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Hypnotic site turns your name into artificial life

Have you heard of Conway's Game of Life? It's a sort of simulation of very basic artificial life, made out of a grid of square cells. Each cell interacts with its eight neighbours according to four basic rules, and from these rules evolve little worlds filled with distinct beings. It's one of these simple mathematical things that can lead to complex and beautiful results, like the Golden Ratio.

The best way to understand Game of Life is to watch it in action, and Your Name in Life is a perfect way to do just that. You type in your name - or anything you want, really - and it'll translate the text into a bitmap that'll serve as a seed for Game of Life, and then go to work on it.

There are a few extra options to add to the fun; you can choose between serif and sans-serif, you can select bold or italic, and there are additional options to affect the game itself and the way it's portrayed on-screen. We've had a great time messing around with them all.

The real fun, though, lies in setting it running and seeing what unfolds. There's an initial chaotic stage, and then you'll soon see things start to evolve into sets of distinct patterns of still lifes, oscillators and even patterns known as spaceships that move across the board. There are examples of them here; you'll see lots of still lifes and arrangements of oscillators, and it's great to see a glider suddenly break out across the board before crashing tragically into a block and blinking out of existence.

Play around with settings and see what you get; sometimes it'll burn itself out quickly and leave you with a set of static still lifes and oscillators, and sometimes it'll keep going for ages, with strange and complex forms gradually creeping around the board and suddenly triggering a burst of life. At its best it's thoroughly hypnotic, and this is an excellent way to discover its joys.

Jim McCauley is a writer, cat-wrangler and occasional street performer who's written for a multitude of publications over the past quarter of a century, including Creative Bloq, T3, PC Gamer and a whole load of long-dead print magazines.