[Interview] Project Athena: An Interview with Leesbra

Project Athena:
An Interview with Leesbra

Interview conducted by Istillian

(Europeia - January 11, 2023) For the second in the series of articles written under the banner of Project Athena, the Europeian Broadcasting Corporation interviewed another citizen of Wintreath, one who has a keen interest and exceptional experience in both nation building and roleplay; this individual highlights their interest in community building, and how their experience as someone that is neurodivergent has been a strength to them as a NationStates (NS) player, and as a social player.

Can you tell me a little bit about your background on NationStates, and how you then got into the community in Wintreath?

I first joined NationStates looking for a place to express my interest in geography and basically running a country, so I made an account and started playing. When I saw that there was regions that a country could move to, I sorted through a list of the region invites and decided on Wintreath. It seemed like a good community from what the telegraph said, and it fit my country's theming, so I chose to join. Over time, I started taking part in communities in Wintreath, like the Discord community.

Have you found any barriers to involving yourself in NationStates communities at all?

Well, there hasn't been any major barriers in involving myself within the NationStates communities found on the website. Sure, there have been some things that I feel like getting into, but just don't really know how to, but other than that I've been able to take part without much problem.

What kind of work or contributions are most rewarding to you personally?

Well, the type of work I like doing most is that of my nation itself, in which the issues are a good read and, depending on how a country wants to be run, have to basically check through and ponder on what effects will happen. Doing that can be something to enjoy sometimes, and also basically building lore and background for the country, even if it's not something the website was built for originally, can be fun because it lets me somewhat do another interest of mine, which is roleplaying, while doing the main geographical interest at the same time.

How does your neurodivergence influence the way you approach doing work on NationStates?

Well, I think that thanks to the specific neurodivergent symptom that I have, it lets me get into reading and writing long pages of text. I can also somewhat visualize the effects of what the specific issues would do in terms of effects for the country, and if that is the route I want to take. I tend to also write long blocks of text when writing information about my country, and it even sometimes exceeds even my expectations. So while it does have an influence in how I do business on NationStates and my country, I wouldn't say it's a negative effect.

Can you tell me a little bit about your experience with neurodivergence?

Yeah, I often see that some things I tend to get very interested into (often things that don't make much sense to be into) and others that I am not into (which sometimes includes important things), and many people aren't able to tell that I am neurodivergent because it is a high functioning class of such. I do remember some people, like some of my teachers, often didn't like how I was solving problems in ways they didn't teach and thought I had an attitude, which got my parents called in multiple times to discuss it when it was just part of the syndrome.

What are your biggest struggles in an online environment, and on the flip-side, what do you think helps you most about being in an online environment?

Well, a good struggle with not just me, but probably a lot of people (especially those that are neurodivergent) is that people on the internet tend to let themselves get more offensive than in real life, so they might say stuff against you that they may see as a joke or something to not take seriously, but doesn't seem like that to you. But a good thing about being on the internet is how many places let you talk to others without having to share personal information, so it lets me (a more introverted person) speak to others without having to actually interact with them.

So what would you say that people need to be aware of most, both online and in real life, about people that are neurodivergent?

That is somewhat of a hard question, since there are many types of neurodivergence and one classification could be very different from another classification. But, I think a good statement keeping that in mind is that neurodivergent people might not get or understand what another person is trying to communicate, and that they should try and help them in understanding. There are many ways that can go, but trying to help neurodivergent peoples understand what you are saying and communicating can be helpful to those that don't get it.

Do you think working in a community in NationStates is different if people know that you are a player that is neurodivergent, and do you see any barriers to participating in the game?

There could be different experiences if people around you in NationStates know that you are a neurodivergent person, and some go from very different to little difference, and I'd say that mine might be closer to the side where there isn't much of a difference. There certainly are barriers for neurodivergent people, and some things that one neurodivergent person sees as a barrier might be actually helpful for another person that has neurodivergence. So it really goes on a case to case basis whether there is or not, but for me personally I haven’t encountered much of a barrier.

Can you tell me what your aspirations and goals are on NationStates for the future?

This will likely change because of how unpredictable the future can be, and how our desires are more of things that are in the moment, but I do hope in the future to get to better connect with the community and to grow my country. I have personally refrained from making multiple countries, but I might do so soon if they stay closely connected to the current country I run. I do try and make my country somewhat of an economical powerhouse, and so far that's going well, with many industry categories being in 20% or higher and my economy ranking being the second highest title it can get.

Are there any changes you'd like to see across NationStates that reflect on how neurodiverse individuals are treated in the game?

Well, for the community around it I can't see much of an immediate change that could be made for it, but it'd come in stages, like how different types of people have become more accepted further into humanity we go. For the game itself, I'd say that there could be some things that could be changed, but that might be hard to actually explain since it'd require a broader range of knowledge about neurodivergent peoples and neurodivergence unlike what I currently know.

Is there any kind of advice that you would give to people that are on the neurodivergent spectrum when playing NationStates?

That also requires a broad spectrum of knowledge about neurodivergent people, so I will try and come up with the best that I can with what I do know. What I will say is that one shouldn't feel like they have to hold back on what they're interested in, and should express what they like in the game. For me, I do so by treating my country sort of like an actual country, and building onto what the country actually is. Though, the interests I have and those that others have likely will not match, but my example should go as a message to go ahead and express yourself.