Late on Thursday night, my e-mail decided to do something curious: break.
At first I thought it was just an oddity of my phone, until I noticed my computer was logged out as well. Attempts to reset it were useless; GMail’s password recovery protocol routed through a fallback mail that I hadn’t used in years and had since been deleted, and despite knowing my account well enough for any logical person to confirm it was mine, the CS team declared that it wasn’t a sure thing.
The mail address I had been using for six or seven years vanished in a puff of poor design and bad recovery planning. GMail had locked me out of a good portion of my life, several of my methods of recovery, my account and everything on it. I still don’t have access to good old Lostfactor, which had become so familiar as an address that even the convenience of my Massively.com address couldn’t overwhelm it.
Luckily, I set up a new account with GMail, rerouted everything necessary, and at this point I’m more or less back to the status quo. I still have to wrestle with my Droid a little to get it to acknowledge that the old address most likely isn’t coming back, but that’s a lesser concern. But the very fact that I decided to turn right around and sign back up with GMail raises an interesting question.
The damn thing broke on me and lost a whole bunch of correspondence in the process. Why would I go right back?
Because it broke after at least six years, probably seven. For a free service that I used more or less constantly, that’s stunningly good. The issues of recovery are ones that can be addressed to a small extent, but they’re also part of the price of doing business.
Things break. Software develops bugs, cars shudder to a halt, computers slow and stop, games get boring. Entropy is all-consuming. Life has a one hundred percent mortality rate. I’m annoyed at how this broke, and why it broke as badly as it did, but in the back of my mind I wasn’t entirely surprised. Of course it broke. Given enough time, so does everything.
MMOs break. Sometimes they break badly. Just like any other game, they will get boring, players will leave, the whole thing will eventually shut down. The fact that our two grandparent games are still running means nothing outside of the fact that the companies that run them feel there’s some profit to be gained, albeit perhaps just in public relations. These games are fossils.
World of Warcraft has lasted five years now without breaking. But it will, with certainty, and eventually something will step in to fill the void that it leaves behind. No king rules forever, nor does one game. And it will happen, in part, because a company focuses less upon building something that will be even harder to break than WoW and more upon building something that just takes as long as possible before it breaks and stops being interesting.
I signed right back up. Six years is a good lifespan. Hopefully by 2016 I’ll be ready for the break.