Game Of Life in React

Welcome to the world of React and the mesmerizing realm of Conway's Game of Life! In this blog post, we'll explore how we can make implement the Game of Life. We will use a powerful animation library React-Konva.

What is Game Of Life?

Imagine a digital 2D universe where tiny cells exist and thrive, following a simple set of rules. Each cell can either be alive or dead. The fate of a cell is determined by its neighboring cells. Here's how it unfolds:

  1. Any live cell with fewer than two live neighbors dies, as if by loneliness.
  2. Any live cell with two or three live neighbors survives, as if by a harmonious balance.
  3. Any live cell with more than three live neighbors dies, as if by overcrowding.
  4. Any dead cell with exactly three live neighbors becomes alive, as if by reproduction.

With these simple rules, complex and mesmerizing patterns emerge in the grid. Lets try implementing this for ourselves.

Implementation in React

Now that we have a grasp of the rules of the Game of Life, let's code it in React.


To get started, make sure you have React and Konva installed in your project. You can easily set up a new React project using Create React App or add React to an existing project.

npx create-react-app my-app
npm install react-konva konva --save

Creating a component

In order to represent a grid of cells, and their state(dead or alive), we will use a two-dimensional boolean array state, and fill it randomly. A false value represents a dead cell, whereas a true value represents an alive cell.

import { useState } from "react";
const GameOfLife = ({width, rows, cols}) => {
  const cellSize = width / cols;
  const height = cellSize * rows;
  const [cells, setcells] = useState(
        Array.from({ length: rows }, () => 
        Array.from({ length: cols }, () => Math.random() > 0.5))
    ); /* rows x cols size array */           

Rendering the Grid

Now that we have our basic grid logic completed, we can render it. For each item in the array, we will return a Rect component and pass appropriate props.

We also need Stage, and Layer components to render the Rect components.

import {Stage, Layer, Rect} from 'react-konva';
/* Continued */
return (
<Stage width={width} height={height}>
        {, i) =>
  , j) => {
                return (
                        key={[i, j].toString()}
                        x={j * cellSize}
                        y={i * cellSize}
                        /* Conditionally fill color if alive or dead */
                        fill={cells[i][j] ? "yellow" : "gray"}

Counting the neighbors

To compute whether, a specific cell will remain alive or dead in the next generation, we need to count its living neighbors. A simple way to do so is just by iterating through all cells, and checking their immediate neighbors.

function CountAliveNeighbors(cells, row, col){
  const rowCount = cells.length;
  const colCount = cells[0].length;
  let aliveNeighborCount = 0;
  const neighborOffsets = [
    [-1, -1],    [-1, 0],    [-1, 1],
    [0,  -1], /*[row, col]*/ [0,  1],
    [1,  -1],    [1,  0],    [1,  1],
  for (const [offsetRow, offsetCol] of neighborOffsets) {
    const neighborRow = (row + offsetRow + rowCount) % rowCount;
    const neighborCol = (col + offsetCol + colCount) % colCount;
    if (cells[neighborRow][neighborCol]) {
  return aliveNeighborCount;

Implementing the rules

Recall the rules of Game Of Life. They are the core of Game Of Life deciding which cell gets to live, and die. We can summarize the rules into basically these three rules.

  1. If a cell is alive, it remains alive if its neighbor count is 2 or 3.
  2. If a cell is dead, it can be alive again if its neighbor count is exactly 3.
  3. In all other scenarios, the cell will die (or remain dead).
function nextState(state, neighborCount){
  if(state){ // alive
    if(neighborCount === 2 || neighborCount === 3)
      return true; // remains alive
  else{ // dead
    if(neighborCount === 3)
      return true; // resurrection!!
  return false; // dies or remains dead

Putting it all together

Now we have got all the pieces of the puzzle, and we can put them all together. Lets define a function that given the old generation, returns the current or next generation.

function GetNextGeneration(oldGeneration){
  const nextGeneration =, i) =>, j) => {
        const neighborCount = CountAliveNeighbors(oldGeneration, i, j);
        return nextState(cell, neighborCount);
  return nextGeneration;

Animating the grid

Now that we have the entire logic set up, all we need to do is make an animation loop which will keep updating the grid based on our function GetNextGeneration. I wrote a simple animation hook that utilized the requestAnimationFrames API to call our update function repeatedly.

import { useCallback } from 'react';
import useAnimate from './useAnimate';
const { pause, play, playing } = useAnimate(useCallback(() => {
  setcells(previousGeneration => getNextGeneration(previousGeneration));
}, []), 15);
import { useRef, useState, useEffect } from "react";
const useAnimate = (animationFunction, frameRate) => {
    const animationRef = useRef();
    const [playing, setplaying] = useState(false);
    useEffect(() => {
        if (playing) {
            animationRef.current = requestAnimationFrame(() => {
                let then =;
                const animate = () => {
                    const interval = 1000 / frameRate;
                    const now =;
                    const delta = now - then;
                    if (delta >= interval) {
                        then = now - (delta % interval);
                    animationRef.current = requestAnimationFrame(animate);
        return () => {
            animationRef.current && cancelAnimationFrame(animationRef.current);
    }, [animationFunction, frameRate, playing]);
    const play = () => {
    const pause = () => {
    return {
export default useAnimate;

Now you can use the Play, Pause, Playing variables returned by the hook to manipulate the animation as you see fit.

Exercise for reader

Congratulations if you have made it this far. Now, let's take it a step further and consider some possible improvements and additional features that you can explore:

  • User Controls : Enhance the interactivity of your visualization by adding buttons or controls to start, stop, and reset the animation.

  • Speed Control : Implement a slider or buttons to adjust the animation speed. This feature empowers users to speed up or slow down the simulation according to their preference.

  • Pattern Presets : Include a selection of pre-defined patterns, such as gliders, oscillators, or famous Game of Life structures. Users can choose from these presets and observe their behavior within the simulation.

  • User Interface Enhancements : Consider improving the overall user interface by adding labels, tooltips, or informational overlays to provide guidance and explanations about the Game of Life and the controls available to the user.

  • Responsive Design : Optimize your visualization to be responsive across different screen sizes and devices. This ensures that users can enjoy the Game of Life simulation on various platforms and screen resolutions.

Personal Note

This blog post holds a special significance for me as it marks my first contribution to my blog website. However, this post is more than just another tutorial or project showcase. It represents a deeply personal connection to Conway's Game of Life and its role in my journey as a programmer and web developer.

Conway's Game of Life was the spark that ignited my passion for programming. I was captivated by the simple yet mesmerizing patterns that emerged from it. It revealed to me the power of code to create complex and beautiful phenomena from basic rules.

Since that moment, implementing the Game of Life has become my personal litmus test for new frameworks and languages. Whenever I dive into learning a new technology, I make it a point to reimplement this cellular automaton. It has become my favorite way of gauging my understanding and capabilities.

Thank you for joining me on this journey, and I hope you find joy and inspiration in this as i did. Stay tuned for more entertaining posts like these!