Q&A with Andusre, Co-Founder of Thaecia
Interview conducted by Istillian
Istillian: When you first decided to co-found Thaecia, did you have any preconceptions about what it would grow to be and if so how did they compare to the reality?
Andusre: I first decided to co-found Thaecia with Xernon actually on the 21st January 2019, one day before the region itself was founded. I am fairly sure a fair number of people know this already, but for wholeness' sake might as well cover it again. Before Thaecia, I was a resident of a region called the New Western Atlantic (NWA), which amongst a myriad of other problems, had its IC [in-character] government - elected supposedly democratically - almost entirely controlled by the founder and the founder's IRL [In Real Life] friends. That really sucked, and it made any kind of meaningful change in the region absolutely impossible. After months of trying to slowly pick apart the founder & co's web of control over the regional government, both Xernon (then known as Nydaymos) and I were pretty done. We were close friends because we were political allies in the NWA, and in the evening of 21st January 2019 I pitched an idea to him. The idea was to found our own region with better, less toxic, more fair politics. A government RP [roleplay] which was truly democratic with a community which was cleaner than the NWA's. The NWA (and all OOC [Out of Character] blacklisted regions as far as I'm aware) do an excellent job at keeping their residents in a prison of their own making. The NWA told us that because we were people from the NWA, the rest of NS [Nation-States] would never ever want anything to do with us, and that any shot at redemption was futile. It's very effective, and it keeps a lot of people essentially stuck in those regions out of fear that they'll never be accepted into a community elsewhere. So falling victim to that narrative, we figured our only options were to try out this idea for a new region, or leave NS entirely. We opted to try the former, and lo and behold, it worked out!
When we first started, I thought Thaecia would essentially be a duplicate of the NWA but better. Isolationist, entirely government RP-focused, et cetera. I think it's fair to say that things for the region have changed a lot since then, as we opened up to the rest of the world in 2020 and have been continually working on diversifying our region beyond just our own internal government. I still think that the region is among the many bastions of democracies on NS, and I'm incredibly proud of the community which has formed around the region and contributed so much to build it.
Istillian: Your last paragraph somewhat covers this, but I will ask my next question if you'd like to go further here too: What was the inspiration for Thaecia’s unique government structure?
Andusre: My recollection of the inspiration for our government was largely from a combination of US & UK political systems applied to NS as best as possible. For example, we have a House of Commons and a Senate, we have a Prime Minister and up until very recently had a President too.
In terms of actual structure, we knew we needed an executive to carry out typical executive functioning - recruiting, some FA [Foreign Affairs], culture, et cetera. Our legislature was deliberately designed to be bicameral because we thought that would be a neat idea for fun and political intrigue, as well as widening the opportunity for new people to get involved in the region's governance.
Istillian: Of the positions you’ve held in Thaecian government, what have you enjoyed the most?
Andusre: Hmm, I'd say Minister of Foreign Affairs. It was really fun to be (almost) the head honcho of our Foreign Affairs apparatus and to receive the little snippets of information here and there about certain topics. Who doesn't love a bit of gossip?
Istillian: I absolutely love that answer because it's so much like my own experience too. Moving on though, in its early stages, Thaecia’s foreign affairs outlook was fairly isolationist in comparison to today. How would you say that shift in mindset took place, if it is fair to describe it that way?
Andusre: Yeah, it definitely is fair to represent it that way. We started off particularly isolationist because, as said above, our priority was our own internal government. We did a lot of things which put a bad taste in a lot of regions' mouths, most notably World Assembly recruitment. There was no intention to stop doing that until around Spring 2020, when The East Pacific conducted diplomatic outreach to us. My recollection of those events was that The East Pacific constructed on-site embassies with us and openly defended us, even as a flood of criticism and rather mean-spirited comments flooded in from the rest of gameplay. It was refreshing to see a major GP power stick up for us even if it was very politically inconvenient, and TEP took a lot of heat for that decision. I think that prompted an internal feeling that we should prove GP wrong and show that TEP's decision to stand by us was worthwhile, and from that spawned a whole new regional identity/ideology of 'globalism'. It was very rough in the first few months as there were a lot of characters who were very determined to keep us out of GP for good, but eventually things got easier as more regions joined TEP in backing us up - particularly XKI & TRR in November 2020.
