Jennifer Government: NationStates

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Jennifer Government: NationStates, typically shortened to Nationstates (NS), is a massive multiplayer online game created by Max Barry in 2002. It is very loosely based on his book, Jennifer Government. In the basic game, players charge of a simulated nation and decides issues that affect their country. Nations may also join the World Assembly and vote on resolutions which affect other members.


All players control at least one nation. Players are allowed to have multiple nations, and it is not uncommon for them to have puppets, but only one of them may be a member of the World Assembly at a time. Each nation has a number of settings and statistics which influence its look and description. Many of these are set in an initial state at the time of the nation's creation. Except for the nation's name, which is immutable, all of these can be changed afterwards. Whether this is done directly or indirectly depends on the type of information concerned.

A nation's flag, title, motto, currency and national animal can all be set directly by the player from their settings page. A capital, leader and state religion can also be set once certain issues are gotten and acted on in a certain way. Most of these fields are fully customizable and have no preset options available. The exceptions are the flag, for which the player can use a real one instead of making their own, and the title, which is chosen from a finite list of options until the nation's population reaches 500 million, at which point the field becomes a typical custom one.

Ratings for civil rights, the economy and political freedom, tax rate, key industries, budget, economic composition and demographics can also be changed by the player, but only indirectly through issues or, if the nation is a member, World Assembly resolutions. A nation's civil rights, economic and political ratings are used in turn to assign it a category. There are twenty-seven such categories, one for each combination of the three groups of ranks into which each rating is divided. Statistics controlled by issues and resolutions also determine a nation's position relative to other in periodic national rankings. The variable being measured changes daily, and nations are compared both within their region and the world as whole.

Players do not control their nation's population, which starts at 5 million when the nation is created and increases indefinitely over time. This unlimited growth means that nations which are around long enough eventually end up with very large and unrealistic populations. For the same reason, population is also useful as a rough measure of how long a nation has been in the game.

If a player does not log into their nation periodically, it will cease to exist (CTE) after twenty-eight days. Players can choose in their settings to receive emailed warnings about such an impending apocalypse. Even if a nation ceases to exist, it can still be revived later if the player remembers the password for the nation or used an email address for it which they can access to reset their password. Because of this, a name previously used by a nation could never be used again originally, even if the nation no longer existed. This was later changed so that the names of most nations below a certain population would become available again some time after ceasing to exist.


The core gameplay of NationStates hinges on deciding government policies. The player is regularly presented with issues and may choose a response from a list of options. Their choice will in turn affect their nation. Players can also dismiss issues without affecting their nation. The rate at which new issues arise is set by the player, who may choose either none, one per weekday, two per weekday, one per day or two per weekday. After the original issues written by Barry were found to be too few for the game to satisfactorily develop, players were allowed to submit new issues starting July 15, 2003.

There is no correct option for any particular issue, and each usually has both positive and negative aspects. Many issues are posed in terms of radical or extremist beliefs, and the accompanying opinions are rarely well-founded. This serves both humorous and didactic purposes. Similarly, options often have unexpected or exaggerated results which may not always be explicit in their descriptions. In particular, any issue which implements a new government program will increase the nation's tax rate, and new players often unwittingly increase theirs to absurd levels. Because of such potentially undesirable effects, it is routine for players to dismiss issues when they find none of the given options appealing.


All nations are located in one of many regions, which can be broadly divided into two categories: game-created regions (GCR) and user-created regions (UCR). Game-created regions can be further subdivided into feeders, sinkers and warzones. Nations can move to any regions which has not been password protected, and any nation can found a new one.There are some common traits shared by all regions, while others are specific to only certain kinds.

The most important game-created regions are the feeders and sinkers. All newly founded nations appear in one of game's five feeders, the Pacific (TP), the North Pacific (TNP), the East Pacific (TEP), the South Pacific (TSP) or the West Pacific (TWP). Nations which have been revived after ceasing to exist appear in one of the three sinkers Lazarus, Osiris or Balder, while nations which have been ejected from a region are sent to the final sinker, the Rejected Realms (TRR). Both the feeders and the sinkers receive a steady stream of nations and are therefore consistently among the largest in the world.

