I picked up a somewhat recent DC comics collection from the library recently. Reading it, I realized I was not sure which apocalypse it came after. For most of my life, DC Comics has been resetting its world frequently. They do a multi-year story counting down to the apocalypse, a year-long apocalypse, and then a few years of a fresh new universe before starting the next countdown. Someone once said that there were three essential stories about a hero: the origin, the death, and everything else. DC has refined that into a business model. Every cycle, you get a new origin, a new death, and a chance to play with all the best stories and villains that have come before. As with the Silver Age, where stories were repeated because readership was expected to turnover every few years, few readers will be sticking around for enough cycles to get annoyed with it. If you do? Congratulations, you are the sort of fan who will keep reading anyway, so your money is already guaranteed.
I got over this annoyance all at once. Suddenly, it did not matter, so the story could live in the moment. Whatever continuity baggage it may have acquired, your favorite version of Blue Beetle or Supergirl, whatever — you have the story in front of you, and it stands or falls on its own. Every character is now an alternate character interpretation. Everything you like or hate will be reset in a few years anyway, so it does not matter which DC universe this is. The characters may be sixty years old, but they only “exist” in the present.
This is our gaming world. Games start and they end. There is a meta-game about which League of Legends champion is overpowered or how your favorite sports team will do in the next draft, but the game and the season in front of you are what matter. You have one hour to build from nothing to a satisfying conclusion.
And, behind the veil, this is our MMO gaming world. You will come and go, and nothing you do will have mattered except to the people who experienced it. We have the illusion of persistence, but you will quit playing, just like any other game; servers will shut down and everything will be erased, just like any other game. Within your lifetime, the computer environment that ran these games will need to be emulated, because no existing computer will run your MMO without more effort than goes into playing a game off a 5.25″ floppy on your laptop. Someone will have an EQ progression server set up, and others will view them like Civil War re-enactors.
Of course what you lose in this iteration is the ability to tell several categories of meaningful or significant stories. DC’s “Cry For Justice” series, for example, was driven by the death of a major character. The person leading the “Cry” had come just back from the dead, and pretty much everyone else in the room had as well, some of them in the last year. When the Flash ran himself out of existence fighting the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, that was a powerful moment; you cannot repeat it with a half-dozen other Flashes, and it retroactively cheapens it when you resurrect the sacrificed. GW Eye of the North has a story arc that ends with a death that would be much more compelling if the son giving the eulogy had not died five times in the mission leading up to that cinematic.