Type of site
|Government simulation game|
|Created by||Max Barry|
|Revenue||From advertising, paid premium memberships and encouraged book sales|
|Alexa rank||14,694 (August 2018[update])|
|Launched||13 November 2002|
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 book one week before its release. The site continues to promote books written by Barry, but has developed to be a sizeable online community, with over 5 million user-created nations.
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, giving it a name, a flag from current countries and territories or their own, a national animal, a currency, and an official motto. The player's response to the initial questionnaire defines the type of government they are running, though it can change over time as you answer 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 right-wing protest 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 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. Some issues are written by the game's developers, while others are submitted by players with in-game "populations" of 50,000,000 or greater. 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. 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.
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 the most liberal public nudity laws.
As of 21 May 2018, there are now 1,000 different issues that nations can be confronted with.
Outside the basic technical parameters of nation play, players can also move freely between regions, and use their status to "endorse" each other, making one of them a regional World Assembly Delegate, a tactic commonly called "raiding". Raiding sometimes, depending on the regional settings, gives the invaders power over regional appearance, border control, and "embassies" with other regions, among other powers. Certain regions, such as the Black Hawks, exist to do such, leading to the rise of other, "defending" regions who seek to prevent raiders from doing so, such as The Order of the Grey Wardens.
A region is defined as a group of nations which come together in order to interact. They do this on a Regional Message Board, which functions much like a chat room, or on regional offsite forums, through groups such as xenForo and Discord. 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, such as The North Pacific, have adopted democratic governmental models, while others, such as Lazarus, opt for anarchy or other forms of regional government.
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". Players may have multiple nations (contributing to the active nation count), but only one nation may be a member of the World Assembly.
The World Assembly
The World Assembly is an international law-making body within NationStates, in which players may submit resolutions that, if they garner enough approvals from regional World Assembly Delegates, reach a vote among all members of the organization (membership is voluntary). These resolutions, some of which are drafted on the forums, have covered a range of international issues, such as human rights and environmental protection, usually written in a format similar to that in a Model United Nations resolution.
Involvement in the World Assembly has led to an argument among nations as to the merits of national Sovereignty as opposed to the World Federalist Movement (also called International Federalism), which has the power to make binding laws over its member nations. One example of these contentious resolutions was "Reproductive Freedoms", which requires member nations to legalize abortion.
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".
United Nations incident
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 on 1 April, which many initially took as one of Barry's annual April Fool's Day jokes.
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