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Nightlife: Balance Patch

Boston’s first social video game café comes to West Campus

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Looking to try out the Nintendo Switch or Playstation 4 before dropping over $300 for the console? Are you and your friends hankering to play some Mario Kart on the Nintendo 64? Balance Patch, Boston’s first social video game café, has you covered.

The café opened on West Campus in August, with a goal of creating a fun setting where video game and e-sport fans can come together to pursue the hobby they love. It offers consoles dating back to the Nintendo 64, as well as desktop PCs for competitive games. You can rent consoles and PCs by the hour to play your favorite games, alone or with friends. Curious to get your hands on virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift? You’ll find them here. For group play, rent one of the couches, with all the consoles and a 65” television, in the front of the store for $14 an hour, $24 for two hours. Book PCs and standard consoles starting at $6.50 an hour. There are also two private gaming booths ($30 an hour and up) for players looking to practice in a group setting.

Casual gamers, we wanted to see what the café was like, so we went on a weeknight to try out the gaming setups. We created a customer profile and log-in (players must check in each time they go) at the front desk. You can preload as many hours on your account as you want and they roll over from one visit to another.

We opted for the couch setup so we could use the high-definition television and one of the new Nintendo Switch consoles, which have been hard to find since launching last March. We tried Mario Kart 8, the latest version of the racing game staple, and were blown away by the visuals. We played on a selection of the game’s new and classic raceways, picking the controls up quickly after a few losses to the computer.

Balance Patch holds regular competitions and tournaments for popular games, including League of Legends and Super Smash Bros.

Balance Patch holds regular competitions and tournaments for popular games, including League of Legends and Super Smash Bros.

Balance Patch is a first-rate place to play several games on one visit and a great option for students who want to try their hand at a new release before spending upwards of $60 to buy it. Players who don’t find a game on the store’s list of titles are welcome to bring their own to play. This gives them a chance to revisit old favorites without having to track down discontinued consoles, which can be expensive and hard to find.

During our visit, we found the rear of the shop occupied by a collection of Super Smash Bros. fanatics in the midst of heated in-game battles. Balance Patch offers regular competitions during the week, like Wednesday’s “Fireside Gatherings” and “Thursday Night Fights.” It also regularly hosts tournaments for League of Legends, Super Smash Bros., and more.

Café cofounder and president Peter Lind says that initially he wasn’t sure who would come out to play, but that so far, the café has been attracting quite a range of players, from middle schoolers to college students and beyond. Balance Patch is open daily until 2 a.m. nightly (midnight on Sundays).

While we were playing Mario Kart, two younger kids came over to watch and were eagerly advising us on strategy and cheering us on against the computer. That sense of sharing and community is just what he and his partners hoped to create, Lind says, with like-minded fans coming together and learning from one another.

While the games are the main draw, Balance Patch does sell food—on its small menu are subs, wraps, and paninis ($6.95 each), as well as fries, chips, coffee drinks, sodas, and shakes. We liked the looks of the Noob grinder (pepperoni, salami, ham, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onions, olive oil, and vinegar), but you can also design your own sandwich.

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Balance Patch, 1031 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, is open Monday through Friday, 2 p.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday, noon to 2 a.m., and Sunday, noon to midnight. Prices are hourly and vary based on gaming setup. Find a list of prices here and a list of available games here. Take an MBTA Green Line B trolley to Babcock Street.

This is part of a series featuring Boston nightlife venues of interest to the BU community. If you have any suggestions for places we should feature, leave them in the Comment section below.

 Conor Lenahan can be reached at lenahan@bu.edu.

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