Germinate: A Mixed-Initiative Casual Creator for Rhetorical Games

  • Max Kreminski University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Melanie Dickinson University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Joseph C. Osborn Pomona College
  • Adam Summerville California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
  • Michael Mateas University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Noah Wardrip-Fruin University of California, Santa Cruz


Digital games are hindered as an artform by significant technical barriers to entry, which exclude many would-be game developers from participating in this medium of expression. Casual creators for game design attempt to mitigate these barriers, but—like conventional game development tools—often require users to “work their way up” from low-level mechanics to high-level rhetorical or expressive goals, rather than allowing them to start with high-level rhetorical goals and “work their way down.” The constraint-based game generator Gemini is well-suited to the generation of games that meet high-level expressive goals, but is difficult for casual users to work with. We present Germinate, a mixed-initiative casual creator for rhetorical games that extends Gemini with a more approachable graphical user interface. A preliminary expert evaluation revealed that Germinate affords a playful approach to rhetorical game design by generating games that successfully meet user intent in surprising and novel ways.