gaming Expo (SFGE) has proved that it’s found a niche and it’s here to stay. My Saturday trip covering the convention floor revealed just why this event has legs.
SFGE uses the word “gaming” in the broadest sense possible. Tabletop, console, arcade, card, and most importantly pinball games are all heavily featured. There’s no talk of one kind of gaming being superior or more favored. If anything SFGE is a showcase of the unity of gamers. Beyond that, there’s a few choice pieces of the SFGE puzzle that are worth mentioning.
Smaller Convention = Closer Friendships
This isn’t unique to SFGE, actually it’s a staple fact convention goers all over know about. Big conventions are fun for the experience, but smaller fests are a better place for lasting friendships.
At SFGE many, (if not most) of the attendees have been there not only multiple years but since year one. The camaraderie is among the thickest I’ve ever experienced at a convention. Nearly constant reunions of friends are happening around the convention floor and in the hotel. Even if it’s your first time there you still feel the energy of those relationships and it’s contagious. I felt like I was in the middle of an arrivals terminal at an airport specifically for like-minded people.
Tabletop: The Secret Sauce of “Southern Fried”
As a Podcast host that focuses mainly on console/mobile gaming, I’m often surrounded by those particular mediums. That’s why I was so thrilled to see much of the SFGE space devoted to other kinds of games. There’s certainly a place for console, and the evening tournaments put those games into stark focus. During the day however I found myself smiling while playing pinball and laughing out loud while learning some new table top games.
Herein lies one of the secret tricks of SFGE. Tabletop games require interaction with other people. You learn the game and meet a new person all at once. This happens on a large gaming area smack in the middle of the action. It’s a sort of “secret sauce” and I saw firsthand how well it was working. The relationships that are fostered at SFGE are stronger because of the tabletop/card games on the floor. I would love to give this credit to console games but I have to be honest. A video game tutorial simply trains you. Learning a table top engages you in a human interaction.
Wildly Entertaining Evening Offerings
Music, dancing, game tournaments, and probably most notably wrestling are among the post-afternoon offerings and all of them are worth at least peeking in on. Many of them are worth staying for. The feeling of being pulled to multiple events in the evening is typically a feeling reserved for larger conventions but I felt it strongly at SFGE.
Simply put, SFGE is the quintessential example what a convention looks like when it’s designed by gamers, for gamers.
Next year in 2020 if you find yourself suffering through another rough southeastern summer, come cool off at SFGE. I can promise you’ll learn at least one new game, and I guarantee you’ll make one new friend.
Nathan is the co-host of the Splash Damage Bros. Podcast and can be found @splashdamagebro and @thenatejc on Twitter. He does take questions.