Editorial: Everyone Kills Hitler, Or: Why Time Travel Sucks

Everybody kills Hitler.

It’s a truism of time-travel stories that seek to avoid the inherent paradox of “changing the past” (in short: given eternalism about time, what has happaned must always happen.  Philosophers may debate the truth of this, but at least from our own historical perspective, no time-traveler was successful in killing Hitler) that everyone kills Hitler.  And why not?  Hitler is the perfect embodiment of soulless, calculated evil (which explains Lusipurr’s fascination… or should I say fascismination?).

Time travel is a silly gimmick.

Consider the TV show Lost, which “lost” (hurr hurr) its viewers when it introduced time traveling in to the narrative.  Why is time travel so irresponsible as a narrative device?

1.81 GIGWATTS!
1.81 GIGAWATTS OF PURE 80s GULL-WINGED POWER!!!

Because plotting, and therefore the movement of the story, require causality to function.  A few games have managed to do time-travel correctly:  Chrono Trigger stands out as an awesome example of this.  For most of the game, no matter what the protagonists do, the future is not altered… why?  Is it the inherent futility of man’s actions against a cosmic future he neither apprehends nor understands?  Or is it that Lavos is one bad-ass mofo and some spiky-haired yokel is not about to wreck his plans for world domination?

Whatever the answer, the follow-up question should not be, “What other kinds of time-travel games can we make?”

I understand that indie sensation Braid involves time travel to solve puzzles, but honestly, I do not care about this game and so cannot be bothered to tell my readers whether it successfully integrates time-travel mechanics.

No, my purpose here is, as always, to turn my baleful eye upon those who are committing CRIMES AGAINST GAMERS, because I am a prosecutor, and I must always have things to prosecute, or I shrivel up and die, like a crime-fighting vampire, but not the emo wussy ones on Buffy.

So it is with a gleeful and hungry heart that Atlus once again dangles its weeaboo bait in front of my gaping, fanged maw:  Radiant Historia.

Time travel sucks
Time travel, as a game mechanic, is usually done poorly.

Premise:  players are given control of a time-traveler that uses a magic book to zip between epochs righting wrongs to build a better world.

Hypothesis:  players will find out that changing history leads to far-ranging and unforeseen effects, and a curious sound of thunder will be heard as millions of sf literature fans storm Atlus’s doubtless pagoda-shaped offices crying for BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!!!

Ahem.

The problem is not the game, nor the premise of altering history for the better.  I originally planned to have something penned about how awesome it was to stop those dastardly Templars in Assassin’s Creed:  Brotherhood, but the vile forces of American imperialism have co-opted me for a day of turkey indulgence with family, so that will have to wait until the following week.

The problem is that this falls right in to the afore-mentioned paradox:  history cannot sustain multiple versions of itself.  The person attempting to hold in his mind (in this case, the protagonist) the two “truths” of history (one where Hitler lives, and one where Hitler dies early) will eventually drive him insane.

As a survival horror game, the idea shows promise.  As a cheap and colorful Atlus RPG, it will be as forgettable as whatever other dross Atlus has flung at us recently.  For shame, Atlus.  As soon as Lusipurr perfects my time machine, I shall travel in to the past and use my powers of superior reason to persuade Atlus not to go this course.

Wait… dammit!!!

4 comments

  1. -I prefer time travel narratives where every attempt of the protagonist to prevent an event from happening only serves to ensure that it does.

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