Warzones are game-created regions for the purpose of raiding and defending. The goal in any warzone is to seize the position of delegate by moving in allied World Assembly nations, and then to hold on to it for as long as possible. The delegate who has held the position for longest is shown on the region's page.

All other are user-created. Because any nation can create a new region, the number of such regions is very high. They must actively recruit new members to grow, and only a small portion of them contain a significant number of nations, and even fewer have populations comparable to those of the feeders and sinkers. User-created regions are diverse, founded for different reasons and based on a wide variety of ideologies.

In-game power over regions is exercised by World Assembly delegates and founders. Only user-created regions have founders, and a region must contain at least two World Assembly nations to have a delegate. Both delegates and founders can alter a region's world factbook entry (WFE) which describes it, suppress posts on the regional message board (RMB), eject and ban nations from it, and require a password to enter the region. Delegates, however, must consume influence to take some of these actions, while founders have no such limitations. Founders may revoke the powers of the delegate in their region, or their own at the time of the region's creation.

World Assembly

Players may choose to join the World Assembly (WA). The body functions as an international legislature like the United Nations in real life. In fact, it was originally called the "United Nations" until Barry received an order to cease and desist from the actual organization. It also initially consisted of one body, but was later divided into the General Assembly and Security Council. The two simply deal with different types of resolutions, and players may vote in both. Players are permitted to have only one nation the World Assembly at a time, and must provide a valid email address.

World Assembly nations may endorse other World Assembly nations if they are in the same region, and those with endorsements accrue influence over time based on how many they have. The nation with the most endorsements within a region becomes its World Assembly delegate, who controls a number of votes equal to their own plus their number of endorsements. Delegates also exercise a number of powers over regions themselves, unless they are in a user created region which has chosen to deactivate their delegate's executive powers. Using these powers consumes influence.

Nations with at least two endorsements may introduce proposals. In order to be moved to a vote, a proposal must then be approved by at least six percent of regional delegates. Since the General Assembly and Security Council each only vote on one resolution at a time, a proposal may sometimes have to wait for other proposals approved before it first. Votes on resolutions last for four days and are decided on a simple majority basis. Throughout the process, proposals may be discussed on the forums. Such debates are typically conducted in-character.

What kinds of proposals may be introduced differs between the General Assembly and the Security Council. The General Assembly deals with international law, and may pass proposals which cover a wide variety of areas, such as human rights, environmental standards, or international trade. These resolutions affect member nations in the same way as issues do. The Security Council meanwhile may condemn or commend a nation or region, or liberate a region by removing the ability of the delegate to password the region. It may also repeal any such resolutions.

Raiding and Defending


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, and war. Some players have even developed complex statistical calculators. 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 defence, that might become factors in a more comprehensive simulation.

Technical History

Due to the 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. 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. Flag size increased from 6k to 10k around 15 August.

A second version of the game, currently in development and called "NationStates 2", may include complex functions for war, trade, diplomacy, and customization. Rumours about the sequel to NationStates have existed since the summer of 2003, and the release date has been postponed since.

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 room 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 with subsequent errors taking place on 27 August 2005 and 2 April 2006. The 2 April 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"


As of December 7 2004, players had set up over 1,000,000 individual nations since NationStates premiered in late 2002. At any time fewer than 150,000 remain in existence as a result of the deletion of nations due to various rule infractions and to inactivity. Though the specific time has varied greatly over the years on-line, NationStates currently has an inactivity limit of 28 days (or 60 days if nation-owners enable "Vacation Mode"), after which the system automatically deletes the quiescent nation. Even if a nation ceases to exist, however, it can still be revived later if the player remembers the password for the nation or used an email address for it which they can access to reset their password, so long as it wasn't deleted by moderators.


NationStates also has a forum community. Originally, they were phpBB forums hosted by the NationStates server, but after NationStates was acquired by Jolt, the forums moved to Jolt's forum site. The off-topic / out-of-character 'General' forums are mainly used for recreational purposes and political discussion. Role-playing is done in the Nationstates and International Incidents forums.

External links