Time is a frequently used term, yet hard to define and understand. Physicists define time as the progression of events from the past to the present into the future. This means that an unchanging system is considered as timeless, but what happens when the rules of time and physics are altered?

In Quantum Break, Jack reunites with his friend at the Meyer Physics Research Center of Riverport University campus. After activating the time machine in the Project Promenade lab, the core sends out an explosion of Chronon energy due to a miscalculation in the design of this complex machine.

Following the massive explosion, time became disrupted. The concept of Fracture in Time leads to stutters wherein time would progress out of sync, resulting in the inevitable End of Time scenario, the end result of the unstable development of time. The further in the game, the more frequent the stutters occur.

Time is unpredictable

Scientists consider time as a fourth dimension of reality used to describe the course of events in our three dimensional world. Time is not a physical object we can see, hear or touch, but physisists measure its passage.

In Quantum Break, Project Promenade presumably progressed for eight months before complications occurred. A detailed analysis of the time machine exposed a fatal flaw in the current design that would prevent the stabilisation of the Chronon field once the device was activated. As a result, time became inconsistent and unpredictable.

A fragmented timeline

In science, equations work equally well whether time is moving forward into the future, defined as positive time, or backward into the past, defined as negative time. However, time in our reality has only one direction. The question of whether time is reversible, or not, is one of the largest unresolved questions in science.

In Quantum Break, time is reversible. However, traveling back in time poses problems. One documented and complex issue is causality or cause and effect. Moving back in time could cause a temporal time paradox.

Time paradoxes and contradictions

The consistency paradox occurs when a time traveller changes the course of an event in the past to alter the future. This results in a contradiction. A time traveller can do anything that did happen, but can never do anything that did not happen in the past. Doing something that did not happen results in a contradiction.

Parallel universes

The existence of consistency paradoxes means that the past is fixed and, as a result, not changeable. Therefore physicists believe time travel to the past is impossible, but there are solutions to counter a temporal paradox. Time travellers could bypass paradoxes by entering parallel universes or branch points. All these universes coexist and affect each other.

In the theorie of parallel universes, all possibilities are realised. In some universes, the dinosaurs survived the asteroid and in others, the human race went extinct or is dominated by animals. To put it simple: in one universe, you decided to eat a hamburger and in another, you decided to eat a pizza.

Butterfly effect in storylines

In popular culture, the concept of choices and consequences that influence future events is a common example of parallel universes. One player makes a certain decision and gets a specific ending, but another person may make a different choice resulting in a different ending.

The idea that small and meaningless causes may have larger effects at a later moment in time, or lead to a significantly different outcome, is known as the butterfly effect. Some thriller and survival horror games such as Until Dawn and Man of Medan incorporate this concept in their storyline.

Decisions and consequences

In both Until Dawn and Men of Medan, players are forced to make decisions which will affect the outcome of the game. Depending on their choices, relationships between characters could change, bringing them closer together or pushing them further apart.

Once you made a choice, you have to deal with its consequences. Until Dawn automatically saves your decisions which means that you cannot go back in time to reload your previous save file. You have to replay the entire game to change your decision and experience the outcome of a parallel universe.

Repairing time

In Quantum Break, the Fracture in Time can be repaired with a Countermeasure, a device known as the Chronon Field Regulator. This device is a repository of Chronon energy designed to repair anomalities in the Chronon field and end the stutters of the Fracture in Time, preventing the event known as the End of Time. But can time be repaired or an event be prevented if it has occured in a different timeline?

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Disclaimer. This post contains copyrighted images from Quantum Break, a video game developed by Remedy Entertainment and published by Microsoft Studios. The fair use of copyrighted works for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting or research is not considered as an infringement of copyright.

One thought on “Time as a story element and gameplay mechanic in games | Opinion

  1. Time is such a good gameplay mechanic. This post really shows its importance in games and storytelling and touched some great titles. Enjoy it.

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