In a variety of multiplayer games, there are many modes, characters, weapons, techniques, and stages that people can use at their disposal. Plenty of options, tools, and the like.
But when it comes to familiarity, all of that wouldn't matter.
Nine times out of ten, gamers will become attached to one mode/stage/ruleset/character choice, such that they may lose sight of the other options available. Complacent Gaming Syndrome occurs when the player is not able to break out of their comfort zone of control and continues to use the same exact settings for every match onward. This could be because they have found a supposedly unbeatable strategy, or because they feel the need to sacrifice other features for Competitive Balance, or because they simply love those settings and feel that other settings are really un-enjoyable at best. This mindset fuels some of the flames in the Casual-Competitive Conflict, as outside observers tend to feel that their fun is being ruined by every match being the same.
In Board Game circles, if a gaming group wind up doing this for a particular strategy, it's known as Group Think, and seems to occur when a group collectively decides on a 'best' strategy for a game, however balanced that strategy is against other strategies - The best remedy to it is simply to introduce new blood into the gaming group, or at least for some members of the group to play the game with another group and pick up some new tricks to introduce back into the gaming group suffering from it. Alternatively it could simply be a Game Breaker that wasn't discovered in play testing.
Compare Just Here for Godzilla. When players try to enforce their specific playstyle onto others, they become Scrubs or "Stop Having Fun" Guys.
The trope for limited locales is at Abridged Arena Array.
The exact opposite condition, most often induced by a stringently balanced game, is Alt Itis. Contrast with Self-Imposed Challenge.
Games with evolving Meta Game tend to avert this, because as new strategies are learned, characters fall in and out of popularity.
Every tabletop gamer in Knights of the Dinner Table except for the DMs and possibly Sara. It gets to a point where they abuse the offscreen training rules so that when their character dies they can literally Send in the Clones at a minor loss on level. When forced to break out of this trope, Dave showed signs of secretly being The Smart Guy, and poor Munchkin Brian was so paralyzed by this that he could hardly play a competent character. Even Sara is most often seen playing a barbarian or a cleric: some variation of the "fighter with benefits" niche. As for Brian, after literally a decade-plus of playing nothing but high-level mages, he was so used to the high firepower and versatility that when forced to play as a fighter, he loaded him down with proficiencies for ballistas, catapults, and other siege weapons, along with a high number of leadership traits. The problem is, that most of his leadership skills won't kick in for several levels, he won't have access to siege weapons until he's in a position to lead armies, and he's completely neglected to be proficient in so much as a regular sword or any other melee weapon, making him all but useless on a typical dungeon crawl.
Often happens to Matt's sessions in Dork Tower; even when they try to change games/genres/systems for variety, the gang inevitably falls back to their usual Warhamster fantasy standby.
In a curious example, The Gamers: Dorkness Rising has Leo, who has decided to break tradition and play a bard named Flynn. However, Flynn turns out to be an insta-kill magnet, so Leo has some friends make up fifty identical back-up bards. Lampshaded later on when Leo throws bard after bard in the way of harmful spells to give Luster enough time to get off a major spell with a long casting time, and afterwards another character suggests they take cover "behind the pile of dead bards".
In Tabletop Games, most gamers tend to have a favorite race/class combination that they stick to. One example is that even though the 3rd and later editions of Dungeons & Dragons allows for any race to be a Paladin, most players still stick to the Human/Paladin combo (or less commonly, Aasimar/Paladin if the option is given).
Furthermore, in 3.5 and earlier, many people (beginners especially) will demand to re-roll their character if there is even a hint of it being best suited to be a primary spellcaster. Who wants to read another two chapters of 8-point text just to be able to make a simple attack? Give me a Barbarian called Gnar or Blarg anyday.
The fourth edition has released two books containing literally hundreds of magical items each; if the game's forums are any judge, only a handful of those items are actually "worth" playing with: a handful of those items are generally useful for a range of characters, a substantial amount of them are useful only to certain specific builds, and a disappointingly high number are nearly useless.
Strongly encouraged in traditional high-level games when one of a party is dead beyond recovery, in which case, the slot open is for a specific set of skills, and all the (suddenly available) magic items that no-one else can use are specific to that particular class. Ergo: Sorry 'bout Alcor the Illusionist, Chuck...You should create a new character. We need another wizard.
