A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time
Digital Déjà Vu

Robert Buerkle | 25 Aug 2009 12:43
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I kick open the red door and find myself in a parking garage. Ahead of me, a "blue" (a policeman) stands on the opposite side of some pipes with his back turned. A closed gate blocks my path to the right. Before I can assess my options, another blue bursts through a nearby door, gun drawn. Seeing nowhere else to run, I turn left and break into a sprint ... just before spotting another gunman straight ahead of me. Uh-oh. The blues open fire. Everything goes dark.

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Silence. Mirror's Edge reloads my last checkpoint, and I find myself, once again, standing before the red door. Déjà vu.

Ever wonder why time travel has persisted in science fiction and fantasy? From H.G. Wells and Mark Twain to Back to the Future and Star Trek, the dream of traversing timelines has endured in our pop cultural imagination for well over a century. It's one of those fantasies that, no matter how illogical, speaks to a common desire: to go back and fix our mistakes. I wish I could undo that stupid traffic accident, that embarrassing date, that exam that I totally bombed. Why didn't I do things differently? Wouldn't it be great if I could go back and do it again?

The idea of predicting the future is equally compelling, as uncertainty is one of the great insecurities of modern society. Should I take this new job or keep my old one? How should I invest my money? Am I ready to settle down and have kids? If only I could see how things would turn out before committing to a decision!

Replay indulges both of these fantasies by allowing us to relive situations until we get them right. It's one of the great pleasures of gaming: Whenever we lose, we get to go back and try again, never having to live with failure or regret. The assurance that we'll be afforded this opportunity lets us enter new situations calmly and confidently. Common wisdom tells us we can't have it both ways, but with replay, we can.

I kick open the red door. I know heading left is no good, so without breaking stride, I charge toward the pipes and slide beneath them, gliding past the blue on the other side. No time to think - the blue is already drawing his weapon. I see three possible routes: a door to the left, a corridor behind a large truck and a staircase straight ahead. I hesitate, and the blue puts a shot in my back. Suddenly, getting behind the truck seems very appealing. I dodge past it, hoping for a respite, but spot another blue ahead. The corridor was not the way to go.

Gunfire. Darkness. Silence. Rewind, and I'm back before the red door.

There's something immensely pleasurable about this experience - going back and reliving the same moment over again. And over again. And over and over, until I get it right. It's Groundhog Day.

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