Southern-Fried Gaming Expo 2023: Exploring "Georgia's Largest Arcade"

Photo of two adults in colorful, 80s themed clothing playing vintage and retro arcade games.
Photo ©2022 Juan Jusino

I spent this past weekend, July 28th-30th, at Southern-Fried Gaming Expo, Atlanta's most underrated gaming convention, and wow, it did not disappoint. SFGE is:

Atlanta's homegrown fan convention focused entirely on gaming, Southern-Fried Gaming Expo (SFGE) is a family-friendly event celebrating the history and modern-day cultural impact of arcade games, pinball machines, tabletop & RPG gaming, and video games. With over 150,000 square feet of exhibit space, Attendees can enjoy over 500 arcade, pinball machines, and video game consoles on free play, which for one weekend creates "Georgia's Largest Arcade." SFGE is pleased to host additional areas of interest including celebrity guests, vendors and exhibitors, and to foster a spirit of friendly competition with a new focus on tournaments and esports. (


 This year (actually, this week!) I'm turning 36, and the Southern-Fried Gaming Expo couldn't have revealed itself to me at a more perfect time. I went to MomoCon earlier this year and while I had a lot of fun, I also felt like I was a lot older than most of the other people there. Admittedly, I don't watch anime very much anymore and my main focus when attending conventions is gaming-related activities. Enter Southern-Fried Gaming Expo, a convention that has already been running for a decade but that I have only just discovered. This is a convention made specifically for people like me -- older and younger gamers alike who are into gaming more than anything else. At SFGE I was surrounded by thousands of games and thousands of gamers. I finally felt like I was home. 

There were so many things to do at SFGE that it was impossible for me to experience everything, but I feel like I got to do a good variety of activities. Here's a rundown of all the things I got to do while I was at Southern-Fried Gaming Expo.

The very first thing I did when I arrived, before I even picked up my badge and became an official attendee of the con, was to pass the table of Samantha Kelly, current voice actor of Princess Peach and Toad in the Super Mario franchise. When I realized that she was alone and there was no line to talk to her I did a huge double take and went back to say hi! I then proceeded to bombard her with pictures of my dog, whose name is Princess Peach, and she graciously looked at them and made the appropriate "aww" sounds. 

After picking up my badge and gaining my bearings in the tabletop gaming area, I headed over to the Cosplay Contest. I wasn't an entrant this year (click here if you do want to see one time I entered a costume contest) so it was fun to sit back and see all the incredible gaming-themed costumes. The awards were given to the following cosplayers:

  • Best Kids Costume: Benjamin as Pyro from Team Fortress
  • Judge's Choice #1: Snapdragon as Manny Calavera from Grim Fandango
  • Judge's Choice #2: Emily as Zelda from Tears of the Kingdom
  • Best Group: Kay and Bill as characters from Arcane: League of Legends
  • Best in Show: group from the Ragnarök franchise

Photo of group of cosplay contest winners onstage, with the judges on either side of the winners.
Photo ©2023 Kirsten Rodning

After the cosplay contest was over, I finally had some time to check out the vast, seemingly limitless space that held the arcade games, pinball machines, and exhibitors. I rushed straight to the Project Pinball Charity booth because I had heard that they were demoing a new disability accessible controller for pinball machines, created by Inclusive GameWerks. I got to play a Jurassic Park pinball machine without having to stand up from my wheelchair, which was really impressive! Most of the other pinball and arcade games I played required me to be standing, which of course took a toll on my chronically ill body. It was really refreshing to be able to sit down and still successfully play some pinball. Check out my Instagram posts for more on this experience.

After this point, I finally was able to just pick a few pinball and arcade games and play. Some of my favorites that I checked out included a Spaceballs homebrew machine made by John Marsh, some seriously old pinball machines from the 1930s that were provided by the people at History of Pinball (who knew such cool games existed when my grandparents were kids?!), and a Mandalorian pinball machine! I also checked out some booths that were selling games and found a few that I needed for my collection: Clue and Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? on Sega Genesis. 

If you're interested in attending Southern-Fried Gaming Expo in future years, you can follow them on Facebook or Instagram to stay up-to-date on announcements. 

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