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Marc Mandeltort Distinguished Gamer Award

Southern-Fried Gaming Expo is humbled to present a recurring yearly award honoring our friend and colleague, the late Marc Mandeltort.  Marc was the founder of Marco Specialties, Inc., one of the earliest supporters of SFGE whose life’s work revolved around preserving pinball and making it accessible to everyone. If you have ever had the opportunity to speak with Marc you were lucky enough to hear his passion about the industry, the supportive community, and the game itself. Always one to give above and beyond, his passion was always felt every year as a proud sponsor of the Southern-Fried Gaming Expo.

More about Mark from the Company Website:

For Marc, pinball machines were kinetic art that needed to be preserved for future generations to discover and enjoy.  To achieve this mission, Marc dedicated his life to building a sustainable company that ultimately enabled dozens of people to directly build pinball careers, inspired thousands more to fix games, and saved countless games from the landfill.

In the early days of Marco, he would often spend hours swapping pinball stories with customers. Every game was a world of nested stories ranging from the design and gameplay itself to the politics and popular culture of its time. Most of all, Marc loved nothing more than finally locating an obscure part that brought a pinball machine back to life and sharing it with the community at large. 

The Marc Mandeltort Distinguished Gamer Award has been created to recognize an individual with a similar passion for gaming and who supports others in the gaming community. The winner of this award must have a passion for helping others and for sharing their gaming knowledge through words, actions, and social presence. We are seeking nominations for this individual. If you know someone who you feel meets this standard, please use the form below to submit them for consideration.

Marc Mandeltort Distinguished Gamer Award 2024

Your Information

Name

Nominee

Name
Please describe why this individual deserves to to be honored by SFGE.
Please describe one or more instance(s) that shows how this individual shared their passion about gaming with the regional gaming (pinball/arcade/console/tabletop) community.

Congratulations to 2023 Mandeltort Distinguished Gamer Award Recipient – Al Warner

Al Warner holding his Marc Mandeltort Distinguished Gamer Award trophy with Marco Specialties staff

2023 Proclamation Speech 

The Marc Mandeltort Distinguished Gamer Award has been created to honor the legacy of our friend and beloved founder of Marco Specialties, one of the earliest supporters of both SFGE and the pinball community as a whole to recognize an individual with a similar passion for gaming and who supports others in the gaming community. There are halls of fame and there are awards for game designers, but we wanted to establish an award to celebrate those unsung heroes of the hobby. The winner of this award must have a passion for helping others and for sharing their gaming knowledge through words and actions across a local community and beyond.

Those are tough requirements to meet. We received many nominations for this years’ award, but one name stood out from the rest and was nominated time and again.

Despite what you see around you today, there was a time when pinballs and arcade games were not as celebrated as they are here at SFGE. For a time there, there was only one pinball manufacturer left, barely eking out an existence, the typical mall arcade was absolutely dead, and it looked like those fun machines and memories would be a thing of the past. For a time, it fell on those who loved and cherished these games to document, collect, restore, share their knowledge and passion with others to keep the torch burning

This individual has been a staple of the Atlanta pinball community since the early 2000’s and has dedicated much of that time to helping the pinball community grow as a whole. Between cultivating a killer collection, creating his own website to share and document his knowledge, establishing what could be considered the first-ever pinball podcast, and educating others on repair and maintenance, you’d think he’d hardly have time to spare. But he did.

This individual further spent his efforts on establishing a still-running email listserv to connect local and regional collectors together virtually, building the necessary network to reignite what had been dying embers of a hobby. Growth of the community may have been slow, but still he persevered.

Before YouTube allowed anyone with a phone to share content, our nominee went to great lengths to film, edit, and package DVDs with some of the only pinball content available at the time. Opening his home to strangers was not uncommon for our nominee, and he was often one of the first people in the hobby to welcome someone new in the community by opening his stellar basement arcade. 

In fact, by volunteering as one of the original hosts and organizers of the Atlanta Pinball League, you could say that this person’s actions and generosity had a direct hand in what would lead to the creation of the Southern-Fried Gaming Expo.

Some might say that you’d have to be superhuman to do all of these things. Though he may not technically be a superhero, this person certainly has a super POWER….

Friendship.

While doing all of these things, what he was really doing was making friends, building others up–without seeking anything in return.

Those who nominate this person stated:

“He has never said no to any request for help and has never hesitated to offer his time and knowledge to anyone who needs it. He has willingly offered to help move machines, given time and spare materials, and even was instrumental in completing the daunting task of understanding the Ikea instructions for a new game. A tremendous friend, I have rarely met anyone as welcoming and encouraging as he and I am truly honored to count him as a part of our family.”

Personally, he’s been gracious with his time, and always willing to help. He’s literally the kind of friend you can call on to help you move a piano on short notice. Who does that? This man.

Even at SFGE, I don’t know if he takes time for himself to enjoy the event because he’s so busy making sure everyone else is able to.

My favorite nomination includes this observation:

“He has always been, and continues to be a great resource and an asset to our community and while I can think of several other worthy recipients I don’t know that they would even be in the conversation if Al had not been Al”

I think it’s fair to say that without this kind, humble, and generous friend, the gaming landscape we know and love here in Atlanta today would simply not exist without him. 

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2023 Marc Mandeltort Distinguished Gamer Award Recipient…Mister Al Warner.

-As Awarded by Southern-Fried Gaming Expo Co-Founder Preston Burt (July 29, 2023)

SFGE Co-Founder Preston Burt hands Al Warner his 2023 Marc Mandeltort Distinguished Gamer Award trophy