Darwin's Avatars: a Novel Combination of Gameplay and Procedural Content Generation

Dan Lessin, Sebastian Risi

Research output: Conference Article in Proceeding or Book/Report chapterArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


The co-evolution of morphology and control for virtual creatures
enables the creation of a novel form of gameplay and
procedural content generation. Starting with a creature
evolved to perform a simple task such as locomotion and
removing its brain, the remaining body can be employed in
a compelling interactive control problem. Just as we enjoy
the challenge and reward of mastering helicopter flight
or learning to play a musical instrument, learning to control
such a creature through manual activation of its actuators
presents an engaging and rewarding puzzle. Importantly,
the novelty of this challenge is inexhaustible, since
the evolution of virtual creatures provides a way to procedurally
generate content for such a game. An endless series
of creatures can be evolved for a task, then have their brains
removed to become the game’s next human-control challenge.
To demonstrate this new form of gameplay and content
generation, a proof-of-concept game—tentatively titled
Darwin’s Avatars—was implemented using evolved creature
content, and user tested. This implementation also provided
a unique opportunity to compare human and evolved control
of evolved virtual creatures, both qualitatively and quantitatively,
with interesting implications for improvements and
future work.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference (GECCO) 2015
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Publication date11 Jul 2015
ISBN (Print)978-1-4503-3472-3
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2015


  • Procedural Content Generation
  • Virtual Creature Evolution
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Game Design
  • Manual Actuator Control


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