In a variety of 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 playtesting.
The trope for limited locales is at Abridged Arena Array.
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 one strip, Matt tries to get them out of the rut of Igor always playing a paladin, Ken always playing a cleric, and Carson always playing a halfling thief by launching an oriental-themed campaign. Igor was a lawful-good samurai, Ken was a wise holy man, and Carson was a short daimyo who picked pockets.
- In Adventure Time with Fionna & Cake: Card Wars, the unbeatable Floop Master turns out to have stumbled upon one Game-Breaker opening card combination, and is completely helpless when Cake becomes the first player to find a card that can beat it.
- 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". note
Leo: How different they could be?
- It doesn't help that he plays him like a completely inept Fighter instead of an actual Bard. He doesn't use magic, inspire his teammates, acts like a fighter despite carrying only a dagger and being unarmored, and has to be continually reminded that he has Bardic Lore that can help give the party information. This comes from all previous characters made by Leo being Fighters and he wanted to go for something new.
- 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).
- Speaking of Races, in 3.X Dungeons & Dragons, humans are this when it comes to optimizing characters. They're a top pick in all online class guides because of their immense versatility. No penalties, outside of any miscellaneous ones a DM might throw their way as part of the plot, bonus skill points at every levelnote , a bonus feat at first level, which is a rare commodity that can jump start any character build. The only classes humans do not excel in are race-locked or badly-designed in general (and there's a Human-only feat that lets you take race-specific classes and abilities.) It took the creation of alternative class features, and additional sub races of the main races to make them be considered as high tier "viable" builds before that changed, and Pathfinder took lessons from that to instead give a lot more flexibility and power to the other main races.
- Charisma as a Dump Stat, since it is the only primary stat that doesn't obviously affect a character in any way. (Strength affects physical attacks and weight-carrying limits, Dexterity Armor Class and Reflex Saves, etc.) Unless you're playing a class that uses Charisma for an ability (such as Sorcerers and Bards for spells and music, Clerics for Turn Undead, and Paladins for Charisma Modifier to Saves check bonus), most people have no problem letting it fall off, especially when high Intelligence and the resulting bonus skill points quickly and easily make up for having a Charisma Modifier of 0 to -2. Yes, an ugly jerk of a mage can conduct diplomatic peace talks better than some trained characters. Plus they have spells when that isn't enough, beginning with "polite" mind control such as Charm Person, and leading up to the much more blunt "Give me control of the kingdom, or I will call down Meteors on your head, send you to an alternate dimension, or just kill you outright if I'm pressed for time"
- Furthermore, in 3.5 and earlier, many players refuse to play primary spellcasters outright, regardless of their immense power difference at higher levels. 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 any day.
- 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 his or her old powerful, potentially class-specific magic items are suddenly available. 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 eventually 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 like to start out.
- Also from 3.5, with melee builds that don't include the Tome of Battle rule book, expect every optimizer to immediately point you to a two-handed weapon build, typically a great-weapon (power attack focused), halberd or similar polearm (reach with a focus on trips and attacks of Opportunity) or a spiked chain (both).
- 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.
- 5th edition unfortunately ends up playing into this trope a little too well. Since feats now come at the cost of an attribute bonus and are far less numerous than they were in 3rd or 4th edition, the skill system is now an "all or nothing" deal, and your class' build is ultimately decided by which specialization you pick at 3rd level... You end up with a pretty strong example, since players tend to gravitate to a select few specializations that are either more appealing, more overpowered, or in the case of the Circle of the Moon Druid both. As such, most characters end up being the same build as every other character playing their class. You'll only end up seeing Circle of the Land Druids, Champion Fighters or College of Valor Bards when players deliberately go out of their way to be unoptimized.
- That being said, there are plenty of players who will pick less-used combinations purely because of the benefits they offer. Champion Fighter becomes a lot more appealing when you've focused mostly on Constitution and magic items that buff AC and you've used your higher-than-normal Ability Score Increases to take feats that allow you to get expertise in some skills like Bards, Rogues, and Knowledge Clerics get. Suddenly a commonly considered subpar fighter can now tank incredible amounts of attacks, which does in fact matter in 5e where there is only one definitive 'save or die' ability, and it's tied to a PC class. (Monk, Way of the Open Hand.) 5e does a good job of giving the player a lot of options to choose from, and while some combinations can be amazing if you want to get a leg up on certain aspects of the game, the sheer amount of combinations and the fact each combination tends to have a specialization that no other combination can quite match means that there's a class combo for everyone. Circle of Land Druids don't sound so bad when you realize how much better they are at battlefield control than Circle of Moon Druids; battlefield control is generally a more demanding responsibility for players, and Circle of Land is unmatched in comparison to every other Druid (Itself a class focused on battlefield control) in terms of separating enemies and keeping the pressure on them, for example.
