Johanna Pirker – Scientist & Ambassador for Game Engineering: Using Computer Games to Understand the World.

09. August 2022 – Katharina Schlangenotto

Johanna Pirker belongs to the club of successful under-35s. Her generation has grown up with the Internet and mobile communication, both topics that Generation X and the Baby Boomers still partly have to get used to. This is usually where the headwind comes from when it comes to Johanna Pirker’s passion.

Johanna Pirker – Why computer games are anything but dangerous

A software and business developer Johanna Pirker studied at Graz University of Technology as well as at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); in 2017 she received her PhD on Immersive and Engaging Forms of Virtual Learning. The Graz native already recognized her mission when she was three or four years old: although she could neither read nor write at the time, she knew exactly which commands were needed to get her favorite game “Prince of Persia” on her father’s computer.

Today, the 33-year-old professor at Graz University of Technology teaches games engineering, the ability to develop computer games. She wants to explain to the world that computer games are anything but dangerous: “I believe that games manage to teach us empathy, that is, understanding by feeling. I see the world through different eyes and can review my decisions over and over again. Because I can play through every situation several times. And I can not only show others everything that’s in my head, but make it possible for them to experience it directly – all my fantasies, all my ideas.”

Gaming as a learning field for a better world

When asked whether most gamers don’t tend to retreat into worlds of escape because their own lives are so dull, Johanna Pirker replies, “I don’t see that. Many studies show that gamers know the difference between reality and non-reality. It’s like watching a good movie. During the experience, I’m in this fictional world. When the experience is over, I’m out again. The games I’m talking about likewise convey experiences, they tell stories that help me understand myself better. In other words: In games, we can try ourselves without fearing the real consequences, but can very much learn the lessons.”

Creating impact through gaming

Johanna Pirker wants to show that com¬puter games can create a real impact, both socially and culturally, in art, health and industry. “At Game Lab Graz, we want to show how we can use games to add value to society. But we also have a virtual reality lab where you can do experiments that would otherwise be too complex, too dangerous or too expensive.”

Johanna Pirker is one of the few and excellent keynote speakers of our time. Keynotes. In her “game-changing” keynotes, the professor talks about whether video games increase social awareness, how gaming can make the world comprehensible, why social online gaming is a real meeting for innovation & learning, or how graphics cards, game engines & virtual reality contribute to innovation through new technologies.

Homebound: Rather researching and teaching in Austria than making the big bucks

She is often asked why she has stayed in Graz, why she prefers to research and teach rather than earn a golden nose with game engineering. For her, the answer is simple: “I have always received various offers, but I simply find it extremely nice here in Graz. I’m also convinced that we can achieve so much in the games industry in particular. It’s now bigger than the film industry and the music industry combined. And I think we in Austria should get a bigger piece of that.”

Keynotes with format

Johanna Pirker will change the world. She already does. As a top speaker, she transforms long-held opinions and impresses with her ability to think around corners.

Johanna Pirker loves to play, even in her excellent keynotes which are certainly never one thing: boring or banal. Welcome to the world of virtual reality. Surprises guaranteed.

Dr. tech. Dipl.Ing. Johanna Pirker

Software engineer and researcher at the Institute of Interactive Systems and Data Science at Graz University of Technology (TUG)