Fight for Life. Competition within a cellular automaton

It happens that a game can grow into life, and life can become a game.

In this article, I will cover:

  • About the rules of the game for one or more people based on a cellular automaton, similar to the game Life of John Conway.

  • And the consequences of what this game can lead to in the future.

Rules of the game

  1. A square field is created, closed on all sides.

  2. The field is divided into equal sectors.

  3. Each player is allocated one sector.

  4. Sectors can be more than players.

  5. Before the start, players fill their sectors in any way.

  6. Each player has his own color.

  7. Next, the cellular automaton is launched for a given number of generations.

  8. At the end of the game, live cells are counted.

  9. Whoever has the most wins.


According to the rules of the Life game, a dead cell becomes alive if it has exactly three living neighbors. Suppose we have neighbors of different colors. In this case, it is necessary to determine the color with proportional probability. For example, 2 green and 1 blue are standing next to each other, so the probability of green will be 2/3, and blue 1/3.

This probability must be strictly determined so that the same initial arrangement leads to the same final result. For example, enter a global counter. However, locally everything will seem completely random.

It is necessary that cells that are static gradually die. To do this, you need to determine the life of the cells. Let it be very long, but the duration of the game should be noticeably longer than the lifespan of one cell.


To implement this machine according to the principles of the game Life is a rather simple task – a matter of several hours. However, all the complexity and interest lies elsewhere.

To effectively win this game, you need to create a replicator that will copy itself with an error, filling the space. The mistake should give a chance to improve his ability to reproduce and capture territory.

The accumulation of this error can lead to complex behavior similar to a living organism or even the formation of a primitive consciousness. Everything will depend on the scale of calculations.


The project to create a replicator in the game of Life was created by American mathematician Bill Gosper in 1994. He launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund cellular automaton research and develop replicators that can replicate themselves exactly.

With the support of a community of mathematicians and programmers, Gosper was able to raise the necessary amount of money and develop a replicator capable of creating exact copies of itself.

Obviously, to create a replicator that makes a copy with an error, giving a chance to improve the ability to reproduce, the task is much more difficult.

Another machine

Since the task of creating a buggy replicator in the game of Life is difficult, it might make sense to go the route of creating a cellular automaton that is specifically designed for this:

  • It was Turing-complete (for this it is enough to implement a universal logic element).

  • Easily generated buggy replicators.

  • understandable for observation.

  • Easy to calculate and scale.


Perhaps the creation of a large-scale environment in which buggy replicators can be born will be one of the most interesting directions in human activity.

We are creating a whole world, a whole universe in which, under certain conditions, artificial life can appear.


But I suggest starting with the simplest. You need to do two things:

  1. Create an environment (arena) for the game.

  2. Take part in the game.

For starters, the arena can be small with transition rules like in the game of Life, in order to run a tournament on a regular PC:

  • Let’s say the field is 900×900 cells.

  • We divide into 9 sectors 300×300.

  • It is permissible to fill in the middle of the sector – a square of 100×100 in any way.

  • The life span of an immobile cell is 1,000 generations.

  • Game duration: 10,000 generations.

With these settings, up to 9 participants can play at a time and the calculation will not take much time.

Perhaps the size of the field, the life of the cell, the duration of the game, or something else, will need to be adjusted to make the competition more spectacular and interesting for the participants.

Competition and scholarship

I invite everyone to take part in the competition with two nominations:

  1. The best environment to play.

  2. Best player.

There will be two winners, each will receive a scholarship of 5,000 rubles for 12 months. If you are not a student, then instead of a scholarship, a one-time payment of 50,000 rubles is possible. The competition will be held with the participation of at least 10 people.

Going forward, there is interest in extending the project to move towards a buggy replicator in a Turing-complete cellular automaton.

The competition will run until the end of April. For now, I’m the only one in the project, so it would be nice if someone could help with the organization of the event as an assistant.

Send questions and applications for participation to the Telegram group:

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