- 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:
- According to Word of the Keeper, the ridiculous dependence on the Random Number God, the obsession with insane numbers of poorly thought out stats, and the general head-up-arseness of FATAL were intended to prevent this, because about the only thing you get to choose is gender. Proof that Tropes Are Not Bad, if the alternative is FATAL. The rulebook does state that the Aodile can let players choose their own races and classes (not stats, though), but implies that random determination is the preferred method.
- 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 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 Special Attacks in fighting games.
- Also occasionally results in this trope being exploited by way of an I Know You Know I Know chain. If people are just going to perfect-defend any attack that comes their way, there's no point in putting anything flashy on the attack, which means there's no point in picking up other ways to defend against the flashy things that won't be on the attack because there's no point in flashy things on the attack so might as well save some EXP that could be put to better use elsewhere by using Perfect Defenses. This is perfectly sound logic when it's a brawl between the Exalt types that are just straight-up powerful in direct combat (and that's most of them); unfortunately, it falls apart painfully against the types that are weaker in a head-on brawl but specialize in esoteric control effects that don't have anything to do with hitting someone. Granted, the fact that the types that were good at that tended to be the least popular ones to play in all-types-OK games (going by census tallies on various Exalted chat-games, where PvP is often more likely to occur than in a standard tabletop campaign) might be a case of Complacent Gaming Syndrome all its own.
- 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, and yes, this is a suggested way to play. Also, a new six-pack costs a lot and suffers from genetic drift (getting this cleaned up costs even more, and is only legally available at Blue clearance and 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 RockPaperScissors 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 WotC 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 canonical 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 Equivalent", 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 Equivalent) 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.
- In relation to the above, combining Necrons and Orks during the 6th edition. Orks have big, automatic guns and numbers but lack dedicated units to counter really high-armour targets such as Land Raiders (the most an Ork unit can typically dish out is strength 8 which means a 6 on a die is required to cause any kind of damage at all against Land Raiders and other armour 14 things). Ork numbers also means they are very good at Anti-Air. The Necrons on the other hand have small numbers but can self-reanimate and do have very strong weapons useful against high-class targets like Land Raiders. Combine those two and it creates an army that can take on pretty much everything while having so many bodies the enemy cannot possibly dish out enough shots to get rid of the Orks in front to get to the Necrons hiding behind them who are shooting right back at said enemy. The only thing holding this army back is, as usual, the ridicolous price since Orks require absurd numbers and Necrons are simply that expensive to field.
- A lot of Phil Kelly's codexes have this issue where a few units will be mindbogglingly powerful while others will be either good but still not as good as the other choices, or just downright terrible. The worst example of this is the 6th Edition Chaos Space Marines codex which had the Heldrake, an overwhelmingly powerful flying unit which were utterly superior to every other Fast Attack choice and effectively phased them out, while Mutilators and Warp Talons were so rubbish that some players took it as an insult if you brought them against him.
- 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. The issue in this case was that 7th Edition Daemons of Chaos was considered horrifically, nauseatingly, game-breakingly overpowered to the point that Vampire Counts and sometimes Dark Elves were literally the only other army that realistically even stood a chance of winning against them. Some fans theorised that Games Workshop were forced to push out 8th Edition solely because Daemons of Chaos broke the game so badly (the only way to make the game work again other than decanonising the entire DoC book would be to power creep all the other factions so heavily that the game would be unrecognisable), although there's no solid proof of that.
- Monopoly. Tell the truth: Have you ever seen anyone decline to buy a title deed and put it up for auction? Only when they can't afford to buy it.
- 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.
- The chess 'meta' got this way in the 19th century, in the 'Romantic era' that favoured flashy attacks and sacrifices. For the other player to decline to take a sacrificed piece was seen as unsporting. Then along came Steinitz who in 1872 developed a new style of play and crushed everyone else, became the first recognised World Champion, and ended the Romantic era.
- Many players have their particular favourite openings.
- King of Tokyo: Staying in Tokyo for a full turn earns you 2 points. Staying in Tokyo also means you cannot heal unless it's with an upgrade or evolution, and every other character in play can attack you, with it entirely possible to be dealt 6 out of your 10 base health in one attack. Outside of Tokyo, you cannot be targeted by any player that is not in Tokyo, you can heal yourself, and you can still roll for 1~6 points every turn. Naturally most players avoid being in Tokyo as much as possible and just roll for points. The spiritual successor King of New York made it a point to break this up by making points more difficult and risky to obtain, giving more options to the players in New York to heal, and giving rising rewards for staying longer.
