Screenshot of the NationStates home page
Type of site
|Government simulation game, internet forum|
|Created by||Max Barry|
|Revenue||From advertising, paid premium memberships and encouraged book sales|
|Users||232,632 active nations as of 7 January 2021|
|Launched||13 November 2002|
NationStates (formerly Jennifer Government: NationStates) is a multiplayer government simulation browser game. It was created by Max Barry and was publicly released on 13 November 2002, based loosely on his novel Jennifer Government. Barry founded the site as an independent vehicle publicising the novel one week before its release. NationStates continues to promote books written by Barry, but has developed to be a sizeable online community, with an accompanying forum board of significant size being an integral part of the site. Since its release, over 7.1 million user-created nations having been founded on the site, with just over 232,600 being active as of January 2021.
In an interview, Max Barry said the influence for the game began with a questionnaire he took: "NationStates was influenced by a little political quiz I did once, where you answer a bunch of multiple-choice questions and have your politics categorised. ... It was fun, but I also wanted to see what kind of country my policies created, and have to deal with the consequences."
Players set up their nation by answering a short questionnaire about their intentions for its economy, civil rights and political freedoms, choosing a name, a flag from current countries and territories or their own custom one, a national animal, a currency, and an official motto. Over time, nations unlock new customizable fields, such as the ability to declare a national religion, among other customizations. A player's response to the initial questionnaire defines the type of government they are running, though it can change over time as players answer "issues" within the game. Other settings change the appearance of the website.
Issues gameplay hinges on deciding government policies. Multiple times each day the player is presented with an automatically assigned "issue", such as choosing whether to allow a Nazi march, or dealing with food shortages in their country. The player chooses a government stance from a list of options, or may choose to dismiss the problem. Each choice made affects the prosperity of the player's country (dismissal has no effect), and may have unforeseen consequences. For instance, granting greater political freedom may lead to more civil unrest. Some issues are written by the game's developers, while others are submitted by players with in-game "populations" of 250,000,000 or greater. Originally, nations would only receive issues #0 through #30 in the first month of their existence, but in 2016 when the number of issues-per-day was increased from two to four, this system was scrapped. The player's responses to issues affect the nation's status across three main statistics: the level of Political Freedoms and Civil Rights and the strength of the Economy.
Some issues take the part of "Issue Chains", which are series of Issues that cover more significant political scenarios. As of 15 November 2020, there are four Issue Chains in-game: "An International Incident", where the player responds to a non-player character nation kidnapping its citizens, "The Enemy Within", where they player responds to a 9/11-style terrorist attack, "@@CAPITAL@@gate", where the player responds to allegations of a Watergate-style wiretapping incident, and "MADness", where the player responds to escalating political tensions among nuclear-armed nations.
Based on the nation's civil, economic and political freedoms, the nation is assigned to one of 27 government types, from Anarchy, to Inoffensive Centrist Democracy, to Psychotic Dictatorship. Although there is no way of "winning" the game, daily "World Census reports" are compiled for each region and the entire world, ranking nations on anything from economic strength to cheese exports to the most liberal public nudity laws; thus allowing a nation or region to outperform and thus outrank other nations and regions.
As of 23 December 2020, there are 1,427 different issues that nations can be confronted with.
The World Assembly
The World Assembly is a voluntary body concerned with the drafting and passage of international law within NationStates. It has two entirely separate chambers of the body, called the General Assembly and the Security Council. While the General Assembly is concerned with passing legislation on various topics – such as human rights, free trade, and environmental protection – the Security Council recognises various nations and regions for good or bad deeds, through commendations, condemnations, and liberations. World Assembly membership is also commonly used to as a check against sockpuppeting as, while players may have multiple nations, only one nation may be a member of the World Assembly. The General Assembly, which precedes the Security Council by over a year, has historically had two fundamental ideologies: national sovereigntism (colloquially known as "NatSov"), and International Federalism (colloquially known as "IntFed"). A team of appointed player-volunteers moderates proposals submitted to the GA.
The Security Council is concerned with recognition of nations or regions for actions that are deemed either good or bad. It can take several actions: commendations, condemnations, and liberations. Commendations and condemnations are broadly seen as badges of honour for remarkable or important player actions. The types of actions rewarded vary and include things such as achievements in roleplay and gameplay. Liberations are applied to regions, striking down delegate-imposed passwords that make it difficult to move into the region. They are used at times to defend against raiders or offensively to open opportunities to raid.
