This October I made a sweeping declaration: I would post every day for the whole month. Well due to extenuating circumstances over the weekend, Friday and Saturday were missed. Now, in one Sunday, I must rise up and post for the whole weekend all in one day. This is: THE WEEKEND!
If you’ve been around Adventure Rules for awhile, you’ve probably heard me talk about how art influences people. And how video games are art, and therefore have an influence on those who play them. Now as a kid, you’re pretty impressionable and the things you absorb at that time can really have an impact on your personality and development. This includes even the stories that you like. And for me, my early experiences with games like The Ocarina of Time created in me a love for a particular story element: time travel.
Few things intrigue me more than a good ole time travel shenanigan. Many of my favorite games incorporate time travel in some way: The Legend of Zelda, Fire Emblem, Zero Escape, Ni no Kuni, Chrono Trigger – the list could go on. I love the potential it creates for the blending of genres, for plot twists that connect in unique ways, for characters to meet who otherwise never could. And I love thinking about how exactly time travel works.
If you were around to read Mario Party, a Mario fanfiction crafted in the style of Zero Escape, then you know that this story incorporated some elements of time travel. Like a Zero Escape game, many chapters included discussions about how exactly time travel might be possible for the characters. These discussions between Mario and characters like E Gadd or Peach were some of my favorite parts to write of that story. Because even though I realistically am not thoroughly educated in the science, reading up on it and finding ways to craft a plot around it was utterly fascinating to me.
What got me thinking about time travel was actually The Flash – my wife and I don’t shell out for cable, so we do most of our television watching via Netflix. When we learned that Flash season two would be released earlier this week, we sat down and watched the whole first season just in time to enjoy the second one. We haven’t finished season two yet, but we’re working hard on it. We both love the show, and for me personally one of my favorite aspects of it are the questions of time travel. I have a blast soaking in the discussions and thinking about the logistics. And thinking about time travel in the show got me thinking about time travel in video games.
In my experience there seem to be three main methods of time travel that games like to deal with. The first is, I suppose, “traditional” time travel – the idea that you can travel back in time to change history. Then there’s what I’ll call “realistic” time travel – history as it happened is already the history that you created when you traveled backward. Finally, there’s “multiversal” time travel, where traveling through time creates time paradoxes and timeline splits that result in multiple worlds. Things get really interesting when you have a series that incorporates more than one of these types of time travel (The Legend of Zelda comes to mind here).
One of my favorite things about time travel, though, is that it doesn’t necessarily have to be used in the sense of altering the timeline. Instead, it can be utilized to create cool environments or challenging puzzles. My absolute favorite area in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is Lanayru Region. Here, little robots mine and are powered by this material called “timestones” that literally creates a time pocket when struck. The area affected by the timestone exists in the past, so turning a timestone on and off can flip the environment from its arid, deserted present to a lush, green past state, and vice versa. One of the coolest uses of this is when you use a timestone to “sail” across a sea of sand by turning that sand back into ocean with the timestone. It’s so incredible to watch the area around you turn into water and then look past it to the vast desert ahead. In the dungeon that follows, timestones can be used to revert piles of bones into live enemies, to activate or deactivate robots and other devices, and to turn impossible-to-navigate sand traps into solid, grassy areas.
Back during E3, I geeked out when Dishonored 2 showed off a similar puzzle where you use a magical timepiece in a ruined mansion to see into the beautiful, well-guarded past, jumping back and forth between times in order to navigate around guards and find your way through the mansion. This sort of time-travel in games may very well be my personal favorite, just because it opens so much room for fascinating lore and clever puzzles all at once.
So what about you, adventurers? How do you feel about time travel in the games you play? Do you feel it enhances the experience? That it’s too overdone? Let me know in the comments and be sure to check out the rest of The Weekend here and here!
Very cool post! Time travel is definitely one of those extremely tricky devices to use, whether it’s in a game, a book, or a film. I know I’m stating the obvious, but one of the biggest hurdles when introducing time travel is plot continuity and logical inconsistencies. That being said, I do think it adds a super fun element to the plot.
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Thanks for reading! I definitely agree that plotholes are a huge trap for time travel. Of course, whether or not the logical inconsistencies are a big deal depends on how seriously the novel/movie/game/whatever takes itself. One example that comes to mind is in Ocarina of Time where adult Link learns a song from a person who learned the song from kid Link, so he effectively taught the song to himself before he ever actually learned it…it makes zero sense, but there are also pig monsters and giant scary women who give you magical spells, so the inconsistency isn’t a huge deal, haha. I think time travel works best in an environment where you already have to suspend your disbelief anyway. Then you can really have some fun with it.