The Game Of Life

The "glider" is a pattern that moves 1 cell diagonally every 4 generations.

The Game of Life is a mind-bogglingly complex universe-simulator invented by the mathematician John Conway. Based around an infinite grid and a few simple rules, it gives a new meaning to emergent complexity. Each tile on the grid can exist in one of two states: the default "dead" state, or "live". Given a blank, dead grid, a player then seeds the canvas with little colonies of "live" squares. A live square that is neighbored by fewer than two, or more than three, other live squares dies. A dead square that is bordered by exactly three live squares becomes live. A website which allows you to tinker around with Life patterns can be found here.

Not to be confused with Milton Bradley's board game.

References in fictional works:

  • Tea With The Black Dragon by R. A. MacAvoy has a metaphorically-significant scene in which the protagonist is introduced to the game.
  • Kingdom of Loathing has a mushroom farming minigame that follows the same rules (although with more than one kind of mushroom), but the board is only 4x4, making it impossible to create any particularly interesting patterns.
  • Square Root of Minus Garfield's "Garfield, Infinite Canvas, and The Game of Life", in which a Garfield comic about not having a life is used as the starting state for the Game of Life.
  • Glory Season by David Brin features this game with the variation of being played as a contest, with each side getting part of the board to use, with the goal being eliminating the other side.
  • One of the intro cinematics for Darwinia is a simulation of Life, with the added caveat that each Darwinian will die after a set number of years no matter what. As it's incredibly difficult not to get attached to the little guys while playing Darwinia, seeing the last "block" and "spaceship" formations settle, flicker, and die can be very haunting.
  • An element in the Boulder Dash clone Rocks N Diamonds.
  • In Lyndon Hardy's 1988 novel Riddle of the Seven Realms, a character creates a dimension that operates under these rules, even calling it "the realm of the conways."
  • Entering the cheat "gol" in SimCity 4 plays the Game of Life using SimCity 4's grid-based lot system.
  • Revival "Game of Life" is a spellcard used by Eirin Yagokoro in Touhou 8: Imperishable Night. Word of God commentary makes reference to the bullet patterns being inspired by those found in Conway's Game of Life.
    ZUN: "You might not understand this if you didn't study at a technical college."
  • In System Shock, the walls, floors and ceilings of the virtual Cyber Space environment are square grids that light up in patterns that are seemingly arbitrary, until you realize they're following rules from the Game of Life.
  • In ADOM, herbs grow this way. With the right preparations, you can grow an near-infinite number of herbs in the "Big Room" of the Caverns of Chaos.
  • The WWW Trilogy's first book has Caitlin seeing cellular automata in the background of her "websight;" Dr. Kuroda brings up the Game of Life as an example of cellular automata while explaining it.