I had my interactive final today in my Game Industry class, this being the fourth time I've given it. Nearly everything went wrong -- I couldn't connect the SNES's RF adaptor to the overhead projector, my PS2 suddenly died mid-exam with the dreaded Disc Read Error, and I forgot my Wii-mote at home which killed the idea of using that console at all. And yet, it ended up being a great experience, probably the best of any of the four times I've run the thing. What's behind this mystery?
I think the reason for this is familiarity: the same way that you learn a game at deeper levels by playing it multiple times. When you first start playing a game, you're dealing with very broad strategies: I want to go for the longest road bonus, I want to build a Necropotence deck, I want to play a Wizard. Or in this case, I want a collaborative final exam that feels somewhere between a game demo at the old E3 and a live game show.
As you play more, you start to see subtler variations in strategy and the tactics that support it: I should make my initial placement on Wood and Clay squares, I should tweak my deck, I should take the Toughness feat to make the early levels more survivable. In the case of the final exam, I notice that certain questions are frequenly misunderstood (and can be modified or eliminated), some questions can be asked of several games (so if I accidentally skip a question, I may be able to come back to it later), and some game demos can be simulated by finding a video on YouTube.
And that's what happened today, for the first time. I've given this exam enough that I'm now used to it, and I can make adjustments on the fly. I knew from experience that I need a few hours to set up all the equipment, so I arrived early. I knew to test everything beforehand, so I had enough advance warning to find gameplay videos online. I didn't expect a console to suddenly die in mid-exam, but I was able to adapt by eliminating one question and rewriting a couple of others in real-time. Small tweaks here and there, much the same as tweaking a Magic deck, or an RPG character, or a strategy.