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NationStates Logo2.png
Type of site
Government simulation game
Owner Max Barry
Created by Max Barry
Revenue From advertising, paid premium memberships and encouraged book sales
Alexa rank 12,315 (March 2017)[1]
Commercial Yes
Registration Yes
Launched 13 November 2002
Current status Active

NationStates is a multiplayer government simulation browser game. It was created by Max Barry and was publicly released on 13 November 2002,[citation needed] based loosely on his novel Jennifer Government.[2] Barry founded the site as an independent vehicle publicizing the book one week before its release.[2] The site continues to promote books written by Barry.


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 categorized. [...] It was fun, but I also wanted to see what kind of country my policies created, and have to deal with the consequences."[3]


The Australian Aboriginal Flag
The Australian Aboriginal Flag is the default flag for new nations in NationStates.

Players set up their nation by answering a short questionnaire about their intentions for its economy, civil rights and political freedoms,[4] giving it a name,[5] a flag from current countries and territories or their own, a national animal, a currency, and an official motto.[4] The player's response to the initial questionnaire defines the type of government they are running.[6]

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. Nations that remain inactive and are resurrected are put into three "sinker" regions called Osiris, Balder, and Lazarus, all named after characters that purportedly rose from the dead. Nations ejected or banned from a region are moved to a region known as "The Rejected Realms".

Gameplay hinges on deciding government policies: Multiple times each day the player is presented with an automatically assigned "issue",[6] such as choosing whether to allow a right-wing protest march, or dealing with food shortages in their country.[4] The player chooses a government stance from a list of options, or may choose to dismiss the problem. Each action or inaction affects the prosperity of the player's country, and may have unforeseen effects. For instance, granting greater political freedom may lead to more civil unrest.[4] Some issues are written by the game's developers, while others are submitted by players. For the first 30 days of a nation's existence, only game-created issues can be answered, but after that period any approved issue can be answered.[6] The player's responses to issues affect the nation's status in three main factors: the level of Political Freedoms and Civil Rights and the strength of the Economy.[6]

A chart showing the game's 27 government types

Based on the nation's civil, economic and political freedoms, the nation is assigned to one of 27 government types,[6] 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 the most liberal public nudity laws.[6]

Outside the basic technical parameters of nation play, players can also move freely between regions, "take over" opposing regions by flooding them with foreign nations (a popular gameplay tactic also called "raiding"), interact on the game's chat boards, vote on resolutions at the World Assembly (which affect member nations' stats much the same way issues do), and chat and/or roleplay their countries on the official game forums. Many of the regions also have separate regional forums that concern regional politics, fairs, etc.


Critical reception[edit]

Jay Is Games's Jerrad praised the game stating "The real beauty in this game is that it's accessible on so many levels."[7] 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."[8] 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)".[6] 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".[9]


The game attracted a thousand nations within two weeks, and had 20,700 by the end of the first year.[4] Barry was surprised by the popularity of the game, and saw its discussion forums developing into an arena for political debate.[4] 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".[2]

United Nations incident[edit]

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 removed the logo and changed the name to the World Assembly.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ " Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 2017-03-17. 
  2. ^ a b c O'Connell, Pamela Licalzi (16 January 2003). "ONLINE DIARY". The New York Times. p. 3. Retrieved 30 June 2011. 
  3. ^ Jody Ewing (16 January 2003). "Young author’s new book ‘Jennifer Government’ Headed for Big Screen". Siouxland Weekender. Retrieved 2017-01-05. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Goldman, Noah. "A Web Site of Virtual Nations". ABC News. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  5. ^ Agencies (12 September 2006). "Virtual nations take control over the cyber world". The Economic Times. The Times Group. Retrieved 13 January 2017. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Christa Sommerer; L. C. Jain; Laurent Mignonneau (2008). The Art and Science of Interface and Interaction Design. Springer. p. 173. ISBN 354079869-2. 
  7. ^ Jerrad (13 October 2003). "NationStates - Walkthrough, Tips, Review". Jay Is Games. Retrieved 2017-01-05. 
  8. ^ Perron, Bernard; Wolf, Mark J.P., eds. (2008). The Video Game Theory Reader 2. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. p. 173. ISBN 978-3-540-79869-9. 
  9. ^ Kevin Sundstrom (10 March 2013). "30 New APIs: Intercom, EasyPost, and Jorum". ProgrammableWeb. Retrieved 2017-01-05. 
  10. ^ The United Nations vs Me, retrieved 17 May 2014.

External links[edit]