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Chrono Trigger video-essay short story, featuring some sweet OCR tunes! ("Do You Believe In Fate? Six perspectives on free will, human choice, and the shape of history.")

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I know you guys are big Chrono Trigger fans around here, so I thought you might appreciate this video which explores the nature of choice and human freedom, from the perspectives of Crono, Marle, Ayla, Lucca, Frog, and Robo, all in turn!  It also features the following really nice musical selections, as chosen by a friend of mine who is way more into videogame music than I am!  Here is a summary of each section of the story, with links to the music I used for each character's chapter:

0:00 -- Introduction & Context. Beyond reflecting my love for the time-travel-themed JRPG Chrono Trigger, this story is also heavily inspired by Braid, and that game's Italo-Calvino's-Invisible-Cities-esque plot structure, with six different worlds each showcasing a different idea about the nature of time. In Braid, even though the puzzle-solving time-powers of each world are fantastical, the story turns them into metaphors for different ways that we can experience time in our real lives. I wanted to write an ode to the beloved characters of Chrono Trigger that investigates similar philosophical questions about the nature of time.

2:45 -- Our story begins as Crono considers the question of Fate. In some ways, the idea that certain things are destined to happen (or at least nearly-certain), is embedded into our fundamental, everyday, common-sense way of thinking about the world. But equally, it seems absurd and superstitious to believe in the stereotypical "mystical" concept of fate, a world where magic prophecies come true and "everything happens for a reason". But to really understand the question of fate, we need to go far deeper than trivial considerations like these.
(music: Castle Rock, by JigginJonT)

4:55 -- Marle's tale. The princess gets tied up in a classic time-travel paradox when she inadvertently stops her own parents from being born. But what might it actually feel like to be part of a circular cause-and-effect loop like this? Imagine if every hour, your "soul" actually hops into a new body in a new parallel universe. Presumably you'd never notice that you were constantly changing lives -- your new body in each new universe would come complete with a brain and memories of its own unique childhood from that unique universe! Marle's story combines this idea with Lucca's concept of a "minimum-energy", resonant / self-stabilizing timeline, which is described in her story.
(Manoria Cathedral, by William Carlos Reyes)

8:45 -- Ayla's world shows us that, in a preindustrial civilization, the notion of linear time is less intuitive -- events seem to repeat circularly, with the continuity of human lives stretching endlessly into both the past and future. And furthermore, why is it that we care so much about the future in the first place -- we know little about it, yet we seem to care much more about the future than we do about the past, or about spatially far-away places in the present moment.
(Cave Girl, by zyko)

11:30 -- Lucca's analysis of Chrono Trigger's time-travelling lore. Since the world doesn't seem to change much even when we intervene in the past, that means that there is no "original timeline" -- we are already living in a timeline that was influenced by our future actions. This seems paradoxical from our perspective, but needn't be -- our timeline must be the stable outcome of some gradient-descent process, analogous to an attractor state in a chaotic system, or a sort of "path of least resistance" through history.
(Memories of Green, by SixteenInMono)

15:30 -- Frog's journey. Is it possible to truly know yourself completely -- to know which parts of your personality are fixed and which are changeable, to know which ideas about yourself are mistaken and which are accurate? To what extent is it possible to transform oneself into someone else, whether via deliberate effort or the mere passage of time?
(Wind Scene, by Yasunori Mitsuda & Millenial Fair)

19:50 -- Robo and Mother Brain. Like Robo, we are ultimately deterministic thinking-machines existing within the same physical universe that we seek to act upon. In light of this, how should we think about things like choice, freedom, control, and the process of personal growth/transformation? Are some mental experiences and personal changes less "genuine" than others, if they are caused by identifiable physical mechanisms like the influence of drugs or hormones, and how is this different from more legitimate influences which are also ultimately physical?
(Atom Heart Machine, by WARK!)

25:47 -- Robo's forest and the Entity. We can try to understand the world through science, but there will ultimately always be some limit -- whatever causes / creates / substantiates our universe with its rules of time, physics, and mathematics... must ultimately be beyond time, physics, and mathematics. How should we think about the ultimate question of what lies outside the universe?
(The Brink, by Super Guitar Bros)

29:15 -- Crono's answer to the question of Fate. Crono considers the sweep of historical ages, and the succession of short-sighted tyrants that seem to recur again and again. He contemplates his own journey and the ultimate limitations of his own human perspective.
(The Beginning of the Future, by Yulia Nechaeva, and Stratosphere by MAYA)

Edited by Jackson Wagner
adding tags and better title
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  • Jackson Wagner changed the title to Chrono Trigger video-essay short story, featuring some sweet OCR tunes! ("Do You Believe In Fate? Six perspectives on free will, human choice, and the shape of history.")

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