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Controller Freak

Chad Sapieha leads you deep into the world of games, covering gaming trends

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Chad Sapieha, pictured here in 2008, describes the readership of the Controller Freak blog as ‘passionate and mature.’ (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Chad Sapieha, pictured here in 2008, describes the readership of the Controller Freak blog as ‘passionate and mature.’ (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

The Controller Freak signs off Add to ...

I've written hundreds of posts for this blog. I've chatted with game gurus from Tetris' Alexey Pajitnov to Nintendo's Reggie Fils-Aime, filed bleary eyed pieces covering industry events in far-off cities, offered my two cents in reviews of countless games, and attempted to bring attention to important stories ranging from the inclusion of gay characters in games to the trials and tribulations of independent Canadian developers.

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But now, as I compose one final Controller Freak post before moving on to a new opportunity in Canadian games journalism, I find most of my strongest memories stem from my interactions with you, the readers.

As a rule of thumb, most reporters maintain a distance from their readers. They tend not to become involved in reader discussions, preferring instead to cultivate an image of dispassionate objectivity. That was me before Controller Freak.

I quickly learned blogs are a different beast. Their nature – the sharing of personal opinion – encourages active engagement between authors and readers. I've found some of the most interesting conversations on these pages have taken place not in my posts but instead the comments section, where my ideas were frequently taken in new and unpredictable directions.

One of the most compelling reader discussions in which I became involved took place alongside a short essay suggesting that games will never have the staying power of other media. Readers flooded the comments section with powerful, well-written arguments refuting my claim. I thanked these readers for taking the time to write back, and challenged them with rebuttals of my own. And while I'm not sure any of us were dissuaded from our original positions, I was nonetheless humbled that what I'd written had stirred up such a passionate and mature dialogue among Canadian gamers.

Passionate and mature. Those words do a great job of describing the people who have read and taken the time to comment on this blog. Controller Freak readers have repeatedly displayed a knowledge of and love for games that proves to me this electronic medium we all enjoy is more than just entertainment, that it can mean something to us on a deeply human and emotional level.

In early 2009, when I was about to undergo a scary surgery and found myself using this blog to wax nostalgic on some of the best games I'd played up until that point, I received several e-mails from regular readers wishing me luck. One of them was from a fellow who said he once spent his time recovering from a severe illness that kept him laid up for weeks by playing old Japanese RPGs, which created a way for him to escape his bed for several hours each day.

It wasn't long before I understood just what he was talking about.

As I lay in bed with 42 staples running like train tracks from one side of my gut to the other, hardly able to move, I booted up a new release called Flower (mostly because it was a downloadable game that didn't require me to get up and insert a disc). I suddenly found myself in the role of a petal, floating through the air on a gentle breeze. I forgot my discomfort in moments, lost in a magical world of colour and wind. I played for hours that day, and came back to the game frequently over the next two weeks. I'll never forget Flower. Or the reader who e-mailed to tell me about the restorative power of games.

And so, as Controller Freak's run comes to a close in the Globe and Mail, I'm not thinking so much of the stories I won't be writing here, but the readers with whom I've found a connection via our shared interest in games. I'd like to say thanks to everyone who has ever commented on this blog or sent me e-mails. I'm grateful that you've taken the time to read my words, and I've enjoyed reading yours.

And I hope to hear from you again. It's too early to say what I'm working on next, but you're sure to find out if you follow me on Twitter @chadsapieha.

Follow on Twitter: @chadsapieha

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