Istillian: In terms of military gameplay, Thaecia has often been described as unaligned or “little i independent” - how did the region come to develop its own brand of military alignment?
Andusre: It's been quite the ride for sure. I think the story of how we become Unaligned/indie is quite an interesting one, particularly because it has been subject to a fair amount of questioning and scrutiny. When we first entered R/D, we were at a stage as a region where we were mostly regarded as OOC clean - or at least on the right track - but there was still significant stigma surrounding the region and progress in IC diplomacy was rather slow. We needed to build a network of friends and allies who would have our back, and in lieu of any particular passion for ideological raiding or defending, independence felt the most appropriate way to achieve that. It opened an opportunity to work with defenders, raiders and other indies alike - and yielded appreciable progress in our FA prospects. You'd be surprised how readily people forget what they've heard about you, if you can prove yourself helpful to their IC goals.
Istillian: I have to say that I think you, and in effect Thaecia, have such a fascinating rise in R/D, and I remember many militaries being impressed by how the military elements themselves were crafted by the Thaecian government, to then having these massive piling numbers from citizens for operations. Next up though, what are you proudest of in terms of the way Thaecia has developed and grown over the years?
Andusre: I am probably most proud of how far we've come inter-regionally. There were a lot of times where our attempts to win favour with literally anyone felt useless, and that at times was pretty disheartening. In all honesty (and maybe this is a touch oversharing?) back when I had a normal sleep I used to wake up at 3-4am with a nightmare that someone had found some reason to smear us again - that was really not a fun time. But as time went on and certain places in the game died or lost their relevance, things eventually got much better and we met a ton of new friends who have our back, and we have theirs! In fact I still remember when the Europeia treaty was being drafted and ratified - goodness that really was a great feeling. By this point we had a treaty with TEP [The East Pacific], and embassies with XKI [10000 Islands] & TRR [The Rejected Realms] - but questions around us remained, the tone of conversations still noticeably shifted when we were mentioned. The treaty with Europeia (and construction of embassies with The South Pacific which followed a day or so later) in my opinion largely put a firm, decisive end to an era of trying to constantly justify yourself to the inter-regional community. It was a chance to start building a network of allies and friends on our own terms rather than whoever would care to hang out with us. It was a good feeling and I have a special appreciation for regions like TEP and Europeia for helping us along there. Nowadays, coming up on about a whole year since we signed that treaty, the progress the folks in [Thaecia’s] FA have made has blown me away time and time again. They're a great bunch of people who are level-headed and incredibly loyal to the region and its allies - something which I think has really helped build trust in all our relationships across ideological spectrums.
There are of course many other things I'm immensely proud of too, like our regional role-play, our government structure, our recruitment, being one of the only regions which functions only on Discord, our history, I could go on for a long long time. I'm very proud of the region the community has built and the friends it has made for itself.
Istillian: This has absolutely blown me out of the water for how much you and Thaecia have gone through, and I can safely say that I'm happy to have seen its rise and perhaps even played a small part in that communal overlap. By contrast though, is there anything you miss about what Thaecia used to be like at some point in the past?
Andusre: Couldn't have done it without ya Isty. I remember a ton of DMs [Direct Messages] standing in my kitchen cooking pasta pinging an idea or chewing over an opinion with you, good times my friend.
With respect to what I miss about Thaecia, there's a couple of things I'd say. From January 2019 until I want to say around September 2020, I was pretty much playing NationStates solely for Thaecia's internal politics. I really enjoyed playing that game, it was a lot of fun and it always felt like I was really helping to build a better region. I eventually lost interest in that, I'm entirely not sure why, but I started picking up my interest and activity in Foreign Affairs and gameplay. My interest in our internal politics is something which has not yet returned, which I do miss at times because it is just so nostalgic! But, every cloud has a silver lining, and I think my increasing absence in Thaecia's internal politics has allowed the community to prove that it is entirely self-sufficient and does not need me to hold its hand, which is a very enjoyable feeling knowing that I can take my foot off the gas and the region will be okay.
