John von Newmann’s criteria for life is
(1) that it can reproduce itself, and (2) that it can simulate a Turing machine.
To say that Conway’s Game of Life meets John von Newmann’s
first criterion is incorrect, since a cell does not reproduce itself.
Conway prototyped the game using a Go board with its black and white stones.
Typically today, a computer represents a cell internally and projects it on its screen as a square.
But we can say that Conway’s Game of Life simulates this criterion,
and that it can meet von Newmann’s second criterion,
since it has the ability to act as a universal Turning machine.
Another definition of life might require that each cell
consume a portion of some finite renewable environmental resource to survive.
Life might be required to have evolved as part of a natural ecosystem.
Conway’s Game of Life is, instead, a kind of “artificial life.”
See also in The book of science:
Readings in wikipedia: