How the Videogame Aesthetic Flows Into All of Culture

When the science fiction film Edge of Tomorrow, directed by Doug Liman, came out in 2014, WIRED called it “the best videogame you can’t play.” The film’s main character, Bill Cage, repeats the same day again and again—a day of futuristic combat with aliens. Each time he dies, Cage wakes up again on the previous day. Everything is as before, with the crucial difference that he remembers all the previous versions of that fatal next day. The repetitions are the film’s equivalent of a videogame’s replayability, and Cage’s battle skills improve, just as a player’s skills improve through replay. But Cage is not a player. He is a character in a narrative film, so the repeated days are in fact …