I recently discovered that one of my favorite sci-fi authors has been running a wonderful website for 20 years that allows users to create, grow, and administer their own nation state. Australian writer Max Barry’s website NationStates offers the opportunity to own a micronation, name it, pick its politics, and each day check back to see how it was doing, each day being confronted with small decisions about governance that would affect your country’s progress.
Of course I had to try out the site and build by own country. Haven’t we all at sometime yearned to be the omnipotent (and hopefully benevolent) head of state. I haven’t devoted much time to my Republic of Goedlan yet, but hope to spend some time there very soon.
Here’s what Barry had to say about the 20th anniversary of NationStates :
Sites that do things, interactive sites, like this one, are hard to keep alive. They have so many ways to die. I’m incredibly proud that NationStates is here twenty years and eight million nations later, with as many players as ever. That’s magical. I credit:
- Not selling the site. I came close. In retrospect, the buyer would have spent 12 months squeezing users for money before everyone left.
- Moderators. Oh my god, moderators. They do so much, every day, for nothing, and without them, the site would almost immediately become somewhere you wouldn’t want to visit. Some mods have been here from the beginning. Many have clocked up over a decade. So much is thanks to mods.
- The community. I can’t even explain this because I don’t fully understand it. I made a site where you could create a nation and talk to people. The community did everything else, i.e. turned that into something interesting, with political intrigue, relationships, lore, rules; basically the vast majority of what makes NationStates worth your time. This includes regional leaders, ordinary nations, World Assembly Delegates, admin, Roleplay Mentors, Founders, dispatch authors, World Census trophy chasers, forum regulars, forum irregulars, anyone who’s taken the time to explain something to someone new to the site, card traders, everyone.
- The people who buy Site Supporter, Postmaster, Postmaster-General, and Telegram Stamps. Most people don’t, and that’s totally fine, but the lights wouldn’t have stayed on without those who do.
- Managing the tech stack. All the tech from 2002 is slow, insecure, missing essential features, and three thousand times harder to work on that what’s available today. It also can’t be replaced without losing 20 years of bug fixes. So far we have managed to steer a path between killing the site from negligence and killing it from overly ambitious upgrades. And we keep adding features! To a 20-year-old codebase! Written in Perl!
By all means, give NationStates a spin. And, also check out some of Barry’s terrific novels. I’m partial to Lexicon.
That sounds like an awesome rabbit hole to go down.