Most of the criticism of 3.5 centers on how AC and Hit Points are meaningless, while spellcasters run rampant. These are only really problems at high level (level 9 or so, when clerics gain their Slay Living spell), which is where many players seem to be complacent.
Also from 3.5, with melee builds that don't include the Tome of Battle rule book, expect every Optimizer on forums to immediately point you to a 2 handed weapon build, typically of the Great Sword (Power Attack Builds) Halberds and similar polearms (Trip and Reach Attack of Opportunity Build) or Spiked Chains (All of the above).
Fourth Edition has been both praised and vilified for the fact that every class build has a "primary" and "secondary" characteristic, which can be found spread across at least two or three races as coincidental bonuses to those characteristics. However, due to the prevalence of Min Max builds and most modules running on the assumption you will play as such, this either means you have to pick a complimentary race/class combo with a severe stat focus, or you'll find yourself unintentionally handicapped. Many players feel they're forced into Complacent Gaming Syndrome in order to be even passably effective; then again, some players intentionally build characters not min-maxed specifically for the added difficulty.
Some rules systems take steps to prevent this. Whether or not they created something worse as a result depends on what gets randomized and how much you like the Random Number God in general:
Another terrible RPG, deadEarth, tried the same thing except that everything was decided randomly. Up to and including if the character starts the game alive or dead (not zombified or something, dead).
Aces And Eights, an excellent Western RPG, also employs random generation along with a no-class, no-levels system to prevent Complacent Gaming Syndrome. However, this is partly a case of the genre matching the mechanics: the emphasis in a Western is on colorful, flawed characters trying to build civilization out of wilderness. High stats are nice, but they don't make a character a Physical God.
In Maid RPG, everything is randomly generated, but only the stats have an in-game effect, and you can wind up with something ludicrous and fun. The amount of randomness in Maid RPG is such that you can have an albino with brown skin, or someone with both elf ears and cat ears. Of course, the sourcebook for Maid RPG also states that if you want, you can just choose character attributes.
Munchkin hangs a lampshade on this - when you die, you keep your race, class and level, but you lose all your items (only because the other players stole them).
Exalted has Paranoia Combat. Sure, PCs have amazingly powerful and fun tricks to deal massive damage, but most artifact weapons have a reasonable expectation note Somewhat, anyway. Damage is highly randomized in Exalted, so it is entirely possible and not terribly unlikely to have a really powerful attack do barely any damage at all of being able to kill any character in a hit or two if they hit. This, of course, completely ignores the phenomenal cosmic powers of an elder Exalt, or the reality-warping powers of the Yozis. However, nearly any Exalt type has access to Perfect Defenses, usually cheaply and without requiring a great deal of investment on behalf of the character. As a result, it's far more efficient to use normal attacks on a character and force him to perfectly defend, while he does the same. Some people dislike this as rendering most of the combat powers of the Exalted needlessly flashy, others because it leads to long, drawn out slogfests while characters stunt back motes and try to break even, and then some people just adjust their paradigm.
Changed for Third Edition, Word of God confirmed that they don't like Rocket Tag Gameplay either, and the new system will be about leveraging bonuses and penalties in combat (Higher ground, crippled limb, getting winded) and then you get to hit your enemy For Massive Damage by cashing in those effects for a major attack, in a similar vein as Super Attacks in fighting games.
Paranoia, being a system in which death is frequent and expected, embraces an institutionalized form of this. Player characters come in six-packs of clones, and if you run out, you can buy another six-pack. Don't make a new character, just increment the number at the end of your name and keep playing.
Unless the DM tells you no and hands you a randomly made character, yes this is a suggested way to play. Also a new six-pack cost a lot and adds new mutations (unless you pay more) making it only useful for Blue-class up.
Tournament-level Magic: The Gathering usually gravitates towards the four or five best decks in the format at hand, each deck beating another good deck and being weak against another good deck in a sort of Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors form. Sometimes, a "rogue" deck can enter and completely wreck strategies (this is more likely to happen in low-level competitive Magic, though); usually, though, they're "rogue" decks for a reason (i.e. they're not good enough to hang with the best decks). However, the DCI is always vigilant about a format becoming too complacent (if the number of best decks whittles from four or five to two, with one of them more dominant; aka a "play this deck" or "play to beat this deck" scenario); when that happens, card bannings usually ensue.
