It was in the Teller Arms Shopping Center on North Avenue in Grand Junction, Colorado where 11-year–old Rich Cowden’s life was changed forever. Pedaling down the street on his BMX bike after delivering newspapers with his friend, Jeff, the two were stopped in their tracks by a “coming soon” sign.
“When we peered through the glass, we saw it in all its glory – Donkey Kong. We had no idea what it was, but as Atari vets who loved everything from Pong to Missile Command, we knew it was gonna be amazing. And it was,” Cowden said.
The arcade was called “Electric Ice,”(,) in part because it also doubled as an ice cream parlor; the perfect combo to deplete 11-year-olds of their quarter stash.
Fast-forward to present-day Cowden, and his fondness for gaming is still there and has passed to his children; although he’s not a fan of every type of game.
“As for sports games, I enjoy them a lot, but my (eight)8-year-old son beats me at them despite knowing NOTHING about the sports themselves — so yeah, I avoid those when possible,” he said. “My guilty-pleasure games are all ‘80s and ‘90s throwbacks — right now it’s the Mega Man series on PS4.”
As for psychology professor Greg Engel, his game of choice is a little more recent.
“Minecraft is totally my jam. I love Minecraft,” said Engel with a wide grin. “I have tried and not yet succeeded to get a research project off the ground to take scientific concepts and implement them in Mods for Minecraft.”
Inside the classroom, Engel (only) incorporates gaming only when relevant.
“We were talking about infection just in general the other day in my health psychology course (the other day) and I put an image up of a Clicker from the ‘Last Of Us,’” he said.
One of Engel’s favorite parts of gaming is the interaction he can have with like-minded individuals.
“I love when students come to my office — assuming I’m not slammed with other stuff — to chat about our Hobby,” he said.
“I’m trying in part to point out the more relevant academic parts of that; next semester I’m teaching an FYS on video game psychology, which I think will be very exciting.”
(Although Professor) Engel is not the only professor who incorporates gaming into their classroom, although for English Professor Chris Boettcher, a student sparked the idea.
“I was teaching about cultural development and how civilizations develop,” said Boettcher, “and a student said to me ‘oh wow that’s civilization’ — the game civilization — and he said ‘when you develop writing you are able to do this, this, and this.’”
That led Boettcher to believe that playing a game like civilization is similar to experiencing something like literature.
“It’s an idea about how the world works and why things happen, and you can analyze it and say ‘what is this game trying to get me to think about,’” he said.
Boettcher said he discovered individuals who would play games for hours, even all night long at times.
“There is something about how you engage with a game that really is about being mentally active while at the same time being able to sustain that mental energy for a long time. It’s something novice readers have a hard time sustaining,” he said.
To boil it down, if you can structure an activity similar to the design of a video game, it will sustain people’s interest, he said.
“You don’t want it to be too challenging because if it’s too challenging you create anxiety, but if it’s too easy you create boredom,” he said.