Zero-player game

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A zero-player game is a game that has no sentient players.

In computer games, the term refers to programs that use artificial intelligence rather than human players.[1]

Conway's Game of Life, a cellular automaton devised in 1970 by the British mathematician John Horton Conway, is considered a zero-player game because its evolution is determined by its initial state, requiring no further input from humans.[2][3] In addition, some fighting and real-time strategy games can be put into zero-player mode by placing one AI against another.


Zero player games can be divided in five categories:[4]

Setup-only games[edit]

The evolution of this kind of game is determined by its initial state, requiring no further input. Conway's Game of Life is a setup-only game. Programming games are a subgroup of setup-only games where people create AI players that compete against each other in the actual games.

Games played by AI[edit]

In these games, the role of the player is taken by a computer. In single-player games, humans can play against computers; in zero-player games, computers play against other computers.

Non Decision Games[edit]

Non Decision games such as Snakes and Ladders are games that the players participate actively in but don’t have any choices that can alter the development of the game.

Solved games[edit]

In games such as Nim, one can pre-determine which player will win if both play perfectly. The game is only about examining the board, so the need for players is eliminated. In checkers perfect play always leads to draw.[5]

Hypothetical games[edit]

Proposed but non-implemented games described to examine a question, or actually existing games that are for practical purposes unplayable.

See also[edit]