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A multiplayer online game based on Conway's Game of Life.

Click to play Life

Conway's Game of Life

Conway's Game of Life takes place in a grid ("board") of squares ("cells"). Each cell can be empty or occupied. The occupied cells change from one turn ("generation") to the next. During the change between generations, each cell in the grid is checked to see if it will be occupied or not in the next generation. This determination is made according to a small set of simple rules:

  • If an occupied cell has less than 2 neighbors, it will become unoccupied.
  • If an occupied cell has more than 3 neighbors, it will become unoccupied.
  • If an unoccupied cell has exactly 3 neighbors, it will become occupied (or is "born").

An alternate set of rules might be:

  • If a cell has 2 neighbors, it doesn't change.
  • If a cell has 3 neighbors, it becomes occupied.
  • Otherwise, the cell becomes unoccupied.

A cell's "neighbors" consist of the 8 cells directly adjacent orthogonal and diagonally to the cell. If the grid has an edge, cells on the edge will have fewer neighbors.

Conway's "Game" of Life isn't really a game. It is more of a digital toy. There is no competition, and no way to "win"; defining characteristics of true games. But, the incredibly complex behavior those simple rules produce has made Conway's "Game" a fascinating toy to study.


Lifetime turns Conway's "Game" of Life into a true game by adding competition and a goal to achieve. Adding a few more simple rules to the original set does this.

  • An occupied cell can belong to any one player or be "neutral".
  • A newly "born" cell belongs to the player holding a majority of its neighbors; otherwise it is "neutral".
  • If a player "plays" into an unoccupied cell, it becomes occupied and will belong to that player.
  • If a player "plays" into a neutral occupied cell, it remains occupied and will belong to that player.
  • If a player "plays" into another player's occupied cell, it remains occupied and will become "neutral".

The rules governing how a player "plays" into a cell can vary from one game to the next.

Usually, a player will receive an "income" based on the number of cells belonging to him. It will then cost a certain amount to "play" into a cell. So, the more cells a player can occupy, the bigger his income, so the more often he can "play" into cells. Other variations might give the player a fixed "allowance", charge a "tax" on income or savings, or make the cost to play change from turn to turn.

Usually, a player will be able to "play" into cells anywhere on the board. In some games, the player may only be allowed to play within a certain distance of his cells. In others he might be restricted to a certain portion of the board. Or the cost could be higher for some areas than others.

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