So, first and foremost: Welcome to NationStates! You probably have joined because you're interested in the idea of a nation simulator. And yes, NationStates is a nation simulator. You affect your nation by answering issues on the issues page. That said, NationStates is not just a nation simulator. NationStates has an active and vibrant community who engage in roleplay, social interactions, debate, and several types of gameplay. If you read on, I'll try to cover as much as I can for you.
Before we get into the details, I think I should establish something. Particularly if you're under 13, NationStates is not meant for you. This does not mean you're not allowed to play (however, you must be 13 or older to use the forum). It just means that the content of the game and the community is generally not tailored to your age group. You may, in issues or in interactions with other players, see content that does not suit you. If you can handle this with maturity, you can proceed. If you do not believe you can be mature about such things, I would suggest that you do not play NationStates for now.
With that out of the way, I highly suggest you read the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page. It's a very good overview of NationStates as a whole, and I will be referring to it a lot in this guide.
This next part is the most important part of this guide: staying safe on NationStates.
NationStates is a pretty safe community, and there are moderators who look out for troublemakers. But there are still some very important guidelines you need to follow:
Never give away your password to anyone.
Be careful about your personal info - don't give away your real name, address, or phone number.
If you're in doubt about whether to post something, you probably shouldn't. Ask a parent or trusted adult for guidance, and make sure you're always following the rules.
With all that done, let's get to some of the more specific aspects of the game.
A region is a group of nations in NationStates. There are many regions in the game, and if you've just signed up, you're probably receiving a lot telegrams from regions that want you to join them. When you first sign up, you will be in one of the five Feeder (Pacific) regions. You may stay there, move to a different region, or create your own region.
The two types of regions in the game are Game-Created Regions and User-Created Regions. The GCRs include the five Feeders, the four Sinkers, and the six Warzones. If you ever become inactive, your nation will cease to exist, and if you refound it, it will appear in one of three Sinkers: Lazarus, Osiris, or Balder. The other Sinker, the Rejected Realms, is where you will find yourself if you are ejected from another region. Finally, the Warzones are meant to be places to practice raiding and defending, which I will explain more later on. There are thousands of User-Created Regions, some of which have very active and friendly communities.
Regions usually have their own rules, which will tend to be accessible from their World Factbook Entry (the big textbox on a region's page). These may govern what kinds of nations are allowed, what kinds of roleplay (if any) are allowed and where, and the expected manners on the Regional Message Board (RMB).
Here are some basic rules for interacting on the Regional Message Board:
Introduce yourself. Be friendly and say hi!
Do not spam! This means different things in different regions, but generally, you shouldn't make more than one RMB post in a row, and you shouldn't advertise anything (like a region, for instance) unless it's explicitly allowed.
Don't be confrontational. Try to be nice. Don't tell people what to do or get into arguments, especially if you're new to a region. People will not appreciate it if you're overly aggressive.
Many regions have off-site forums or Discord servers. Depending on your age, they may have different rules regarding whether you are allowed to use them. Be sure to respect regional rules, because you can and will be kicked out of a region for misbehaving.
Below is a list of regions whose leaders have confirmed to me that they are friendly to young players. Some of them have given me a note to go along with their listing.
Greater Middle East - A roleplay region.
The Western Isles - 13+, no 14-year-olds. 13- and 15-year-olds okay.
You must be 13 or older to use the forums. If you are not 13 or older, you can skip this section.
The forums are a lively part of NationStates. The forums are a center for roleplaying, discussion, gameplay, and fun. Before you start posting, make sure to read the rules!
Here's a brief overview of the various forums:
National and International Roleplaying
These forums are the place for roleplay based on your country in NationStates.
Factbooks and National Information: This an in-character forum where you can share information about your country. It is a place for worldbuilding and exploring some roleplay possibilities. If you want to get started at F&NI, go here.
NationStates: This is an in-character forum for national roleplay. This mostly involves roleplay within regions or smaller things related to your nation. If you want to get started there, go here.
International Incidents: This in-character forum is for major diplomatic events, often involving some kind of conflict. If you want to roleplay a plot involving war or other types of plots that involve multiple countries, this is the place to do so. If you want to get started at II, go here.
Global Economics and Trade: This is a forum for storefronts and for trade. If you want to pretend you have a store, this is the place for you! If you'd like to get started with GE&T, go here!
NS Sports: This is the place to roleplay sports games, like international and inter-regional competitions in football, hockey, baseball, and so on and so forth. If want to get started with NS Sports, go here!
These forums are the place for drafting, discussing, and debating World Assembly resolutions (more on those later). Please go here to draft World Assembly resolutions before submitting them.
General Assembly: This is where you draft, discuss, and debate General Assembly resolutions. It can be found here.
Security Council: This is where you draft, discuss, and debate Security Council resolutions. It can be found. here.
National and Regional Gameplaying
These are the places to discuss gameplay, out of character.
Gameplay: This is the forum for discussion of regional workings, raiding and defending, and more gameplay-related topics. If you need gameplay advice, start here.
Got Issues?: Here you can discuss Issues on NationStates, give feedback on drafts, and draft new issues yourself. If you'd like to get started, go here.