The 2nd Annual Southeast Game Exchange is taking place on Saturday, August 19th, in Greenville, SC. Touting 40 vendors, 6 gaming tournaments, competitive cosplay, and special guest panels lead by well-knowns such as Mira Scarlet & RGT 85 (to name a few), this year promises to be even bigger than last.
I recently asked SEGE creator, Austin Bell, how the convention came about, details about this year’s offerings, and why this is a must-attend event for East Coast gaming enthusiasts. Here’s what he had to say.
SS: Why did you create the Southeast Game Exchange?
Austin Bell (AB): I grew up loving video games and playing them with my brothers. I’ve been to conventions in the area but their focus was not primarily video games. I started looking up those types of conventions and unfortunately, the conventions that focused on games were always too far away and would cost too much to get there. I started throwing around the idea with my family and friends about wanting to start this type of event in our area.
SS: That must’ve been an overwhelming undertaking. How did you get started? What were the big steps you had to take to make the 1st SEGE happen?
AB: It took a lot of planning. Thankfully we started out with a good core team. My sister-in-law handled graphic design, my wife handled logistics and organization, and I took care of promoting, sales, and vendor communications. I spoke with a few trusted vendors and would bounce ideas off them. We then proceeded to look for a venue while also trying to secure our first sponsor.
The biggest step was probably finding the first sponsor. It took a while to convince a company to sponsor an event that had never happened before.
SS: I would guess that sponsors were a big part of making this happen. How did you find sponsors? What was your approach to convince them to help fund this new
AB: Yes, our sponsors were absolutely awesome and we would not have had a successful convention without them. I focused on video game related companies. I met with many of them in person and just shared my vision for what I wanted this convention to be. Thankfully there were some great companies that took a chance on us and because of that the convention surpassed all expectations.
SS: How long did it take from concept to fruition?
AB: I had been thinking about doing something like this for over a year. We finally decided to take the plunge and do this event in the spring of 2016. So, we had about 6 months to get everything together. Thankfully I had a great support team that took a lot of items off my shoulders and allowed me to focus on selling vendor tables and marketing the convention.
SS: How did people find out about SEGE the first year?
AB: We did as much advertising as we could with our shoestring budget. We tried everything we could from Facebook to radio to just handing out flyers.
SS: How many vendors will you have at this year’s event?
AB: We will have around 40 vendors. We have some coming from TN, NC, GA, FL, and even though we are called the Southeast Game Exchange we even have vendors coming as far as Ohio and Missouri.
SS: I saw a list of tournaments on your website. Each said that the winner will receive a trophy and prize pack. Can you give us any hints about the type of items that will be in the prize pack? Or, is that a surprise?
AB: It is a surprise but I can say it will include a custom made, one-of-a-kind trophy!
SS: It looks like you have a wide variety of Cosplayers, YouTube stars, & Speedrunners lined up as special guests. Will they each be conducting a panel or there to give autographs or both?
AB: They will all be on a panel. But will also be walking around, signing autographs, taking pictures, and hanging out with their fans.
SS: You have a cosplay competition. Will any expert cosplayers be judges or will this be judged by yourself and sponsors?
AB: We have some awesome ladies coming to judge our contest this year. Their combined cosplay experience reaches over 15 years. These ladies are very active and well respected in the cosplay community here in the Carolinas.
SS: Why should people attend the Southeast Game Exchange?
AB: Last year, I must admit, the night before I was so nervous. After months of hard work, we were finally here! What if no one shows up? Did I forget anything? What will I tell my vendors? When I turned the corner to tell the front check-in people it was time to start and there was a line of people waiting to get in, I finally could take a real deep breath. Walking around and seeing everyone’s faces, seeing dads and moms showing their kids the games “they grew up with” and watching those same kids try and beat their parents in a tournament, [I knew], this is why we started this convention. [You ask], “Why should people attend SEGE this year?” Because this is an event where age doesn’t matter and people’s passion and excitement for video games can be shared! (End of Interview)
So, what are you waiting for? Dust off that GameCube you don’t play anymore, grab those PS3 games you have duplicates of, and come to buy, sell, and/ or trade at the Hilton Greenville on 8/19.
General Information for SEGE:
Hilton Greenville (SC)
45 W. Orchard Park Drive
Greenville, SC 29615
Saturday, August 19th
Convention hours – 10am-6pm
$5.00 at the door
Kids 10 and under get in for free
Feature Pic: Me (Left), Austin Bell (Right)