Year Made: 2002
Platforms: Web Browser
Content Areas: Social Studies, English
Suggested Age Level: Middle School, High School
Play Length: Minimum of 5-10 minutes a day
Number of Players: Single Player
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Series like Civilization and Tropico give players the chance to lead their own country to greatness or run it into the ground with poor choices. In Max Berry’s NationStates, players have the freedom to run any kind of country they want without the fear of failing and losing the game. Originally started to promote Berry’s books, NationStates grew into a web-based government simulator with an active community centered around it.
The main challenges for class use would come in regulating interactions with other countries if you opted to include the larger community in your own class’s game. The telegrams to join different groups can get old fast. Thankfully, you have the option to shut them off, but then it does take away an element of the game that students might enjoy. Interacting with other groups and countries is a rather confusing task for new players, but the help section found in the sidebar can at least help with some of that confusion. The forums also contain some profanity that you should be aware of. NationStates is perfectly playable without interacting with any countries beyond your class’s, and you could even create your own forum for your students’ countries.
NationStates could be a long-term project in a social studies class, inviting students to try their hand at running their own government and compare it with real-world countries to determine which ruler they have been most like. They could also compare responses to issues or get class input if they feel stumped or see an issue that really speaks to them. In an English class, NationStates could be a great extension in a unit about novels such as Animal Farm, 1984, The Hunger Games, and others that deal with corrupt or fledgling governments. In both social studies and English, students could even form their own version of the United Nations and collaborate (or compete) to solve world problems as their nations.
With its basic graphics and gameplay, NationStates provides an easy way for students to get involved in government and make decisions without fear of losing a game. It isn’t as engaging as other games, but it accomplishes its goal and encourages imaginations to run wild as players run any kind of government they want.
Educational Rating: 5/8
(Classroom Tech Friendly, Motivation, Concrete Learning, Additional Skills, Feedback, Difficulty, Accessibility, Extension)
Overall Rating: 5/8
(Immersion, Environment, Storyline, Replayability, Entertainment, Gameplay, Originality, User Control)