Building a Working Game of Tetris in Conway’s Game of Life

If you haven’t been following along with Conway’s Game of Life, it’s come a long way from the mathematical puzzle published in Scientific American in 1970. Over the years, mathematicians have discovered a wide array of constructs that operate within Life’s rules, including many that can be leveraged to perform programming functions — logic gates, latches, multiplexers, and so on. Some of these creations have gotten rather huge and complicated, at least in terms of Life cells. For instance, the OTCA metapixel is comprised of 64,691 cells and has the ability to mimic any cellular automata found in Life.

A group of hackers has used OTCA metapixels to create a Tetris game out of Life elements. The game features all 7 shapes as well as the the movement, rotation, and drops one would expect. You can even preview the next piece. The game is the creation of many people who worked on individual parts of the larger program. They built a RISC computer out of Game of Life elements, as well as am assembler and compiler for it, with the OTCA metapixels doing the heavy lifting. (The image at the top of the post is the program’s data synchronizer.

Check out the project’s source code on GitHub, and use this interpreter. Set the RAM to 3-32 and hit run.

For a couple of other examples of Life creations, check out the Game of Life clock and music synthesized from Life automata we published earlier.

21 thoughts on “Building a Working Game of Tetris in Conway’s Game of Life

  1. So how much work do you think it takes to make physical analog life cells out of a LED matrix, enough neighbours on make cell work as phototransistor and allow turn on, too many and it turns off… though would probably have to pulse to sample neighbours… or maybe you make it self damping because circuit can’t supply more than x cells in a given area…

    OR possibly run it on a memory device out of spec, so charges flash over, or starve neighbours… hmmm… imagine that though… could be a hardware virus, put a pattern in a memory device with overspec charges and it just takes over…

    1. You’re thinking of “row hammer”, or something along that line.

      As far as Life hardware, back in the 1980s, maybe late 1970s, computers weren’t really fast enough to do decent-scale fast Life research on. So some researchers, I forget whom, made their own Life processor that ran much faster. IIRC it used a mixture of logic and RAM to do the calculation in hardware (since you can do Conway’s as a 9-address x 1-bit lookup table), to do it way faster than a computer could. They lent this gadget out to the early researchers to work with.

    1. Never considered the pixels in the game as other than single cellular organisms grouping in colonies, reading your link, the different colonies exhibit different behaviours, so they can be considered organisms! This is actually an evolution programme!! Never saw it as that before, thanks.

  2. This project is far from over. As I speak, a moderator (maybe admin) on the conwaylife forum -and- the maker of Golly are all involved improving this so it can be run real-time in Life. (the biggest and pretty much only hurdle: the metapixel period is not a power of 2)

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