Zek Valkyrie, Ph.D.

Zek Valkyrie

Zek Valkyrie, Ph.D.

Teaching Professor
Department of Sociology
ACAD 413

Biographical Information

Zek Valkyrie is a Teaching Professor in the Sociology Department at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

Primarily, ze is known for creating assessment structures in zir courses using game mechanics, borrowing largely from the role-playing game genre. For such efforts, UCCS has awarded Zek with multiple teaching awards, including the Innovations in Teaching with Technology Award, the LAS Outstanding Instructor Award, and the campus-wide Outstanding Instructor Award.

When not focused on teaching, ze spends time serving as a year-round reviewer for the Institutional Review Board – a position that provides a notable service to the UCCS research faculty. Zek’s own research has produced a book titled “Game Worlds Get Real.” The book details how online gaming has become an overtly rational operation, making the reality of everyday life central in framing game play, and limiting the social latitude for gamers to experience digital spaces as uncoupled from identity politics, gender dynamics, and the pulls of consumption culture.

Outside of work, Zek enjoys writing fiction and playing video games, including some modern favorites such as Octopath Traveler, Persona 5, Xenoblade, and Trails of Cold Steel. Additionally, ze revels in replaying the classic RPGs from the fourth, fifth, and sixth console generations and has been active in Final Fantasy 14 since the launch of v1.

Zek recently had open-heart surgery, which was a grueling and transformative experience.


  • Ph.D. University of Colorado, Boulder, Sociology
  • M.A. University of Colorado Colorado Springs, Sociology
  • B.A. University of Colorado Colorado Springs, Sociology and Psychology

Courses currently in rotation

  • Introduction to Sociology (SOC 1110) - fall, spring, summer semesters
  • Social Research Methods (SOC 3070) - fall and spring semesters


  • Dukes-Hall Award, Sociology Department, University of Colorado Colorado Springs, 2021.
  • Mayor’s Young Leaders Award – Finalist – Innovations in Education, City of Colorado Springs, 2020.
  • Letters, Arts, and Sciences Student-Faculty Research/Creative Works/Community Service Award, 2017-2018, with Gwen Chambers for “Regretting Parenthood.”
  • Letters, Arts, and Sciences Outstanding Teaching Full-Time Instructor Award, University of Colorado Colorado Springs, 2017.
  • Outstanding Instructor Award, University of Colorado Colorado Springs, 2016.
  • Western Social Science Association President-Elect's New Scholar Award, 2015.
  • Innovations in Teaching with Technology Award, University of Colorado Colorado Springs, 2014.
  • Graduate Instructor of the Year Award, University of Colorado, Boulder, 2011.

Service and committee work

  • Year-Round Reviewer for the Institutional Review Board, 2015-present.
  • Dean’s Instructor Review Committee, 2015-2021, Chair, 2016-2020.
  • Co-Director of the Ungraduated Program in Sociology, 2015-2021.
  • Director of the Sociology Online Program, 2020-2021.


Game Worlds

Game Worlds Get Real: How Who We Are Online Became Who We Are Offline. Praeger Publishers. Santa Barbara. Found here: http://www.abc-clio.com/ABC-CLIOCorporate/product.aspx?pc=A5221C

New books

A podcast interview on the New Books Network which covers my book can be found here: http://newbooksnetwork.com/zek-valkyrie-game-worlds-get-real-how-who-we-are-online-became-who-we-are-offline-praeger-2017/

Zek Valkyrie teaches at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. His new book, Game Worlds Get Real: