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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
Users290,754 active nations (as of 4 June 2024)
Launched13 November 2002; 21 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 Barry's novel Jennifer Government, the game launched on 13 November 2002 with the site originally founded to publicize and promote 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. As of 10 February 2024, over 9 million user-created nations have been created,[1] with 289,625 being active.[2]


Max Barry in 2006

NationStates, then named Jennifer Government: NationStates,[3] was launched on 13 November 2002[4] 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.[5][6] Although NationStates launched in November 2002, Barry worked on beta versions of the game as early as 7 August 2002.[7] 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,[8] 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".[3]

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.[8] Players can determine their nation's name, flag, motto, currency, animal, capital, leader, and faith.[5][6] 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[6][13] 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[6] which are determined on a three-axis scale of personal, economic, and political freedom. When NationStates initially launched, players received only one issue per day, however, multiple issues are now received per day on timed intervals. [12]

Players can also choose to join the World Assembly, a United Nations-like body concerned with the drafting and passage of international law. Membership in the World Assembly is voluntary.[14] Players spawn in one of five "Pacific" regions (North, South, East, West, and just the "Pacific") or other regions designated as "frontiers" which allow them to receive new nations. Some regions are designated as "strongholds", meaning they cannot receive new nations. Regardless of a nation's founding region, they can then move to different regions, which are a community function similar to a chat room.[15] If a Nation gets banned or ejected from a region, they will go to The Rejected Realms. Users can create their own regions.[14] NationStates does not have a win condition[6][8][16] nor winners and losers.[13][16] The game also does not have any warring or trading mechanics, although players can roleplay such interactions.[4]

NationStates has an active forum board.[4] The board was hosted from 2004 to 2009 by Jolt Online Gaming, before becoming self-hosted when Jolt was acquired by OMAC Holdings.[17] There are a variety of categories in which many topics can be found. As of January 2024, approximately 33.14 million posts have been made within approximately 443,000 forum threads, with just over 1.8 million users being registered.[18]


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 them reflect on their own decisions, investigating political theory turned into meaningful game aesthetics."[19] 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)".[6] In a 2004 article, the BBC described NationStates as a "tongue-in-cheek nation simulation game".[4]

Jay Is Games' Jerrad praised the game, stating "the real beauty in this game is that it's accessible on so many levels".[20] 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".[21] 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.[8] 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".[5] In 2007, Barry stated that when he launched the game, he initially believed that "nobody would be interested in playing a political simulation game. I imagined NationStates as the kind of game you might stumble across, have fun with for a week or two, then move on. Then this entire community just popped into existence, as vibrant and dedicated as any on the internet".[13]

In December 2016, Alexa Internet ranked NationStates as the 14,380th most visited website.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "NationStates | Create Your Own Country". NationStates. Retrieved 10 October 2022.
  2. ^ "NationStates | The World". NationStates. Retrieved 30 November 2022.
  3. ^ a b 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.
  4. ^ a b c d "NationStates – the Internet Game". BBC. 1 June 2004. Retrieved 9 January 2024.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Barry, Max. "NationStates – History". NationStates. Retrieved 21 January 2023.
  8. ^ 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.
  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". maxbarry.com. 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 c Bose, Purnima (January 2008). "Max Barry's Jennifer Government and NationStates: Neo Neo-Liberalism and the Cultural Public Sphere". Acta Scientiarum. Language and Culture. 30 (1). State University of Maringá: 11–18. doi:10.4025/actascilangcult.v30i1.4052. Retrieved 9 January 2024.
  14. ^ a b LordLComet (27 August 2008). "BBG: Jennifer Government: NationStates". Casualty Gamer. Archived from the original on 1 September 2008. Retrieved 5 January 2024.
  15. ^ "NationStates | Frequently Asked Questions". NationStates. Retrieved 16 July 2020.
  16. ^ a b Hasan, Lamat Rezaul (2 February 2006). "Nation Building Via Internet". Hindustan Times. New Delhi, India. Archived from the original on 3 March 2006. Retrieved 9 January 2024.
  17. ^ Barry, Max (13 July 2004). "Viva La Forum". NationStates. Retrieved 21 October 2020.
  18. ^ "NationStates • Index Page". NationStates Forums. Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ Jerrad (13 October 2009). "NationStates". Jay Is Games. Archived from the original on 2 April 2020. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ "nationstates.net Traffic Statistics". Alexa Internet. Archived from the original on 16 December 2016. Retrieved 21 January 2023.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]