The NationStates game requires players to enter a national animal as one of the customisable fields along with national motto and currency. In addition to its direct game function as a variable used in issues, it has some potential for roleplay applications.
Any alphanumeric combination between 2 and 23 characters is acceptable. Spaces are acceptable between alphanumerical characters, and can even consists of the entire entry. An entry including any additional characters such as an apostrophe, slash or dollar sign will not be accepted. The animal is construed in the singular.
According to the mods, people or groups of people may not be used as national animals. Ignore these rulings at your peril, as many nations that did are now in the Hall of Ex-Nations. Nevertheless, 7.5% in sample survey uncovered humans or classes of humans as national animals, although only one was actually racist.
This field is used in issues which assume national animals have regular English plurals. Thus, "Ox" will display as "Oxs" not "Oxen," "Mouse" will display as "Mouses" not "Mice," "Octopus" as "Octopuss" not "Octopuses", "Octopi" or "Octopodes" (feel free to join in the debate over correct English, Latin and Greek plurals!), "Sheep" as "Sheeps" not "Sheep."
Most game uses of the variable are intended to refer to land mammals such as in the dreaded hybridisation of the national animal, although the "Crazy [national animal]" ringtone on cellular phones is a notable exception. You may, of course, specifically adopt water animals, reptiles, flying animals or space creatures for comical effect.
As with most customisable fields, national animal allows people to make a statement about their country. A survey established a rough estimate of the types of animals players choose, but this section is about what these choices suggest about the players who entered them.
Choosing conventional heraldic animals like birds of prey, great cats and mythological creatures suggests tradition, grace, strength and majesty. Eagles and falcons, lions and tigers, and dragons and unicorns fall into these categories.
Choosing domestic pets like cats, dogs and parrots suggests coziness, familiarity and friendliness. This is especially true if they are described as young animals, e.g., kitty, puppy, baby mouse.
Choosing exotic animals suggests individuality and an appreciation of differences. While each person's definition of what is exotic will depend on their real world nation, everybody would consider some animals to be exotic. African animals included the giraffe, naked mole rat and leaping lemur. Australian animals are well represented, perhaps because Australia is the real world nation of significant minority of players and also Max Barry. No duckbilled platypus appeared in the sample, but anecdotal evidence suggests it is a common national animal. North American animals are almost all eagles or bears, with grizzlies predominating in the latter. South American animals included the alpaca, anaconda and parrot.
Choosing a mutant hybrid suggests strangeness, whimsy and familiarity with the hybrid issue. What would a deergoose or owlbear actually look like? Hybridised ligers were not actually encountered in the survey but are often seen, possibly because their mention in the cult film Napoleon Dynamite.
Sober Thought collected data on national animals on 10 April 2006. The sample consisted of 213 individual nations, the entire membership of three regions. Zurich was a proxy for large regions (>100), California for medium (50-99) and Denmark for small (<50).
|Bears||9.4%||Panda||Fujisawan black bear|
|Cats (big and small)||11.3%||Cat||Puma|
|North American||6.6%||Eagle||Polar bear|
|Sea creatures||9.4%||Whale||Sea cucumber|
The results total far more than 100% because the categories are not mutually exclusive and the numbers are rounded to the nearest thousandth. As the data was being captured, the collector realized the choice of California, which has a bear on its state flag, has skewed the results slightly towards bears. However, bears were very popular in the other two regions too, so the effect is probably minor.