Humor, Tragedy, and the Human Condition with Pippin Barr

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Artist and game designer Pippin Barr has a far-reaching conversation on humor, subverting expectations, finding inspiration in Sisypheus, and capturing the breadth of the human condition in games.

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“When I think of a game, I don’t set out to create a frustrating or challenging experience. I think of an idea first. Maybe something that amuses me in the shower or while I’m walking down the street… anything that makes me laugh momentarily.”(1

For more than a decade, Pippin Barr has used the medium of video games as material for amusement, criticism, and deconstruction. Initially making a splash for his “recreation” of Marina Abramovic’s “The Artist is Present,” Barr has played the court jester throughout his career. He sits at the crossroads of new media art, philosophical inquiry, and playful exploration.

An assistant professor at Concordia University, Barr brings a portfolio of games to play at game design conventions to uncover the mundane truths of every day From Greek tragedy to Seinfeld to airline safety manuals, Barr’s games challenge subvert expectations of what games can and should do, translating the mundanities of everyday life into experiences that are as intellectually stimulating as they are uniquely humorous.

Taking place on December 6th, 2023, this conversation coincided with a one-night event showcasing five of Pippin’s games: The Nothings Suite, Let’s Play: Ancient Greek Punishment: UI Edition, It is as if you were doing work, SNAKISMSand A Series of Gunshots.

About Pippin

He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Design and Computation Arts at Concordia University in Montréal and a member of the Technoculture, Art, and Games (TAG) Research Centre, part of the Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture, and Technology.

He teaches creative programming, game design and development, game analysis and criticism, and internet/web-based art. Previously he taught at the Institute of Digital Games at the University of Malta (2012-2015), the Center for Computer Games Research at the IT University of Copenhagen in Denmark (2009-2012), and the HotSoft Lab at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada (2008-2009).

He has a doctorate and a master’s degree from Victoria University of Wellington/Te Herenga Waka in New Zealand.

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