Jennifer Government: NationStates

From Academic Kids

Max Barry set up Jennifer Government: NationStates, a game on the World Wide Web inspired by, and promoting, his novel Jennifer Government.

Contents

Play

In the game, a player has charge of a "nation", deciding government policies on automatically-presented issues from a list of options. These decisions affect the character of the nation's status in the areas of Civil Rights, Economy, and Political Freedoms. Based on these criteria, nations range from categories like Scandinavian Liberal Paradise and New York Times Democracy to Compulsory Consumerist State and Psychotic Dictatorship. Players can also dismiss issues: this has no effect.

Players may also join the so-called United Nations, making their nations automatically affected by the decisions of that body, although various players role-play disobedience. Discussions on proposed resolutions take place on the forums, often home to all manner of political debate. A dedicated team of volunteers moderates the forums; most of them also moderate the game to keep it free from vandalism.

Group Play

Groups of nations form regions. All players begin in one of five Pacific regions and may move their nations into any other region at any time, or set up a new region. Many regions have an elected leader and some participate in complex regional governments, though some contain only a handful of nations. Players commonly attempt to collectively "invade" another region by entering it and seizing control. Some regions have password-protection to stave off such attacks. Invaders must follow certain rules: nations that don't follow these rules often get deleted.

Many multi-regional organisations have formed - either to organise invasions (known as raider-play by its adherents) or to organise those who defend against raider play (which defenders, as well as Max Barry (http://www.nationstates.net/cgi-bin/index.cgi/page=faq), generally refer to as 'region crashing'). The longest-lasting and largest defender-group has the name the Alliance Defense Network or ADN. Other organisations include the Red Liberty Alliance (RLA, socialist defenders), the Allied Liberation League (ALL), the Ten Thousand Islands Treaty Organization (TITO), the Emergency Auxiliary Army (EAA), the Rejected Realms Army (RRA),the Global Liberation Army (GLA), the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO), The Reborn Imperial Stronghold Empire Coalition (TRISEC), and The Defender Coalition (TDC).

Invading, or "region crashing," first became prominent with a group of players calling themselves the Farkers, who all arrived due to links between the game and the website Fark.com. Later, groups such as the Atlantic Alliance and the World Pudding Alliance took up the hobby.

The growth of defender organizations such as the ADN has lead to rivalries between them and other groups such as the New Pacific Order, or NPO, The NPO has recently reconstituted its government into the People's Republic of the Pacific. Other groups mostly comprise alliances of invaders. Some invaders include DEN II (formerly DEN), the SAOP, the Rebel States of Heleth, and the region "Invaders" (Invaders' Website (http://www.invaders.ca.tt)).

Some invader organizations don't exist for region-crashing but rather for expanding territory and for the destruction of regional groups dedicated to opposing ideologies. The organizations become fewer over time as region-crashing becomes more popular among newer players who have fewer ideological affiliations. Commonly, fights occur between regions supporting Fascism and regions supporting Socialism. One prominent organization for defense and invasion has the name of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, or RKKA.

Modelling

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 such as NSEconomy (http://nseconomy.thirdgeek.com/nseconomy.php) (though some controversy exists over the taking of most of the code from The Meritocracy). Part of the appeal of NationStates lies in the ability to create an unrealistic utopia (or dystopia) as the subject of conversation and political philosophising, without needing to worry about practical matters, like national defense, that might become factors in a more comprehensive simulation.

Time-frames

One of the fascinating facets of the role-playing section of the game lies in growth of unofficial divisions to allow for a person to role-play not just what their nation does, but also what their nation is and when. The forums have evolved into several time-frames (Past, Modern, Post-Modern, Near-Future, Future, and Fantasy) where a player may model any of an unlimited number of fantasy or alien races as well as use technology that has long become obsolete, or even non-existent, in the present. Some regard the divisions between the times as barriers, so that players chosing to play in a more primitive time, say in Ancient Greece, would not have to contend with players utilizing space-ships and laser weaponry, such as one might find in certain types of science fiction, if they don't want to. Gradually, players often learn to have such interactions in a fair and balanced manner so that no player remains completely off-limits if one truly wishes to interact. On the other hand, some players desire to role-play only with nations in the same time-frame for realism.

Originally, the role-play section of the forums covered solely Modern-tech (meaning that nations used only technology either currently available or which they could expect to become available within an undeclared length of time). But play began to expand into Past, Future, and Fantasy times with the establishment of more and more nations. But few people playing the game have personally experienced anything outside of Modern-tech, and for quite some time the other Times remained un-organized and regarded as something in which the more childish players would occasionally indulge. Over time the nations playing in the past or the future began to form alliances and organizations similar to those existing in the real world and in Modern-NS, and the more fantastic areas of game play began to become more orderly and taken more seriously.

The ability to use one's imagination furnishes another interesting dynamic of the game. While a vast majority of NationStates regions follow the simple founder/delegate scheme of the regional governments, some show more complexity, such as the Peoples Revolutionary Party (a prominent Socialist regional organization which organizes itself along "Party" lines), and assign Ministers with such portfolios as War, Recruitment, and Propaganda. Others completely revolutionize the system and employ even less-traditional governmental structures.

Technical history

Due to the unreliability of the NationStates server, which commonly led to slow or inaccessible forums, January 2004 saw the announcment that the British gaming company Jolt (http://www.jolt.co.uk) 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 July 13. Flag size increased to 10k from 6k approximately around August 15.

A second version of the game, currently in development and called "NationStates 2", may include complex functions for war, trade, diplomacy, and customization.

Statistics

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 two years on-line, NationStates has a current inactivity limit of 28 days (or 60 days if nation-owners place their offspring in "Vacation Mode"), after which the system automatically deletes the quiescent nation. However, the Moderators can resurrect nations deleted for inactivity (though not for rule-violations) on the request of the nation's original owner.

See also:

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