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Logo of NationStates
Screenshot of the NationStates home page
Screenshot of the NationStates home page
Type of site
Government simulation game, internet forum
Available inEnglish
Key peopleMax Barry (owner and creator)
  • Advertising
  • Paid premium memberships
  • Encouraged book sales
  • 315,464 active players
  • (as of 26 April 2023)
Launched13 November 2002; 20 years ago (2002-11-13)
Current statusActive

NationStates (formerly Jennifer Government: NationStates) is a multiplayer government simulation browser game created and developed by Max Barry. Based loosely on the novel Jennifer Government, the game was publicly released on 13 November 2002 with the site originally founded as an independent vehicle publicizing the novel one week before its release. NationStates continues to promote books written by Barry, but has developed to be a sizable online community, with an accompanying forum board. Since its launch, over 8.37 million user-created nations have been created,[1] with around 314,789 being active as of 18 February 2023.[2]


Max Barry in 2006.

NationStates, then named Jennifer Government: NationStates, was launched on 13 November 2002[3] by Australian novelist Max Barry to help promote the sale of his novel Jennifer Government, which NationStates is loosely based on, prior to its release.[4][5] Although NationStates launched in November 2002, Barry worked on beta versions of the game as early as 7 August 2002.[6] Barry has stated that he was influenced to create the website after he took a multiple-choice political quiz to determine a person's political affiliations,[7] adding that "it was fun, but I also wanted to see what kind of country my policies created, and have to deal with the consequences".[8]

On 21 January 2008, Barry received a cease and desist letter from the United Nations (UN) for unauthorized usage of its name and emblem for the game's fictional international organization which was based on the UN.[9] As a result, Barry changed the name of the organization to the "World Assembly", introducing the changes as an April Fool's prank.[10][11] Barry joked about the situation, stating "it's the place where players come together to debate and pass international law; in the five years the game has been running, they’ve implemented privacy safeguards, promoted religious tolerance, passed a universal bill of rights, and outlawed child labor, amongst 240 other resolutions [...] Clearly this wasn't anything the real UN wanted to be associated with".[10]


A chart showing the game's 27 government types

Players register by setting up their nation through answering a short questionnaire which determines the type of government the nation will have.[7] Players can determine their nation's name, flag, motto, currency, animal, capital, leader, and faith.[4][5] Additionally, players can publish articles known as "factbooks" which can convey information about the player's nation.[12]

The gameplay is centered on the player deciding government policies through "issues". Issues are written by either Barry or by the players themselves with moderator editing[5] and are based on real-world politics with an "absurd and humorous direction".[12] The player may choose from a list of options or dismiss the issue, and the player's responses may affect the nation's status across three main statistics: political freedom, civil rights, and economy; based on these main statuses, the nation is assigned to one of twenty-seven government classifications[5] which are determined on a three-axis scale of personal, economic, and political freedom. Initially, the player received only one issue per day, but players now receive issues multiple times per day on timed intervals.[12]

Players can also choose to join the World Assembly, a United Nations-like voluntary body concerned with the drafting and passage of international law. It has two separate chambers: the General Assembly and the Security Council. The General Assembly is concerned with passing legislation on various topics, while the Security Council recognizes various nations and regions for good or bad deeds. Players spawn in one of five "Pacific" regions (North, South, East, West, and just the 'Pacific') or others labeled as "frontier", but they can then move to different regions, which are a community function similar to a chat room. Users can create their own regions.[13] NationStates does not have a win condition.[5][7]

While NationStates lacks a mechanic for war between nations, it is possible to invade and take over other regions by exploiting a World Assembly mechanic. Every nation in the World Assembly can "endorse" other World Assembly members in their region, and the nation with the highest number of endorsements in a region becomes the World Assembly Delegate, who is responsible for approving proposals for voting in the World Assembly and can hold other permissions within a region. Players can seize control in a region by becoming its World Assembly Delegate in gameplay known as "raiding/defending" or "R/D".[13]

