Date: 20th-22nd August, 2021
Location: Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel & Convention Center, 2450 Galleria Pkwy, Atlanta, GA 30339, USA

After going ‘virtual’ in 2020 due to local government concerns about the spread of COVID 19, the eighth annual Southern-Fried Gaming Expo was held ‘in person’ at the Marriott Renaissance Waverly Hotel and Convention Center Atlanta near the Cobb Galleria Shopping Center.

The SFGE 2021 logo was inspired by the mythic Phoenix bird rising from the ashes. Supposedly it was based on the Williams Phoenix backglass art, but I wasn’t able to see the resemblance. Event T-shirts and other merchandise with this show logo were available for purchase and the t-shirts were printed with glow in the dark ink. Shirts and other merchandise were completely sold out at the show but the organizers plan to make them available in the SFGE online store as soon as they are able to be restocked.

As with similar shows, the SFGE was a 3-day event, opening to the public on Friday, August 20th, and concluding on Sunday, August 22nd. There was a full slate of seminars, tournaments, a film festival, cosplay, vendor presentations, auctions, stand-up comedy, corn hole tournaments, live wrestling, an ’80s prom (with live music), live wrestling matches, and much more.

The SFGE organizers went to considerable effort to ensure that attendees could easily find show events that they wished to attend. Daily schedules were posted outside of each breakout room and the full schedules were available on the event website and an event app available for iOS and Android. Key event staff were equipped with two-way radios which allowed a quick response to any show technical difficulties.

SFGE covers a broad spectrum of gaming – board games, role-playing games, video games (console as well as arcade), and of course pinball in its many and diverse forms. There were tournaments for all of the above-mentioned gaming types, as well as opportunities for ‘free play’ among the participants.

The table-top gaming area
The table-top gaming area
Some of the table-top games
Some of the table-top games
When it comes to table top games, Do or do not. There is no try.
When it comes to table top games, do or do not. There is no try.
Playing some of the table-top games
Playing some of the table-top games

I will focus in this report on the arcade and pinball-related events. There are other reports covering board gaming, etc. available on places such as YouTube.

At the 2021 SFGE, there were an estimated 200 pinball games and commercial video games in the Arcade area as well as pin games provided by the major distributors and game manufacturers.

Some of the pinballs at SFGE 2021
Some of the pinballs at SFGE 2021
More pinballs at SFGE 2021
More pinballs at SFGE 2021
Some older pinballs
Some older pinballs
More pinballs
More pinballs
A rare Roy Clarke: The Entertainer pinball
A rare Roy Clark: The Entertainer pinball
An Atlanta Falcons rethemed Striker Xtreme
An Atlanta Falcons rethemed Striker Xtreme

An interesting highlight was the dozen or so Japanese ‘Candy Cab’ video arcade games provided by the Wedoca company to the rear and left of the Arcade Hall. I had never seen these titles or the style of cabinet that they were enclosed in so I cannot comment other than they were there and available to play by attendees.

The Wedoca stand
The Wedoca stand
Some of the Candy Cabs
Some of the Candy Cabs
Blast City from Sega
Blast City from Sega
More Candy Cabs
More Candy Cabs

Marco Specialties was once again on hand occupying a large section of the Hall D floorspace.

The Marco Specialties stand
The Marco Specialties stand

Marco had several of the most recent Stern releases available to play including The Mandalorian, Led Zeppelin, The Avengers: Infinity Quest, and so on.

Strangely, no "This is the way" signage
Strangely, no “This is the way” signage
Stern Pinball's The Mandalorian
Stern Pinball’s The Mandalorian
Some of the latest Stern Pinball titles
Some of the recent Stern Pinball titles
Guardians of the Galaxy, Stranger Things and The Avengers
Guardians of the Galaxy, Stranger Things and The Avengers

Marco also had technicians on hand to lend assistance to games that might need attention or to answer questions. Marco partnered with Classic Game Rooms to provide a great gaming experience for all attendees.

Spooky Pinball was on hand with two current production examples each of Halloween and Ultraman games available to enjoy. The queues were quite long for a chance to play these titles.

The Spooky Pinball stand
The Spooky Pinball stand
Spooky Pinball's stand
Spooky Pinball’s stand
Halloween from Spooky Pinball
Halloween from Spooky Pinball

American Pinball was in attendance featuring their Hot Wheels title, but singular examples of Oktoberfest: Pinball on Tap and Houdini were also available for free play.

American Pinball's Hot Wheels game
American Pinball’s Hot Wheels game

Hall D was also the home of the vendor and flea market area with virtually anything and everything gaming-related from wearables, console games, parts, and accessories.

Some of the vendor stands in Hall D
Some of the vendor stands in Hall D
More of the vendor stands in Hall D
More of the vendor stands in Hall D

To the rear of Hall D, opposite the Marco ‘Pinball Alley’ was a space dedicated to local gaming clubs and organizations. Fellowship of the Silver Ball, Paranoia Pinball, Carolina Game Lab, The Basement Arcade, and others were represented.