Outside the basic technical parameters of nation play, players can also move from one region to another, as long as the target region is not password-protected. They use their nations' World Assembly memberships to "endorse" each other, making one of them a regional World Assembly Delegate, a tactic commonly called "raiding". Depending on the regional settings, raiding sometimes gives the invaders power over regional settings like appearance, border control, and "embassies" with other regions. Certain regions and organizations specialize in raiding, and are known as "raider" organizations. This has led to the rise of other, "defender" regions and organizations who seek to prevent raiders from doing so. "Defending" works in much the same way as raiding; however, its intent is to counter raiding.
NationStates Trading Cards is a virtual trading card game for NationStates, released on 1 April 2018, originally as the theme for the annual NationStates April Fools' Day minigame in 2018. The objective is to earn Loot Boxes by answering issues, and build up a collection of trading cards that feature nations, or trade trading cards with other players.
A region is defined as a group of nations which come together in order to interact.[clarification needed] They do this on a Regional Message Board, which functions much like a chat room or on regional forums off site. Many regions also use Discord for off site messaging. Furthermore, many regions, particularly larger ones, have "regional governments", which involve themselves in the World Assembly, in inter-regional gameplay, and domestic regional affairs. Some of these regions have adopted liberal governmental models, while others prefer anarchy or other, more restrictive models.
New nations appear in one of five main game regions (known in the game as "feeders") located in the NationStates version of the Pacific Ocean (The East, West, North, South and the Pacific), but nations are able to move to other regions, or create their own. These are called User Created Regions, or UCRs. Nations that remain inactive and are "resurrected" (i.e., reactivated) are put into three "sinker" regions called Osiris, Balder, and Lazarus, all named after entities that purportedly rose from the dead. Nations ejected or banned from a region are moved to a region known as "The Rejected Realms"; nations cannot be ejected or banned from this region, but can move to another region at anytime. Also popular big regions are the Chicken Overlords, Europe and 10000 islands.
The website features a large and active forum board powered by phpBB. The board was hosted from 2004 - 2009 by Jolt; the switch to phpBB occurred when Jolt was acquired by OMAC Holdings. There are a variety of categories in which a plethora of topics can be found; including but not limited to nation and region-oriented roleplaying, World Assembly discussions and drafting, raiding and liberations, and discussions of current events and creative arts among other areas of discourse. The board lacked moderation from its creation in November 2002 alongside the main NationStates site until April 2003. As of November 2020 approximately 31 million posts have been made on the forum within approximately 400,000 forum threads, with just over 1.41 million users being registered on the forums. The board has anywhere between 50 to 250 users online at any given time, with the most users online at the same time being 590 in April 2013.
Jay Is Games's Jerrad praised the game stating "the real beauty in this game is that it's accessible on so many levels." In the 2008 book The Video Game Theory Reader 2, Lars Konzack critiqued that it promoted libertarianism but says "open to experimentation and reflection on politics rather than being merely political propaganda. It becomes a philosophical game in which the player is invited to become part of an examination of political ideas. This game takes advantage of the potential in games to truly put the player in control and let him reflect on his own decisions, investigating political theory turned into meaningful game aesthetics." In the 2008 book The Art and Science of Interface and Interaction Design, Volume 1, C. Paul said NationStates "is an interesting take on the interplay of freedom and control (and governance without government)". ProgrammableWeb's Kevin Sundstrom listed NationStates among the 30 New APIs remarking its application programming interface "provides a developer interface for automate game world data collection".
The game attracted a thousand nations within two weeks, and had 20,700 by the end of the first year. Barry was surprised by the popularity of the game, and saw its discussion forums developing into an arena for political debate. He was impressed by some of the activity in the forums, relating how "One nation accused another of conducting secret missile tests and posted photos to prove it. That escalated into an international crisis that was only solved by sending in teams of independent weapons inspectors".
In April 2020 a relatively popular YouTuber named Drew Durnil made a video on NationStates, which consequently lead to thousands of his viewers creating new nations. The influx of new accounts was detrimental to the site's performance, and was received negatively by the NationStates community, with many referring to the incident as the 'Drewpocalypse'.
United Nations dispute
In 2008, Barry received a cease and desist order from the United Nations for using the UN name and logo for the international ruling body on the website. In response, he changed the logo and changed the name to the World Assembly on 1 April, which many initially took as one of Barry's annual April Fool's Day jokes. However, the page for the World Assembly still contains the URL path 'un' to this day.
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