Game of Life (at Face Value) (2017)

Concept: Cem Sina Çetin, Servet Ulaş
Design & Implementation: Cem Sina Çetin
Tools: P5.js, clmtrackr

Conway’s Game of Life is a cellular automaton, the rules of which were defined by the British mathematician, John Horton Conway. The two dimensional simulation runs on a grid and each cell is defined as being either alive or dead. Depending on the rules of the game, each cell dies, survives or comes back to life.

The imbalance between the simplicity of its rules and the complexity of the output is mind-boggling: The patterns in the Game of Life can create cycles, self replicating forms or fully fledged factories.

This version of Conway’s Game of Life is designed as a thought experiment and a commentary on evolution. The Game of Life defines a very simple system in which patterns can give rise to others; merge with them, destroy them, create chaos or settle in fluctuating states. The human face is a product of roughly 3.5 billion years of evolution. A form that seems to be working fairly well, considering the percentage of life forms today that utilizes the same basic body plan when it comes to the face; a fine tuned set of organs that won’t be evolving into something radically different within the foreseeable future.

The Game of Life (at Face Value), acts as a relay between the biological evolution and the simulated, mathematical life. It captures the face of the viewer, converts it into a cell grid and merges it with a running instance of the Game of Life.

This way the face, a product of billion years of evolution, a fairly static form, is translated into an abstraction of its own. The product becomes the seed and unfolds once again, free of any constraints imposed by biological encoding.


‘c’ toggles the camera (i.e. the face detection). By default it is on.
‘f’ replaces the entire grid with the face pixels, so that the simulation expands solely from the face information.
touch/mouse drag to create alive cells.