Lately the DCI is less ban-happy (though they still come on an annual basis), while R&D has more freedom to nudge the game environment with every new card set - sometimes subtly, sometimes less so. Case in point: during the 2012-2013 season, strategies that abused the graveyard, particularly using Snapcaster Mage, dominated the standard environment. That entire archetype fell apart as soon as Wot C printed the next set, Return to Ravnica, with Rest in Peace.
On Magic Online, there was a fan-made variant of the team format Emperor known as "Gent's Rules." The format's targeting restrictions that usually kept the Emperors (the middle players on each three-person team) from targeting each other directly were restricted further so that the Emperors could only affect their teammates, which led to some unlikely cards such as Hundted Wumpus being broken in half. Additionally, there was a gentleman's agreement (hence the name "Gent's Rules") that kept players from playing counterspells, discard, land destruction, or anything else to infere with the other team's play. The result was a variant with only one strategy allowed: the two flankers would help the Emperor ramp up his mana, then he would help them cheat out big monsters to send at the other team. Since you couldn't stop the other team, it was purely a race to see who could do it first.
Many players, particularly in the Modern and Commander formats, are quite vocal about cards that "need" to be banned—typically cards that run counter to their play style. In the March 2014 bannings, this led to (genuinely oppressive) Deathrite Shaman and Sylvan Primordial being banned in Modern and Commander, respectively. It did not lead to the proposed bannings of Snapcaster Mage or Birthing Pod in the same.
The GM is just as vulnerable to Complacent Gaming Syndrome, and this can both kill game balance and fun. The GM may simply not know how to build a wide variety of encounters, may over-use his favorite monsters/clan/faction/powers while completely ignoring or even putting down his least favorites, may have too few personalities for the NPCs, may refuse to tailor the general thrust of his plots to the players' interests, may fail to take into account player experience when building encounters (either wiping out new players or leaving vets bored), may ignore the possibility for players to try diplomatic or sneaky solutions and just demand they fight his villain, or may just limit the scope of the setting to some corner of it he likes. This can occur in any game.
The cost of buying new miniatures can mandate this in wargames, especially if "what you see is what you get" is in effect. Some players, however, will just insist on using their favorite side or always use the same builds even if they have the opportunity to do something new.
In any given Warhammer 40,000 tournament, you can generally expect three out of every four armies to be Space Marines. This has a good deal to do with the fact that the Astartes are the de facto gateway army almost everyone starts out playing (you can get a minimally playable Astartes starter kit as a box set), as well as the fact that they're the only army guaranteed to be updated first every edition due to arguable Creator's Pet status. This has only gotten worse in recent years as variants of the Space Marine list have gotten their own standalone books, so the previous roadblock of buying two books to play one army is now gone. There are now enough books that the company's publishing schedule is basically one marine book for every two non-marine books.
The Metagame in deciding what 40k army to take to a tournament comes down to the following two choices, take a Marine equivalent army or not (usually defined as 3+ armour saves & high points values, Space Marines, Chaos, Necrons), and then deciding on gearing their army towards killing the prevalent Marine equivalent armies, or gearing their army towards non-marine equivalent armies (Orks, Eldar, Tau, Imperial Guard) and hoping to get lucky by avoiding the Marine armies as you progress through the tournament. Tournaments have been won by players who have taken non-Marine armies & geared them towards killing other non-Marine armies, through sheer luck of the draw.
The term "MEQ" is a shorthand for "Marine Equivallent", which is usually used in Mathhammer (speculative calculations for listbuilding) to gauge whether or not a list is good enough. The non-marine equivallent is "GEQ" (which stands for Guard Equivallent) and is often considered to be secondary to MEQ-based calculations.
