Saturday, October 26, 2013
Causality Loops - I Ain't Gotta Explain Shit
One of my favorite things in video games - well, all forms of media, really - is Time Travel because of the non-linear thinking that it necessitates to understand what's going on. One of the by-products of Time Travel stories is usually something called a Causality Loop, which, coincidentally, is another one of my favorite things in video games and media. Moreso than Time Travel, but it more or less goes hand in hand with Time Travel because one almost always has to beget the other. Of course, it's hard to really hammer in this point without really explaining just -what- it is, even though I'm sure we're all familiar with the concept of it, if not the actual definition.
A Causality Loop, in essence, is something that happens because it happened and furthermore must happen, because it happened. It sounds confusing and it is, but in all actuality, it's very simple because of its concrete foundations in its own existence. It's the direct inverse of what many call the Time Traveler's Paradox, in which it states that going back in time to prevent something from happening negates the necessity of the Time Traveling in the first place, meaning it would never take place, meaning that it would, again, have to take place. The resulting is a loop of things that don't happen because something happened that caused it to not happen. Examples are more or less needed to elucidate the actual concept in motion.
The classic go-to example of the Time Traveler's Paradox is going back in time to eliminate some horrible despot before he comes into a power that will eventually cause the world to spiral into chaos. Say the team succeeds, the despot is eliminated and the future is destined to change - what does that say of the future in which the time travelers were sent back from? By all accounts, it doesn't exist anymore because the despot's devastating rule was what necessitated the time traveling to begin with. Thus, there is no future to time travel back from, thus the time traveling does not occur, thus the despot is not eliminated and, as a result, time refuses to bend or change. It pretty much only covers willful time traveling, however, which brings us to the other point.
The only example of a Causality Loop that immediately springs to mind that we should -all- probably know about, is the one that Futurama brought to us with the episode "Roswell That Ends Well". The crew ends up thrown back into the 1940s and Fry runs into a man named Enos, who he recognizes as his grandfather. His accident-prone grandfather. Fry attempts several times to prevent Enos from dying because that would unmake him in the future, but his direct interference ends up causing Enos to die anyway, yet Fry still exists. He comforts Mildred, the girlfriend of Enos and who Fry thought was his grandmother, and the two end up having sex because Fry figures she can't be his grandmother because he still exists. Well, the end-result is that Fry is his own grandfather and it is hilarious. This is a proper example of a Causality Loop, however, because Fry exists because he exists. He ensured his creation by already being created by, seemingly, his own actions which are only possible because he existed. It's the whole "chicken or the egg" scenario, really.
There are other examples of Casuality Loops out there - at least a couple in Chrono Trigger which I almost got to, but will probably do some other night - and they're all just fun. Causality Loops are fun to me, in all honesty, otherwise I wouldn't have written about them at all. I do worry sometimes that people confuse them with paradoxes and, more frustratingly, plot-holes when they're honestly too cool to be either of them! Paradoxes are easy to make and plot-holes aren't always a big deal (yet you will hear someone yell about them for hours straight for no reason) but it takes -skill- to craft a perfectly executed Causality Loop. It is an art form and I cannot help but point them out. Especially since the phrase "Causality Loops - I ain't gotta explain shit" is one of my favorites, even though it is highly situational.
I was going to write about one of the loops in Chrono Trigger but I couldn't figure the words out and it started getting late