Pippin Barr

Pippin studied Computer Science at Victoria University of Wellington and now works for Concordia University as a Scholar in Residence.

Pippin Barr presenting on stage at a conference.

Pippin studied Computer Science at Victoria University of Wellington and now works for Concordia University as a Scholar in Residence. We asked him a few questions about his exciting career and his new life in Canada...

How did studying at Victoria University of Wellington prepare you for the future?

I graduated with a BA (Hons) majoring in Philosophy and Computer Science, an MSc in Computer Science and a PhD with a focus on video games. Knowing how to program and how to think ‘like a computer’ has been invaluable in understanding contemporary life.

What path did you take after graduating?

I’ve followed my wife to academic postings at universities around the world. Thanks to my graduate degrees, I’ve been able to teach alongside her as well as develop into an independent video game maker creating ‘philosophical’ games.

What is your current job?

I’m a Scholar in Residence at Concordia University in Montréal, Canada. I have academic experience in teaching and research alongside my profile as a fairly well-known independent video game developer. I teach in the Department of Design and Computation Arts, focusing on game design. I also supervise and mentor students, especially those seeking to create experimental games.

What have been the highlights of your career?

Every video game I’ve made and released has been exciting. A particular highlight for me was working with the world-famous performance artist Marina Abramovic on a series of games based on her artworks. The things we made were interesting and strange! Also moving to Montréal and becoming part of its vibrant video game scene and wonderful cultural environment.

What are the perks of the job? And the challenges?

There are two major perks of my current job. For one thing, I get to continue to make my strange video games and call it work! For another, I get to work with young students to help them think about and explore what they might want to create. Then I get to see them do it! Naturally this has a challenging flip-side, as neither game development nor teaching are easy. I'm always learning how to improve at both.

What's the coolest part of being an ECS graduate?

Without question the fundamentals we learned about programming, computers themselves, and networking. I’m grateful that, while I may not be the best programmer around, I understand how it fits together and the ideas that are the basis of the amazing technologies we see all around us. Having a grounding in Computer Science means I always feel confident I can learn something new.

What would you say to someone thinking of getting into Engineering or Computer Science?

The first is: go for it! Learning about how computers and code work is one of the most relevant, interesting, and challenging things you could do with your time. The second thing is that you should try to pair Computer Science with something radically different that catches your interest. For me that was philosophy. I think that in general making sure you're thinking in different ways is invaluable in life.

Pippin Barr