This rule was broken hard with the release of 6th edition and the Tau Empire and Eldar codices. Tau Empire, a faction which had previously been strictly mid-tier due almost solely to the (in-game) cost of most of its units being somewhat harsh in comparison to other armies, became a ridiculously efficient and mobile army with the capacity to a) put out a withering amount of firepower, and b) override core game mechanics more or less at will through the markerlight mechanic (in particular the ability to completely strip cover saves from a target unit rendered several entire armies almost completely defenceless against them). Eldar meanwhile, another army whose previous incarnation was mid-tier at best, suddenly gained easy and almost ubiquitous access to Divination, a psychic discipline which also stripped cover saves from whatever enemy you wanted and also granted re-rolls to shooting which essentially removed any aspect of luck from the game (which wouldn't have been unfair if it weren't for the fact that it only applied to them). This combined with the newly-inserted and not yet fully tested allies mechanic meant that for an extended period Warhammer 40,000 tournaments saw three kinds of players: Taudar (Tau allied with Eldar), Deldar (Eldar allied with Dark Eldar to use one excellent special character and one excellent unit from that book), and everybody else. The 7th edition release has slightly reduced this tendency, but it's hard to argue that Tau and Eldar are not still the most effective factions in the game, and recent tournament results appear to be bearing this out.
Warhammer had the same problem as above during its own 7th edition, to the point that just before 8th edition was released every single army used at most tournaments was either Vampire Counts or Daemons of Chaos.
Monopoly. Tell the truth: Have you ever seen anyone decline to buy a title deed and put it up for auction?
Chess can be this way if you always play against the same opponent.
In the nonfiction book Searching for Bobby Fischer (which was made into a fictionalized movie by the same name) Fred Waitzkin writes a bit about a chess club in New York in which the same players played over and over against the same opponent for months or years on end. They would make moves out of habit more than out of any real innovation or thought, but they had no desire to play against anyone else.
Many players have their particular favourite openings.
Match Game had a final round where contestants had to pick one celebrity to match their answers with in order to win the big prize money. Almost every episode that had Richard Dawson had him as the one contestants turned to in the final round, because he rarely mismatched his answers with contestants.
In June 1978, they introduced the "Star Wheel", which the contestant would spin to determine who they would attempt to match. The first person it landed on? Dawson. The panel performed a mock walk-out in disbelief — including Dawson.
The original regular format of the Wheel of FortuneBonus Round gave a blank puzzle, for which the contestant had to provide five consonants and a vowel to assist in solving within 15 seconds. Before long, most people were choosing R, S, T, L, N, and E (five of the most common consonants, and the most common vowel, in the English language). Beginning on October 3, 1988, both versions changed the rules to give players these letters and their choice of three more consonants and a vowel, while also making the puzzles harder (now, it's very rare for R, S, T, L, N, and E to reveal so much as half of the answer) and slashing the time limit to 10 seconds. Even then, a very large number of contestants pick C, D, M, and A, because those are among the next most-common, even though this combination doesn't work most of the time. Since about 2012, a few Genre Savvy contestants have selected B, G, H, and O.
Also, contestants used to have the option of picking their own prize. When a $25,000 cash prize was first offered in 1987, the vast majority of contestants would go for either it or a car. This was finally circumvented in September 1989 (but only on the nighttime show) by making it a random draw from five enveloped labeled W-H-E-E-L — one concealed $25,000, the other four contained prizes that changed weekly, and any prize that was won was removed for the rest of the week. Beginning in September 1998, the $25,000 envelope was kept in play even if won. On September 3, 2001, the prizes changed to three different cars and two $25,000, all of which remained in play all week; on October 22, this changed again to the current 24-envelope Bonus Wheel.
In the German version Glücksrad, RSTLNE was so widespread they simply called it "ERNSTL" — an often used callname for someone named Ernst (a common German male name) — without naming the individual letters anymore.
In the United Kingdom version, it is very common for contestants to keep spinning and not buy a single vowel. On rare occasions, no vowels will be purchased for the entire game, nor will any be called in the Speed-Up. If it is any indication, host John Leslie would immediately tell a contestant that he/she must solve if only vowels remained in a puzzle.
When Same Name was introduced in 1988, many people began by calling D and N, then buying an A because those puzzles always had "And" in them. This was averted completely by using an ampersand which would also be used in Family and Husband & Wife puzzles. Beginning around 2008, the writers gradually began reverting to spelling out AND.
Similarly, many contestants have figured out that if N is the next-to-last letter in a long word, it's very likely to end in -ING. This shows up most often in the "What Are You Doing?" category, where virtually all of the answers have at least one -ING ending.
And if a T leads off a three-letter word, the next spin gives an H, and then comes the buying of E.