NationStates has an active forum board. The board was hosted from 2004 to 2009 by Jolt Online Gaming, before becoming self-hosted when Jolt was acquired by OMAC Holdings.[14] There are a variety of categories in which many topics can be found. As of January 2023, approximately 32 million posts have been made within approximately 430,000 forum threads, with just over 1.7 million users being registered.[15]


Critical reception[edit]

In the 2009 book The Video Game Theory Reader 2, Lars Konzack critiqued that NationStates promoted libertarianism, but also stated that it is "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."[16] In the 2008 book The Art and Science of Interface and Interaction Design, C. Paul said that NationStates is "an interesting take on the interplay of freedom and control (and governance without government)".[5]

Jay Is Games' Jerrad praised the game, stating "the real beauty in this game is that it's accessible on so many levels".[17] ProgrammableWeb's Kevin Sundstrom listed NationStates among its "30 New APIs", remarking that its application programming interface (API) "provides a developer interface for automate game world data collection".[18] Super Jump Magazine's Andrew Johnston described NationStates as "a product of an era in which people still created websites solely as a means of self-expression".[12]


The game attracted a thousand players 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.[7] 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".[4] In December 2016, Alexa Internet ranked NationStates as the 14,380th most visited website.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "NationStates | Create Your Own Country". NationStates. Retrieved 10 October 2022.
  2. ^ "NationStates | The World". NationStates. Retrieved 30 November 2022.
  3. ^ Barry, Max (13 November 2004). "NationStates is 2!". NationStates. Archived from the original on 16 July 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  4. ^ a b c O'Connell, Pamela Licalzi (16 January 2003). "Online Diary". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 16 July 2018. Retrieved 30 June 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Sommerer, Christa; Mignonneau, Laurent, eds. (19 August 2008). The Art and Science of Interface and Interaction Design. Vol. 1. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 173. ISBN 9783540798699.
  6. ^ Barry, Max. "NationStates – History". NationStates. Retrieved 21 January 2023.
  7. ^ a b c d Goldman, Noah (30 December 2002). "A Web Site of Virtual Nations". ABC News. Archived from the original on 7 March 2020. Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  8. ^ Ewing, Jody (30 December 2011). "Young Author's New Book 'Jennifer Government' Headed for Big Screen – A Talk with Max Barry". Sioux City Weekender. Archived from the original on 22 September 2020. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  9. ^ Terekhov, Andrei (21 January 2008). "Notice of Cease and Desist" (PDF). United Nations. New York City, New York. pp. 1–2. Retrieved 18 December 2021.
  10. ^ a b Barry, Max (2 April 2008). "The United Nations vs Me". Retrieved 18 December 2021.
  11. ^ Barry, Max (1 April 2008). "April Fools No-Prank". NationStates. Retrieved 21 January 2022.
  12. ^ a b c d Johnston, Andrew (7 March 2023). "NationStates and the Age of Browser-Based Games". Super Jump Magazine. Retrieved 12 April 2023.
  13. ^ a b "NationStates | Frequently Asked Questions". NationStates. Retrieved 16 July 2020.
  14. ^ Barry, Max (13 July 2004). "Viva La Forum". NationStates. Retrieved 21 October 2020.
  15. ^ "NationStates • Index Page". NationStates Forums. Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  16. ^ Perron, Bernard; Wolf, Mark J. P., eds. (19 November 2008). The Video Game Theory Reader 2. New York City and London: Routledge. pp. 42–43. ISBN 9781135895181. Retrieved 15 May 2022.
  17. ^ Jerrad (13 October 2009). "NationStates". Jay Is Games. Archived from the original on 2 April 2020. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  18. ^ Sundstrom, Kevin (10 March 2013). "30 New APIs: Intercom, EasyPost, and Jorum". ProgrammableWeb. Archived from the original on 1 March 2018. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  19. ^ " Traffic Statistics". Alexa Internet. Archived from the original on 16 December 2016. Retrieved 21 January 2023.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]