The Game of Life

Lukas and Luke, Phase II Scholars; and Nate and Taylor, Interns
Picture of Lukas at a computer with Chris looking on.
Phase II Scholar Lukas plays The Game of Life as Ambassador Chris offers tips for success.

After having ventured across campus to the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science and Engineering, descending to the basement, and entering a windowless classroom, Phase II Scholars Lukas and Luke knew right away this was the right workshop for them. This was their introduction to The Game of Life. The game was developed by mathematician John Horton Conway. As explained by Interns Taylor and Nate, the game is important because it represents real-life cellular patterns, and it can be used to explain natural phenomena, such as the stripes of a zebra.

The game is a simple computer solitaire game played on a grid of squares called cells. The cells are either alive or dead. If a cell is alive it is colored; if a cell is dead it is black. Certain rules determine whether the cell is alive or dead, and these rules are programmed into the computer. The rules can vary, but the standard set of rules for The Game of Life are as follows:

  • Cells that are alive and have two or three neighboring live cells continue to live; otherwise they die because of either overcrowding or loneliness.
  • Cells that are dead must have exactly three neighboring cells in order to become alive again.

Each Scholar used these rules to create different results, which they demonstrated and explained during their final presentation.