If a contestant lands on Free Play, they are permitted to call any letter or attempt to solve the puzzle with no penalty for an incorrect guess; consonants are worth $500, and vowels are free. With very few exceptions, contestants tend to go for the free vowel if any are left, even when it would not be beneficial to do so.
Pyramid had the "Mystery 7", a category in which the subject is not revealed until after the fact; getting all seven words in the category won a mystery prize. Initially, the box just said "Mystery 7" instead of a category name, and as a result, almost every team went for it first. Later on, the show changed it so that all six categories fit into the show's Hurricane of Puns theme, with the Mystery 7 hidden behind one of the six.
And its sister, the 7-11, offered either $50 per word or $1,100 for getting all 7 right. Almost no one ever took the former, so the latter quickly became the only option.
In addition, players had the option of either giving or receiving clues for the Winner's Circle. Most of them opted to receive, mainly because that was the predominant convention at the time (in Password, for example, the celebrity always gave clues in whatever bonus round they played), and the round was difficult enough without putting someone who's much more comfortable in the giver's chair in the receiving position.
Sometimes present in the original Art Fleming era of Jeopardy!, which paid full winnings to all contestants, winning or losing. Some contestants would intentionally stop ringing in if they felt that they had earned enough money, or if another contestant picked up a significant lead. The Alex Trebek-hosted revival (1984-present) gave this an Obvious Rule Patch by offering the full winnings only to the winner, to create more of an incentive to compete. The losing contestants initially got parting gifts, but starting in the early 2000s, second and third place respectively won a flat $2,000 and $1,000.
One complacency present in all versions of Jeopardy! is the fact that contestants almost always pick clues top-to-bottom, even in situations where it would be advisable to do otherwise. For instance, if it's late in the round and you're behind, it might be wise to go to the higher-valued clues first, especially if a Daily Double (which are rarely in the top two boxes) hasn't yet been uncovered.
In Final Jeopardy, the player in the lead would always wager just enough to beat second place by one dollar if both of them got it right and second place wagered everything. For example, if second place had $7,000 and first place had $12,000, you can always bet on the leader wagering $2,001.
During the trivia sections on Double Dare, a team could "Dare" and pass the question onto their opponents if stumped, though that team could "Double Dare" and pass it back, earning the other team twice the cash if they answered it correctly. However, they could go for the "Physical Challenge", where they would play a game to earn the cash. Only one family managed to exploit the Double Dare strategy.
In High Rollers, it was very rare to see a contestant roll the dice if there was so much as a 25% chance of rolling a bad number. Even if there were tens of thousands of dollars in prizes available on the board, players immediately started passing the dice to their opponent as soon as there was a semi-decent chance that they could roll a bad number and hence lose the game.
During the Big Sweep in Supermarket Sweep, most contestants were Genre Savvy enough to grab the expensive stuff — Farmer John hams, gallon-sized jugs of Bertolli olive oil, diapers, macadamia nuts, giant steaks, cheese wedges, frozen turkeys, medicine, etc.
A couple of recurring techniques have cropped up on The Price Is Right when four contestants are required to bid on an item to determine which of them will play the next pricing game. One typical action is for a contestant to bid one dollar, in the hopes that most of the other contestants will go over the actual retail price and they'll win by default. Another trick usually employed by the last contestant to place a bid is to give a figure one dollar higher than what they think is the best bid, with the intent of beginning just one dollar closer than their opponents.
Sometimes, the 3rd contestant will make a $1 bid or bid $1 higher than the previous player if they have no idea what they're doing or just want to look like a smartass, causing the last contestant in the queue to bid $1 higher than them, making the infamous "$2!" bid.
The "$1 more" strategy was parodied on Family Guy:
Bob Barker: Alright, let's start the bidding. Jennifer, how much do you bid on the dinette set? Jennifer: Um...$675, Bob! (ding) Bob: $675, Steven. Steven: Uh...$780. Bob: $780. (ding) Tammy. Tammy: What was the last bid? Bob: $780. Tammy: $781! (ding) Steven: (bleep) YOU!
On the bright side, if you manage to get the price exactly right you not only can't be beaten but get a $500 bonus. Due to the rounding rule, this is the only way to win if somebody bids $1 more than you.
