The Spring 2014 Tournament of Core War

Readers of  ‘Life as it could be’ will know that a computer game plays an important role in it: Core War, to my somewhat limited knowledge the oldest, geekiest and most cerebral of all computer games. It is set up as a virtual computer in which to battle programs called ‘warriors’ are fighting to their death. The warriors are short programs written in a special purpose assembly language called Redcode. What makes the game so interesting for ‘Life as it could be’ is that the warriors can be bred by genetic algorithms or evolutionary computing. While the game has a small following, its worldwide community is very active and competes in a steady stream of tournaments—quality over quantity!

It was a pleasant surprise to me when John Metcalf, the organizer of the Spring 2014 Core War Tournament, the world cup of Core War if you will, approached me, asking me to provide hard copies of ‘Life As It Could Be’ as a prize for each of three categories in which the tournament was fought. I was, of course, honored and happy to oblige, especially as the event was hosted in The Centre for Computing History in Cambridge, only five minutes on the bike from where I live.


Imagining this occasion to be very unlike, say, a football match, I did not expect to find a spectator crowd, a posse of journalists or even any contestants. And indeed, in the 1980s style classroom of the museum, there was only John Metcalf who, his laptop connected to a projector, ran an exhaustive list of match-ups with all the twenty-five warriors that had been submitted. The photo shows John pointing to the projection of a fight in progress where one warrior is shown in red and the other in green pixels.

The overall winner of the tournament was the warrior lucky shot by Gérman Labarga. More details about the tournament and Core War can be found here.