- Poker: In the early days of Texas Hold'Em, serious players would only play statistically powerful starting hands such as big pocket pairs (Aces, Kings, Queens, etc.) and fold all others. It wasn't until certain players— most notably Doyle Brunson— figured out that that small to medium suited connectors (e.g. a seven and eight of spades) could win huge pots against those "stronger" hands when they managed to make a straight or flush while losing only small ones when they missed that Hold'Em became the deeply strategic game it is today.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!: In most tournaments, you'll likely only see three, maybe four decks (out of an abundance of archetypes possible) at most when it comes to the final brackets. Because of the Power Creep, what decks people main during tournaments fluctuates with each era, but none the less, you're unlikely to encounter any other decks besides the current meta decks in any major tournament. This naturally brings the problem among many fans of the game, even the said tournament players. The decks most commonly used WILL win and WILL get the job done; but they lead to an abundance of mirror matches which usually end up not being interesting and quite possibly draining.
- This trope gets taken Up to Eleven in certain formats with "Tier Zero" Decks - those that are so strong that little else can stand up to them, resulting in said ridiculous number of Mirror Matches observed in tournament finals. Well-known examples include Tele-DAD of the early Synchro era, and PePe (Perfomapals/Performages). Zoodiacs are a complicated example; the deck itself is certainly top-tier, but it's the engine, commonly splashed into other decks, that is the real Tier Zero.
- And the inverse of this: in online simulators, you often find players who have recently gotten back into the game after having only played it as kids, and are unfamiliar with and distrustful of the new mechanics and archetypes that have arisen since then. Consequently, boot up one of these simulators, and you'll often be greeted with servers that ban the Extra Deck, Pendulums, Rituals, and basically anything released after 2006. Even simply using powerful or tournament-level strategies that meet the above qualifications will often elicit a Rage Quit.
- Prior to Links, if a person had any cards in their Extra Deck, chances are good that they'd be playing at least some Xyz, chances are better that those Xyz would be Rank 4, and chances are absolutely positive that those Rank 4s would include Castel the Skyblaster Musketeer, Utopia, and Utopia the Lightning. The fact that they're generic Rank 4s and therefore playable in 95% of decks, they can be summoned basically at will, and they can get rid of almost any card in the game between them was more than enough for this.
- Part of the reason the original banlist was created was that certain "staple" cards were both overpowered (especially for that point in the game) and generic (could be played in pretty much any deck and had no significant cost), meaning that basically every somewhat serious deck invariably used them. The most generally-agreed-on list was seven cards,note so even though all seven were limited to one, that still basically meant that 17% of the cards in any given deck was identical to those in any other, and when "semi-staples"note were accounted for, that number could easily rise to half or more.
- Shows up sometimes in BattleTech. The most widespread example is derisively known as "Turretech": take an assault mech armed with long-range energy weapons, park it somewhere with a view of most of the battlefield, shoot things and never move. The game has several canon mechs that play well this way, but the use of custom mech creation leads to even worse issues with mechs that are even more optimized for such play. Land-Air Mechs also tended to be used in such a way, so much that when canon LAMs were brought back to the game after a lengthy absence, the updated rules heavily nerfed them so that they were not and couldn't be made into super-powered monsters.
- 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.
- Wheel of Fortune has many examples:
- During the early years, after solving a puzzle, a contestant was allowed to spend their winnings in prize showcases presented after the rounds. At any point, the contestant could choose to put his or her money "on account", meaning that it would carry over to any subsequent shopping rounds, or put it on a gift certificate to Service Merchandise. Likely because putting money "on account" left it vulnerable to a Bankrupt or to being "wasted" should the contestant fail to solve another puzzle, almost every contestant who had money left over at the end of a shopping round would opt for the gift certificate. The shopping element was retired at the end of The '80s.
- When it was introduced in 1981, Bonus 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 RSTLNE (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 RSTLNE from the outset and ask the player for three more consonants and a vowel, countered by making the puzzles somewhat harder (it's rare for RSTLNE to reveal so much as half of the answer) and reducing the time limit to 10 second. Even then, a very large number of contestants pick CDMA, because those are among the next most-common, even though this combination doesn't work most of the time. BGHO (sometimes with P in place of B) has become a popular "three more consonants and a vowel" choice after a fan forum and a news article both discovered that this is strategically the best choice.
- 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, while passing up items such as boats, jewelry, annuities, or sometimes Undesirable Prizes such as a "Shipboard party" or build-your-own log cabin kit. 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" a diminutive of the common German name "Ernst" without naming the individual letters any more.
- 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 themnote . This was averted completely by using an ampersand starting in 1989. The category relapsed into spelling out AND sporadically for the following two decades. For some strange reason, Same Name puzzles using AND saw frequent usage in the 2010s until ampersands returned permanently during Season 35.
