SCM Annual Review 2023
Looking back at the first year of Skeleton Code Machine
Welcome to Skeleton Code Machine, a weekly publication that explores tabletop game mechanisms. Spark your creativity as a game designer or enthusiast, and think differently about how games work. Check out Dungeon Dice and 8 Kinds of Fun to get started!
Happy New Year!
It’s been amazing year writing Skeleton Code Machine! When I published the first post on January 26, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that I wanted to create a place to discuss tabletop game mechanisms in detail. I wanted to dissect games and see what makes them tick, with the goal of sparking creativity.
With some data from the recent Annual Reader Survey, now is a good time to reflect, see where we’ve been, and look forward to the coming year!
A year of growth
At the start of January 2023, Skeleton Code Machine had zero subscribers and zero posts. I was shocked when we passed 500 subscribers, and then 1000, and now 1500!
I think one of the drivers of the consistent growth is a steady output of posts. Skeleton Code Machine is published every Tuesday. Occasionally there are posts that consist of multiple parts, and some extra announcement posts mixed in too. The total for the year was 58 posts!
The biggest month for posts was December due to Dice Week, an experiment in doing a five part series. That’s not a pace I could sustain, but it was fun to do once a year!
You love making and playing games
Perhaps it should have been expected, but the Reader Survey showed that you are reading Skeleton Code Machine because you are designing your own games.
Over 80% of those who took the survey say they design board games or TTRPGs either professionally or as a hobby! And almost half (45%) say they have published a game or TTRPG supplement.
I love that SCM is attracting readers that not only love thinking about games, but want to try their hand at making them too!
While it would be fun to encourage a community of practice around design, feelings were lukewarm about a Skeleton Code Machine Discord server. Less than half (36%) of respondents said they would definitely join a Skeleton Code Machine Discord server if one were to exist. Over three quarters (77%) said they either weren’t sure or that they would not join. I’ll ask again next year!
You love TTRPGs, but also board games
Almost everyone who filled out the survey (91%) plays TTRPGs, with 60% playing them at least once a week. An almost equal amount (89%) play board games, but not quite as often with only 29% playing at least once a week.
The rising popularity of solo games was evident in the survey results: 62% play solo TTRPGs and 46% play solo board games.
So it makes sense that when asked, “Select the types of Skeleton Code Machine posts that you enjoy,” TTRPG mechanisms was the most popular choice. It’s also notable that two groups of post types emerged:
Most Popular: TTRPG mechanisms, tutorials/resources, interviews, and board game mechanisms were all popular with ratings of 68% - 93%.
Least Popular: News/updates, Python simulations, and Top 10 lists had ratings of 43% - 46%.
I’m thrilled to see the interviews with game designers were popular! I had so much fun having those conversations and sharing them, and look forward to doing more in the future.
There still might be a bit of Python used in the future, but don’t worry about it being overly detailed. Still, the 34% of readers that know how to code in Python will enjoy it!
Keep the format
The survey was clear that the weekly text format is what people want. Alternative formats such as video content, podcasts, or social media posts had less than 20% favorability.
It did not go unnoticed that “puppet show” did, however, resonate with some readers.
Most popular posts
Based on views alone, the top three posts of the year were:
When asked which post is your favorite, however, different posts were the clear winners. Here are the ones that stood out:
This matches the survey comments where readers wanted more multi-part series of posts, or posts with an overarching theme. Those are my favorite ones to write, so expect to see more of that in 2024!
So many game recommendations
As part of the survey I asked, “What TTRPG/board game do I absolutely need to try?”
Thank you to everyone who submitted a recommendation! Some were familiar, but many were new to me! The list is too big to share in this post, but watch for it over at the Exeunt Omnes newsletter!
You can read posts on the web
I was surprised to learn that more than one or two readers didn’t know you could read Skeleton Code Machine on the web! I’ll try to make that more clear in the future. For now, know that all posts are in the Archive. If you miss or lose an email, you can read the posts there!
Triceratops is the winner
While I’m partial to ankylosaurus, the survey was clear: triceratops is the winner (24%) with velociraptor in a distant second place (16%). My dear ankylosaurus was in 8th place with only 6% of those who responded choosing it as the best dinosaur.
Some things to think about:
Write about what you love: I will always remember a recent conversation with an SCM reader where I said, “I don’t know. I just write about whatever my latest gaming obsession might be.” He said, “I can tell!” People can tell when you are passionate about a topic, even if it’s only via text.
Get to know your audience: I’m so glad that I ran the Annual Reader Survey, and extremely grateful for those who took the time to respond! It gave me a glimpse, however small, of what you like about Skeleton Code Machine!
Excited about 2024: I’m kicking off January with an in-person tabletop design class at a public library! More details on that soon! And I’ve got so many ideas for future posts and topics. Continue to watch for new posts every Tuesday!
Thank you, and I can’t wait to explore more game mechanisms with you in 2024!
— E.P. 💀
P.S. Sign up for Exeunt Omnes, the newsletter for Exeunt Press.
🎲 Micro-game: Roll 3d6. If the sum is less than 20, you should subscribe to Skeleton Code Machine (free!) to receive new posts about tabletop games every week! 🐍