The Crack of a Bat, the Wail of Guitar Hero. Wait, What?

By Mike Musgrove
Sunday, June 29, 2008

Capitol Hill resident Patrick Lavigne gets his family to Nationals games early. The idea, originally, was that they'd be spending that pregame time trying to get autographs or heckling and cheering players during batting practice.

"I thought that was half the fun," he said.

The last thing he expected was that he'd be spending time watching his son play a video game.

"I guess we've lost a little," he added as his 10-year-old took a turn at the racing game Gran Turismo 5 Prologue.

It's almost game time, as the real-world Washington Nationals get ready to play the real-world Texas Rangers. But in the stadium's free video game room, a few kids are trying to finish one last round of the PlayStation 3 baseball title MLB 08: The Show.

Boom! There go the fireworks outside, meaning that the young gamers and their dads are missing the national anthem. Ian Maddock, who is also waiting while his son plays, finally drags 10-year-old Austin off to their seats.

Another game day. One 20-something guy is holding the beers as his friends, in matching Nats jerseys, fake-rock against each other over at the Guitar Hero booth.

One of the jersey wearers asks his buddies something, but with the roar from all the video games, it's loud in here.

"What?" asks the one holding the beers. "The game? It's already started. Oh. It starts at 7:30?"

For some fans who come to Nationals Park early, a pregame stop at the PlayStation Pavilion, where Sony showcases some of the latest titles for its video game system, has turned into part of the new tradition. The Maddocks usually come 90 minutes early, and about 15 of those minutes are usually spent here.

The space, not far from the stadium's main entrance, can get crowded an hour or so before the game starts. After that, it mostly clears out -- except during blowouts or bad weather. "It gets crazy during rain delays," said booth manager Quay Rosengarth.

Some ticket holders, naturally, are a little baffled when they first lay eyes on the TV- and game-filled 3,700-foot space as they make their way to their seats. On a recent weeknight, Kate Coughlin, a 20-year-old student from New York City, shared a derisive chuckle with her friends as they strolled past the space. "Who plays video games at a baseball game?" she asked.

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