"Hello, Internet and welcome to GAME THEORY, gaming's tangential learning experience. Through these videos, we hope you'll find more reasons to appreciate some of your favorite games, while sparking some interest in new real-world topics."
Is Chrono Trigger's Time Travel Accurate?

Chrono Trigger Thumbnail

Chrono trigger screen

Release date April 18, 2011
Length 7:20
Intro Huey Lewis and the News - "Back in Time"
Outro Lucifer - "At the Time of Fate"
Link Is Chrono Trigger's Time Travel Accurate?
GT Episode Guide
Episode 1
Series Game Theory
Game Chrono Trigger
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Is Chrono Trigger's Time Travel Accurate? (subtitled True Time Travel?) is the 1st episode on Chrono Trigger and 1st overall episode of Game Theory on The Game Theorists.


This inaugural episode looks at what, if anything, the RPG masterpiece Chrono Trigger can teach us about the science of time travel.

Inspired by the "Tangential Learning" episode of gaming series EXTRA CREDITS, I've started a new web series that looks into learning a wide range of topics through the filter of video games.


Strap into your DeLorean and accelerate to 88 miles per hour, because we're talking about time travel. Hello internet and welcome to Game Theory. Gaming’s tangential learning experience. Through these videos, we hope you'll find more reasons to appreciate some of your favorite games, while sparking some interest in new, real-world topics. On this- our inaugural episode- we'll be looking at one of my all-time favorite RPGs: Chrono Trigger, and analyzing what, if anything, the game can teach us about its core gameplay mechanic: time travel. We'll start off by looking at the first method of time travel used in the game. The adventure kicks off with a science experiment gone wrong. Take one teleportation pod, throw in a magical pendant, and bada-bing bada-boom, you've accidentally torn the time-space continuum. The characters eventually refer to these fourth dimension portals as time gates, but, is it fact or fiction? Are there any real world equivalents to these phenomena? Well, Square[Soft]- Chrono’s developer- knows what they were talking about, because believe it or not, there have been reports of real-world time gates. They're officially called time slips. Paranormal events where a group of people travel through time via some unknown, accidental, or mystical way. The reports are, well I'll let you be the judge. This link will take you to some videos outlining a few of these stories. Specifically one from 1979 about a time tripping hotel. Chrono’s time gates are also very reminiscent of wormholes. Specifically, traversable wormholes. A theoretical physics concept, that is thought to serve as a shortcut, through time and space. The Morris-Thorne Wormhole, the first ever proposed, was thought to be held open by some spherical, exotic matter, and surprisingly, look very similar to the ones found in the game. Point, Chrono. That covers one mode of transportation found in the game, but what about the time machine? The aptly named Epoch? Well, to analyze this, we need to examine how it works, and to do that, let's look at its animation. When you set a course for another era, the Epoch speeds up, presumably flies around the world because it disappears on one half of the screen only to reappear on the other side, and then vanishes into a flash of light. So how accurate is it? Once again, I am happy to say, that it's really not that far from the truth. According to Einstein's theories of relativity, if we could achieve a speed approaching the speed of light, a dilation of time would occur, causing time to pass slower on the moving body, relative to that on Earth, technically making it possible to travel into the future. So let's take it one step further. Does the Epoch actually reach these enormous speeds? The whole animation takes three seconds, so figuring that the circumference of the earth is about, 24,900 miles at the equator, you're traveling at speeds around 8,300 miles per second. Now, compare that to the speed of light which is 186,000 miles per second and Crono and the gang don't come close. But, I would hazard to say that even at their speeds, some time dilation effects would occur. And now it's time for a segment I like to call, Deep Thoughts in Gaming. This week's deep thought is a point in the Chrono story that I skimmed over when I was 9 years old playing the game for the first time. Let's set the scene. So upon arriving in the Middle Ages your party member Marle from the present, is mistaken for the kingdom's kidnapped queen. Thinking that their lost queen has returned, the medieval search party, ends thus ensuring the death of the real queen. As a result, Marle, who is really a princess, and the descendant of the lost queen, disappears completely. In essence what my impatient nine-year-old mind couldn't understand at the time, was that game designers setting up what is called a Grandfather Paradox. It goes something like this: a time traveller goes back in time to kill his grandfather, before the grandfather meets his future wife. This murder would then prevent one of the time traveler's parents from being born, and thus, the time traveler himself from being born, which in turn, means that he could never go back in time to kill the grandfather in the first place. Tricky, right? But what's it mean? Some use the Grandfather Paradox as evidence that time travel isn't possible, while others, like physicists Igor Novikov and Kip Thorne, resolve the paradox, by proposing that any time travel must be self-consistent, that is, anything a time traveler does has always been a part of history or in other words, that past events cannot be changed. Only altered, toward the same conclusion. So, when Crono and the team rescue the real queen, they preserve the original timeline, but alters slightly the way it was achieved. There is, of course, a third option. The possibility of parallel universes and alternate timelines but, now is not the time to touch on string theory. We'll save that for when we talk about Kirby's Epic Yarn. And now it's time for my final thought. To this day, I love Chrono Trigger. The time mechanic is ingenious and brilliantly implemented, the story is epic, and the worlds you explore are all fully realized, but beyond that, we've seen today that it definitely provides a fairly accurate portrayal of time travel as it's currently envisioned. But here's the take-home question: is it possible? Will we be able to fly to the past to save our prehistoric ancestors, or jump forward to fight in post-apocalyptic futures? The answer to that comes in two parts: probably not, and maybe, but probably not. It's currently unknown if backwards time travel is possible. Just look at the Grandfather Paradox and you'll see just one of many of its complications. Stephen Hawking, the famous theoretical physicist, said it best. “If travel to the past is possible, then where are all the tourists from the future?” Well, it's either that it's not possible or, we live in a time that no one wants to visit. So, seeing dinosaurs or visiting King Arthur's Court probably won't be happening without going to a museum. But that doesn't rule out time travel completely. Einstein's theory of relativity showed the world a possible doorway to the future, and some small-scale experiments have actually verified that velocity-based time travel is possible. In short, there's a lot of complicated theories, and we're a long way off technologically, but who knows what tomorrow may bring. I mean you don't find the time machine in the game until the year 2300, so, we have a while to wait. But then again, the world was supposed to end in 1999. Anyway, what comes next? Only time will tell. Thanks for watching.


  • Is Chrono Trigger's Time Travel Accurate? was originally titled Chrono Trigger, Time Travel Truths.
  • This is the first ever episode of Game Theory. The thumbnail is also the first to have a subtitle, however it would be a while before they were used in thumbnails on a regular basis.
    • As such, it is the first video on MatPat's channel after he quit acting and switched his career to YouTube.
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