Something else I'd say I miss about the younger Thaecia is the people who aren't around anymore, or at least those who aren't as active. When we first started, I remember so many of our residents would swing by our server every night and would chat to each other, as all communities do, but there felt something special about that time. A lot of those players had a lot in common - most of us were in the last years of high school or were in our first years of university - but we also had enough different about us that hearing others' stories was fascinating and really a delightful experience. Eventually though IRL came to rain on the parade as always, and people got busier as they got older. Which is completely fine because I think I still semi regularly hear from at least half of those people, but it's definitely something I look back on with a lot of fondness.
And lastly, I think with the region opening itself up inter-regionally, I think to some extent there has been an increase in the number of cosmopolitan players arriving on our shores. To be clear, that's absolutely not a bash on any cosmopolitan player and certainly not a bash on any of our citizens who hold citizenship & government office elsewhere. I can think of a great number of people like that who have done amazing work in the region whose accomplishments I would never dare to criticise, belittle or demean. I do remember when we were pretty much on our own, everything we did was for the exclusive benefit of our own community and part of me - the extremist hyper-regionalist/isolationist - longs for a return to that. Our interests and what benefits us is most certainly still at the centre of what we do and say, though - I don't want this to sound like I'm saying we sold our regional soul to GP. But anyway, that old era of Thaecia is long gone and if returning to those extremes comes at the cost of the friendships we've built, I think I'm more than content for us to stay put where we are.
Istillian: I have to say, IC/OOC I can tell how much love you have for Thaecia, and it shows a lot that you have that insight from times past to now. How did you become interested in the Security Council and Resolution authorship?
Andusre: I became interested in the Security Council (SC) initially for no particular reason, it was just something I thought would be neat to try out. I started writing Commend Marrabuk with Maowi in sort of very late 2020, early 2021 alongside Maowi. It was a lot of fun, and we put a lot of effort and energy into it thankfully yielding results in its passage. It did take a fair amount of energy out of me, though, so I took a bit of a hiatus from the SC for a few months. The resolution passed in April 2021 if I remember correctly, and in May 2021 I got involved in the cards community. For any readers not acquainted with cards, WA resolutions provide a rarity boost to your card in the next season. That was a pretty big motivator and by summer 2021 I wanted to try my hand again. That turned out to be Liberate New Western Atlantic, which was a fun experience except for one particular part which I'm sure many of us are familiar with. So that's how I got into the SC, and I really like it! It's a lot of fun to do the research, write the draft, calculate which delegates you expect to be For, Against, and who will sit on the fence - it's great!
Istillian: You have just been commended by the Security Council - what is your reaction to Commend Andusre?
Andusre: My reaction to my commendation is kind of complicated! I'm obviously exceedingly happy to get commended - it's something I thought would not happen for at least another few years if it were to ever happen at all, so it's somewhat of a surprise but a thoroughly pleasant one at that. I remember a few months ago when Commend HumanSanity (HS) had just passed, I was talking to HS about their commendation and gave them the appropriate congratulations. They said, if memory serves right, that it isn't quite as intense a feeling when you yourself are being C/Ced, in part because it takes so damn long! You have a draft which gets edited and tweaked for a few days or weeks, then it gets posted on the forums and sits there for a month or two, and eventually it goes to vote for 4 days and by that point the novelty has kind of worn off. I definitely relate to that, I'd describe it as a "Oh, that's really cool" more than a "I am over the moon with happiness" type thing I had expected before the process started. I also think that the commendation is a decent win for regionalist ideology and for Thaecia as a region. The proposal doesn't mention any work in another government, and it's purely focused on Thaecia - I really like that, and I feel like it represents who I am as a player ideologically. There, in my experience, is a fairly common belief which I strongly disagree with that players who spend the vast majority of their time in one region aren't as commendable as others - or even aren't commendable at all. I don't like that point of view and I am really happy that this commendation passed because I'm hopeful that it, along with the many other regionalist commendations passed over the years, will help to defeat that narrative and see more regionalists having their work recognised by the Security Council. And lastly, it's a big win for Thaecia regionally I think - it is our first ever commendation - and hopefully not that last!