In the pricing game portions of the show, in the games One Away, Money Game, Pocket Change, Stack the Deck, Cover Up, and Pathfinder, a contestant has to guess each digit in the price of a car from a set of possible choices. If one of the choices for the last digit is 0, 5, or 9, nearly every contestant will choose that ending. While this usually was correct in the Bob/Roger era, the Drew/Mike era often uses these endings as incorrect "trap" choices in hopes that the player will pick them and lose. Temptation is a subversion to this, where the car always ends in 0 or 5, but never 9. 10 Chances is also one due to every price always ending in 0.
Family Feud players who buzz in and give a higher-valued answer than their opponent have the option to either continue answering the question with their family (play) or let the other family answer (pass). Most players will choose "play", which led to a 7-year retirement of the option before being brought back.
Survivor always has the weaker or less loyal players voted out first; and then at or near the merge, the people who carried the tribe through the first half of the game are evicted because they're a threat. Everybody also starts to make an alliance of about three to five during the tribal game, trying to get others to vote with them as dummy votes just to get a majority at tribal council. There's always at least one time where someone who's stronger is voted out over a weaker person because they're less loyal.
And after Samoa, there's at least one or two people who hit the beach and start hunting for the idol. Especially since people generally tend to find it buried under a log or rock or hidden in a tree, sometimes in rather obvious places. And expect people casting dummy votes to flush out the idol.
A more justified example is how every season starts off with the tribes building a shelter, looking for water, looking for edible vegetation, etc.
The first two rounds of the Nickelodeon game show Get The Picture were often subject to this.
The first round, "Connect the Dots," had the game board divided into squares numbered from 1 to 16. Often contestants would pick 6, 7, 10 and 11 because they were the central four boxes, regardless of the dot placement.
In the second round, "Dots", the corners of the boxes were numbered and the contestants had to connect the lines to reveal the squares. The contestants would try to close in the same four boxes (e.g. 7-8, 8-13, 7-12 and 12-13 would reveal the one that was square 6 in the first round).
The American Big Brother starts off with a lot of players outright throwing the early Head of Household competitions and only attempting to win the veto for defensive measures. (eg, they're on the block, their friend is on the block, or they believe they're in danger of being put on the block as a replacement nominee). When the numbers start dwindling, they start attempting to win both competitions, specifically so they can either keep the nominees the same or "backdoor" someone.
In Ender’s Game, most (if not all) of the Battle School commanders use the same formations that have been in place for years, due to fear of launching a failing strategy and tanking their army's standings. Ender's success is mostly due to him realizing this and coming up with new ways to innovate in every battle.
This series also provided the former trope name for Instant-Win Condition, "The Enemy Gate Is Down", by subverting this trope. Standard practice was to take out all of the enemy soldiers before passing the win condition. However, clearing out the enemy soldiers was at no point necessary (before this battle). Ender uses diversion and suicidal tactics to win an otherwise unwinnable battle. He does this again, subverting traditional military reason to win the war against an alien species.
In American Football, there are two ways to try a field goal: the place kick and the drop kick. Thanks to the current shape of the ball (more pointed than a rugby ball to facilitate the forward pass, making their bounces more wild), all field goals are attempted via place kick. The most recent successful drop kick attempt was on New Year's Day, 2006, made by a retiring quarterback for the novelty value; prior to that, you'd have to go all the way back to 1941.
A small but vocal minority has pushed getting the extra point removed from the game, due to the high probability of a kicked extra point being good leading to teams always kicking the single over going for two unless absolutely necessary.note Specifically, teams never go for two in the first three quarters, and only go for two in the fourth in two scenarios: When they were down 8 before the touchdown (in which case 2 points ties the game), and when they were down 5 before the touchdown (in which case the risk of missing the 2 point conversion is eliminated, while the reward of getting it is immense: It means the opponents can only tie with a field goal rather than take the lead.)
In game theory, a Nash Equilibrium is a state in which all players know each others' strategies and have nothing to gain by changing their own strategy. A true Nash equilibrium is very rare in the world of tabletop and video gaming, though players often think they're in one until some new blood is introduced.
While not a gaming-related example, a significant amount of people will reach a point in their lives in which they seldom if ever seek out unfamiliar music, and are perfectly content relistening to their old favorites the overwhelming majority of the time.
In a similar fashion, many people would rather eat their favorite foods than try anything new, to ensure they enjoy their meals.