Some of the local organizations represented at the show
Some of the local organizations represented at the show
More of the local organizations represented at the show
More of the local organizations represented at the show
More of the local organizations represented at the show
More of the local organizations represented at the show

Grand Ballroom II was host to the Pinball tournaments – at the time that I visited, a tournament was about to begin and the organizers were busy checking in players. We hope that the organizers will publish the winners on their website.

Grand Ballroom III was the location of the Atlanta Wrestling Entertainment show which I was not able to attend due to covering the Chicago Gaming presentation. Certain attendees who will remain anonymous suggested that there be a tag-team wrestling match among pinball company CEOs. Perhaps this will be added to the program in 2022 with the proceeds going to Project Pinball or another worthy non-profit.

Grand Ballroom IV featured the sprawling Vintage Computer Festival Southeast where nearly all mass-produced personal computers since the Altair 8800 were on display and available for use, along with examples of IBM’s ‘Midrange’ medium-sized multi-user computer line.

Several seldom-seen personal computers such as the Apple Lisa and TI99/4 were available for hands-on exploration. An early magnetic disk drive about the size of a small carry on suitcase and having a whopping 20MB storage capacity was displayed with a clear casing which showed the platters and heads of the device when in operation.

One of the vintage computing exhibits at the show
One of the vintage computing exhibits at the show
More classic computer gaming
More classic computer gaming
More classic computer gaming
More classic computer gaming

It was expected that Chicago Gaming would reveal their Cactus Canyon remake at the SFGE. Delays in shipping certain components and an unfortunate delay in final licensing approval from WMS owner Scientific Games caused this plan to be scrapped the Monday before the opening of SFGE.

Instead, Chicago Gaming’s Ryan White gave a presentation about what little he was able to reveal about the game without going into detail. I found it interesting that Chicago Gaming worked with some of the original Bally/Williams design team to add features that will make it more like the game the original design team wanted it to be.

Ryan White at the Southern-Fried Gaming Expo 2021
Ryan White at the Southern-Fried Gaming Expo 2021

Ryan discussed the new organizational structure at Chicago Gaming with two full-time project managers, which will allow multiple games to be developed concurrently. Ryan also mentioned Chicago Gaming’s plans for another production run of Medieval Madness remakes in 2023. Chicago Gaming’s new pinball operating system software, planned to be included in new pinball titles, was mentioned. Among other things, the new operating system allows the addition of software to incorporate a mini-game using the Cactus Canyon remake’s interactive topper.

The complete Chicago Gaming presentation can be viewed on the Pinball News Website, on the Pinball News YouTube channel or right here.

The SFGE had convenient shops to grab a snack or to quench your thirst. Show partner Monster Energy had a display set up in a corner of the Garden Court where they handed out complementary samples of their beverage products.

There were a few food vendors in the area to the right of Hall D. A gourmet frozen dessert vendor was set up in the rear of the table gaming area. This was a perfect respite from the 90°F-plus Atlanta weather. Of course, the Renaissance Waverly Hotel and the Cobb Galleria had bar, fine dining, and casual dining choices available just off of the hotel lobby.

Adult-oriented entertainment was provided by 1 UP Comedy and the Super Fantastic Funtime Game Show.

Friday there was a world premiere screening of the short film The Ballard of Pinball Petty which can now be viewed on YouTube or right here.

The ever-popular Sunday Morning Cartoons were shown at 8 am interestingly enough on Sunday morning.

SFGE again hosted the second annual HOTlanta Extreme Eating Challenge. The winner would be the person who could consume the most progressively hotter and spicier peppers, chicken wings, and hot sauce until a single contestant remains. The winner received $100 in cash, an SFGE 2022 all-access pass, and a package of SFGE swag and merchandise.

Overall the SFGE was a very pleasurable show to attend – it boasted a diverse array of new as well as classic pinball games spanning decades available to play in the Arcade area. I was impressed by the good condition of the games, and that what I would consider some hard-to-find if not rare games were available for attendees to play.

It is expected that the SFGE organizers have 2022 SFGE ‘all access’ passes available at a discounted price shortly. Check on the event website for purchase details.

Sincere thanks to co-organizers Preston Burt, Shannon DeWitt, and Patrick Wall as well as their army of volunteers for their hard work and labor of love putting on the SFGE for the past eight years. Personal thanks to Preston Burt for his assistance in covering the SFGE which was invaluable.

Southern Fried Gaming Expo offers much for a small daily admission price. I would suggest that you put it on your calendar to attend on July 15th-17th, 2022.

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One Comment

  1. M.G. Brown

    27th August, 2021 at 11:49pm

    Those wishing more information about Japanese “candy cab” games can look here:

    https://www.nintendolife.com/news/2018/04/feature_exploring_japans_undying_love_for_arcade_candy_cabinets

    Reply

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