Nation States

"NationStates" redirects here. For the concept, see nation-state.
Jennifer Government: NationStates
Web address
Commercial? Yes
Type of site Government simulation game
Registration Yes
Owner Max Barry
Created by Max Barry
Launched 13 November 2002
Revenue From advertising, paid premium memberships and encouraged book sales
Alexa rank negative increase 19,063 (November 2013)[1]
Current status Active

Jennifer Government: NationStates is a multiplayer government simulation browser game. It was created by Max Barry and was publicly released on 13 November 2002,[2] based loosely on his novel Jennifer Government.[3] The game has hosted over 3.5 million nations with 115,685 current active nations in 15,768 different regions.[4] The game is expanded by users via off-site forums to construct centers of learning, discussion, and play.



The object of the game is to lead a country in the way the player finds best. At the start of the game, the player chooses a few basic characteristics including country name, flag, motto, currency, national animal and style of government. Answers to a short questionnaire determine the initial ratings of the country's civil, economic and political rights. The nation's population starts at five million and increases every day automatically with play.


Gameplay hinges on deciding government policies: the player is presented with automatically assigned "issues" and chooses a response from a list of options. Players can ignore issues by dismissing them, which has no effect on the nation.[5]

The player sets the frequency with which new issues arise (from zero to fourteen issues per week). After the original thirty issues written by Barry were found to be too few for the game to develop satisfactorily, players with national populations of over 500 million have been allowed to propose new issues since 15 July 2003.[6]

All issues have a peculiar characteristic, and no option is the "correct" one. Each usually has a positive and a negative aspect, although the latter is usually highlighted, and both are always exaggerated. Many issues are posed in terms of radical or extremist beliefs, and the accompanying opinions are rarely well-founded. This is for both humorous and didactic reasons: many opinions are extremely funny or ridiculous, and the player learns that there are no perfect ideas which will work in every case. As gameplay progresses, the user learns that each of the options provided for the proposed issues become more ridiculous and offer no stability to the nationstate. Although this is a simulation game of creating your own nation, the responses are often unrealistic and do not provide many middle-ground options to resolve the issues. Instead, the issues are used to drastically change your nation's economic, political, or social beliefs. As a whole, the issues do not directly relate to real-life situations but rather a more Barry-like nation-state as presented in Jennifer Government.[7]

There are occasional "Easter Egg" issues, such as one that dealt with piracy on the high seas, released to everyone on International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Other special issues appear after nations have achieved certain population-growth requirements, allowing players to choose a leader, capital city and national religion.

Nation Descriptions and Rankings

The player's responses to issues (except for dismissals) affect the nation's status in three main factors: the level of Political Freedoms, Civil Rights and the strength of the Economy. Decisions can also affect other aspects of the nation, such as the crime rate, industry strength and public sector spending.

Based on the nation's personal, economic and political freedoms, the nation is assigned to one of 27 government types (see below), from Scandinavian Liberal Paradise and Capitalist Paradise to Corporate Police State and Psychotic Dictatorship.[8] The "other variables" are used to compile the game's daily World Census Reports (formerly the "United Nations Reports"), which list every nation in the game in order of their rank in that day's chosen variable, such as Largest Manufacturing Industry, Largest Soda Pop Sector, Highest Unemployment, Safest Nations, Most Rebellious Youth, even Most Avoided Nations. The reports also group nations according to region, so a nation may be described on their main page as "1st in the region and 94th in the World for Smartest Citizens."

The nation's main page briefly describes the population, government, economy, that day's World Census ranking and latest policy decisions resulting from the player's choices. The 'National Happenings' section at the bottom of the page shows ten of the most recent events, which includes World Assembly activities and changes to the nation's characteristics (e.g. Motto, Currency, etc.).

Each decision passed through legislature will eventually have an impact on the attributes of a nation. Nations tend to lean heavily on decisions that involve the country's economic status.

Government Categories

The government Categories (formerly "UN Categories"), which are modeled according to the nation's political, civil and economic freedoms, include "anarchy", "corporate police state", "benevolent dictatorship" and "left-wing utopia".

April Fools' category 'fix'

As part of 2010 Liberal" versions on special pages.

World Assembly

Players may voluntarily join the NationStates World Assembly (abbr. WA), making their nations automatically affected by the decisions of that body. However, various players role-play disobedience. Discussions on draft/proposed resolutions take place on the forums, often home to all manner of political debate.

Renaming of the United Nations

The World Assembly was known as the United Nations before 1 April 2008. On that day, the fictional organization was renamed in response to a cease-and-desist order from the actual United Nations.[10] Though initially believed to be an April Fools Day joke, the legal complaint was revealed to be real the next day.[11] References to the "United Nations" or the "UN" were universally replaced on the official website, but remained in old forum posts and some fan-operated websites.

Commend and Condemn

Since May 2009, the World Assembly has had the power to "commend" or "condemn" specific nations or regions.[12] The new feature, although controversial at first, has become an major part of region play.

Group play

Nations are grouped into regions. New players begin in one of five Pacific regions and may move their nations into any other region at any time, or set up their own. Many regions have an elected leader, or Regional WA Delegate, and some participate in complex regional governments, though some contain only a handful of nations.