- 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 (which was always "hidden" behind a category), 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 or believed the opponents didn't know the answer. 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. Most of the time, a team would only Dare if they didn't know the answer and 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 smart 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.
Bob Barker: Alright, let's start the bidding. Jennifer, how much do you bid on the dinette set?
- 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:
Jennifer: Um...$675, Bob! (ding)
Bob: $675, Steven.
Bob: $780. (ding) Tammy.
Tammy: What was the last bid?
Tammy: $781! (ding)
Steven: FUCK 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.
- It's worth noting that "Backdoor" has changed from its original use to "Sending the replacement nominee out". The reason behind this was after Big Brother 5, where it was used to evict Jase without giving him a chance to play for veto, and producers foresaw it happening every single week and making the show way too predictable.
- In Epic, where the game is how people get real-life goods and services from the government, there is pretty much one way to play - play as one of a very few classes, put all your points in strength or intelligence or health, spend hours grinding every day. When the main character, out of desperation, decides to play as a completely unheard of class and put all his points in beauty, his friends think he's lost his mind - until two Non Player Characters give him a personal quest and an immensely valuable jewel, of the sort it takes years of leveling to afford, right out of the gate.
- 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.
- 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 Eventually, in the National Football League, the line of scrimmage for a kicked extra point (but not a 2-point try) was moved out to the 15-yard line (instead of the 2-yard line), making the attempts 33 yards instead of the 20 they were before (in other words, still very likely to be made, but no guarantee) in hopes of making 2-point conversions be tried more often.
- On quiz website Sporcle, many times a commenter will note they got the Appeal to Obscurity answers right while missing obvious ones (one of the most common is Kyrgyzstan, which reached Memetic Mutation status for being obscenely difficult to spell), usually justifying such behavior by saying "I've been spending too much time here".
- 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.
- A significant amount of people will reach a point in their lives in which they essentially stop seeking out unfamiliar music, and are perfectly content simply relistening to the songs and albums they enjoyed in their younger days.
- In a similar fashion, many people would rather eat their favorite foods than try anything new, to ensure they enjoy their meals.
- One of El Disgusto's primary traits in Binder of Shame is his refusal to play anything except a ninja. Even if the game is a medieval pseudo-European setting, a Call of Cthulhu campaign set in 1930s America, or Star Trek.
- In Major League Baseball's American League, the designated hitter is optional. However, since the DH was implemented, teams have elected not to use one (over letting a pitcher hit) only four times, the last being in 1976. There have been several cases since where a team has forfeited its DH spot during a game due to using the player who was DH into the field.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL: It can often happen in the franchise as a whole, but Kite suffered this. To be more accurate, he suffered it a bit more in ZEXAL's second season. During season 1, while he relies on his ace Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon, at least he was willing to use/showcase other monsters in his deck. Come season 2, Kite almost ALWAYS opens his duels with the same method: Special summon Photon Thrasher and normal summon Photon Crusher, then tribute them both for Galaxy Eyes. A solid strategy to be sure, but the rest of his deck essentially got the shaft.
- His rival, Yuma, is even more a sufferer of this trope - he has dozens of Number and non-Number Xyz monsters, especially towards the end of the series, and his deck is full of cards with variable or changeable levels, meaning he can easily bring them out. In spite of this, he always goes for Aspiring Emperor Hope, only resorting to another Number if he's trying to do something very specific or Hope is off-limits.
- Pinball: When playing in a tournament or just going for high scores, odds are a very skilled player is going to go straight for the multiball, or at least expend a great deal of effort in getting there. This is because multiball makes for a good safety net: As the machine will not count the ball as drained until every ball in a multiball is gone, this allows the player to take more risks and play faster, on top of the additional scoring the multiball provides. In addition, most machines will provide a ball savernote at the beginning of a multiball. In other words, a multiball will temporarily remove all of the risk from gameplay, which most savvy players consider more valuable than anything else, even the Wizard Mode.
- If you want to get into MMA, you're probably going to have to learn Boxing, Wrestling, Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu, and Muay Thai (for the latter two, an equivalent amount of Submission Wrestling and\or Kickboxing training can suffice). They're considered the four pillars of the sport because they're considered the most Boring, but Practical styles (emphasis on practical). Not to mention the rules of MMA fights favor those the most.
- Discussed in Jontron's review of Aquaman Battle For Atlantis when he remarks on how the game provides you with a myriad of complex combos to use when simply Button Mashing is the most effective way to defeat foes:
Jontron: You see, there is this little thing in game theory called Dominant Strategy, it tells that if youre given an ultimate method of disposing of obstacles in a game, youre always going to use it! Why even make this complex moves list when you can just one-button-mash your way through the game?