'Invading' or 'raiding'

Players occasionally attempt to collectively "invade" another region by entering it and seizing control of the regional Delegacy, though it may be hard to garner and coordinate support. Within the game, this process is called "raiding". Some regions have password protection to stave off such attacks, but this presents a problem of getting new members to join the region and a small risk of a spy infiltrating the region.

Many multi-regional organizations have formed - either to organize invasions or to organize those who defend against raider play. Many of these organisations or alliances have off-site forums or chats to better co-ordinate and organize their members.

Invading, "raiding", or "region crashing" first became prominent with a group of players calling themselves the Farkers (now referred to as invaders or raiders), who all arrived from links between the game and the website Steps were taken to reduce region-crashing and griefing while regulating the more benign invasion types. In order for one nation to eject another from the region, it must have a specific amount of "influence", which is partly derived from that nation's length of residency within the region. This helps ensure that invaders do not flood a region, install one of their own as WA Delegate, and then eject the original members from the region.[13]


NationStates' relatively simple simulation has given rise to more in-depth and freeform role-playing, with players using their nations' statistics to measure how their nations would fare in international trade, diplomacy, war, and sport. Some players have even developed complex statistical calculators.[14] Part of the appeal of NationStates lies in the ability to create an unrealistic utopia (or dystopia) as the subject of conversation and political philosophy, without needing to worry about practical matters, like national defense, that might become factors in a more comprehensive simulation. Many players do tend to play realistically and maintain at least sensibly constructed economies.

Technical history

Because of the past unreliability of the NationStates server, which commonly led to slow or inaccessible forums, January 2004 saw the announcement that the British gaming company Jolt Online Gaming would take over hosting of the site as well as the development of NationStates 2.[15] On 28 June 2004, after several delays, the game switched to the new servers; however, continued programming issues compounded by the death of Max Barry's father caused the forums to remain down until 13 July 2004.[16] Flag size increased from 6k to 10k around 15 August. Two Google advertisements were added May 2008 for the first time in the game's five-year history.[17]

On 18 June 2006, OMAC Industries purchased Jolt and assumed NationStates hosting duties. They also agreed to help develop a long-discussed NS sequel, NationStates 2.[18]

Technical failures

At three points during the game's existence, the large amount of data required to hold the names and information of over one million nations exceeded the amount of space available on the game's server. Rather than shutting down, the server continued to operate, but failed to save any additional data. As a result, anyone who logged into their nation found that their nation's name had been changed to "The 0 of 0", and that their region was suddenly without a Delegate, Founder, or name. On each occurrence, game administrators loaded a backup file from the previous day. The first "Great Disk Space Disaster" occurred on 27 April 2005[19] with subsequent errors taking place on 27 August 2005[20] and 2 April 2006.[21] The April 2 incident may have been a result of the April Fools joke the day before, where the game had been turned into an online matchmaking service, "NationDates".[22]


As of 7 December 2004, players had set up over 3,000,000 individual nations since NationStates premiered in late 2002.[23] At any time around 100,000 remain in existence despite inactivity, or as a result of deletion due to various rule infractions. Though the specific time has varied greatly over the years on-line, NationStates has a current inactivity limit of 28 days (or 60 days if nation-owners enable "Vacation Mode"), after which the system automatically deletes the quiescent nation.

Until 18 March 2008, Moderators could only resurrect nations deleted for inactivity (though not for rule-violations, unless circumstances warrant a repeal of the deletion) on the request of the nation's original owner. Since then, users are able to resurrect nations, by logging as usual with a valid password, and then confirming the password again.[24]

Resurrected nations arrive in one of three specially designated resurrection regions, rather than the Pacific regions where newly made nations start out.


NationStates has a spam and objectional content.

On 29 April 2009 the phpBB forums were reintroduced on the site's server for beta testing; on June 7 Barry declared the beta test a success and made the new forums official. But he also stated that the Jolt forums would remain.[25]

Recently, Jolt announced the NationStates forums hosted by them would be set to read-only status, meaning users could no longer actively post on the boards.[26] As of October 2010 the NationStates Forums have been deleted from Jolt.

Since then 'new forums' have been set up hosted on the NationStates server.

NationStates 2

On 21 April 2008, Max Barry announced the upcoming launch of NationStates 2.[27] It included complex new functions for war, trade, diplomacy, and customization. The website predicted a launch "later in 2008" and allowed users to sign up for an alert by email and text message. On 18 August 2008, a closed beta was announced, with 500 beta keys being given to random players from NS1. On 3 November 2008, an open beta was released to the public. However, there were complaints that the new features had been poorly implemented, especially from dedicated players of the original NationStates. Barry and game staff blamed OMAC, opening a rift between NationStates and its Web host.

On 25 February 2009, Max Barry announced that NationStates was again becoming independently hosted, leaving the OMAC Industries servers and game system, "and doesn't have terribly much to do with NS2 any more."[28] The precise nature of the remaining relationship has not been explained. On 20 May 2009, a site admin posted on the new self-hosted forums that Jolt was closing NationStates 2. Max Barry also posted on the NationState News blog that although NationStates 2 had numerous paid features, he was not receiving any money from Jolt. As of 1 July 2009, NationStates 2's domain displays a message on what happened, and contains a redirect link to the original NationStates.

See also


External links

  • Official Website
  • article

Template:Massively multiplayer online strategy video games

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