Game developers have a limited time to develop their games; some have limitations of budget. Sometimes, though more so in the past than nowadays, they have limitations forced on them by the particular platform they're developing on. And some game developers are just lazy.
Environments for a game require a great deal of effort, particularly modern levels with 3D models, textures, and shaders. These are expensive and time-consuming to make. It's no surprise that a developer that is being particularly economical would want to try to use that 3D environment as much as possible. In some games, they do this by forcing you to backtrack, typically with Action-Adventure games. But in games following this trope, they do it by making a new area that looks very similar if not identical to the other area. This may be done many times. Usually done in places with randomly-generated backgrounds.
Repetitive environments can make navigating the world very confusing. Without having unique landmarks, it is very easy to get lost. And it's very dull to see the same things over and over.
MMORPGs (and other forms of Wide Open Sandboxes for that matter) are big users of this trope, but they mostly do so for reasons of economy. They have a huge world that needs building, and any cost-cutting measures they can find are of value. First-person shooters are also a common victim of this, reusing versions of their single-player maps for multiplayer (or vice-versa, depending on which side the developers are focusing on).
- The "shops in sandbox games/RPGs all with the same interior" variety is referenced in Scott Pilgrim. The title character wanders into a Second Cup coffee shop, expecting to find there his sister, Stacey, who works in one, but is confused when he sees Knives attending it instead, then a caption says "Scott suddenly realized for the first time that all Second Cup exteriors do not lead to the same Second Cup interior".
- Done in Cube. Justified since the film takes place in a labyrinth of identical cubes, but the filmmakers only had the budget to build one set with five out of the six surfaces. The only difference between each room is the colour and varying traps.
- Early in Inception, Ariadne and Cobb test out the creation of a dreamworld, at one point folding several city blocks like a sheet of paper. It soon becomes apparent that the dream city consists mostly of the same building copied over and over over again.
- One of the key concepts for an Architect in the dream world is to make the entire environment closed and repetitive, but in such a way as to not arouse suspicion. This is so that the dreamer will believe he or she is still awake and will feel like they're free to wander around, despite being in a closed environment.
- In Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, toward the beginning of the movie, just after the robots attack Manhattan, Sky Captain lands at his base and drives his plane into a huge hangar. At the top of the doors of the hangar are these huge windows of 8x10 panes. In every window, some of the panes are broken. In every window, it's exactly the same panes that are broken.
- In the Montague Egg story Murder in the Morning, it's a plot point that two petrol stations were built to the same design from prefabricated parts, and operated by similar-looking brothers.
- In Trent's Last Case, Trent jokes that all English hotels have the same sitting-room:
Have you ever been in this room before, Cupples? I have, hundreds of times. It has pursued me all over England for years. I should feel lost without it if, in some fantastic, far-off hotel, they were to give me some other sitting-room. Look at this table-cover; there is the ink I spilt on it when I had this room in Halifax. I burnt that hole in the carpet when I had it in Ipswich. But I see they have mended the glass over the picture of Silent Sympathy, which I threw a boot at in Banbury.
- A lot Dom Com and Sitcom shows generally has rooms designed where characters can be seen entering from a door/stairway/etc from the side (stage left/right) or from behind (up stage). Most shows rarely have characters entering from the hidden 4th wall (the down stage area where most of the cameras are fixated and lacks an actual wall) due to most of the cameras and other equipment being there and hidden from normal view. Because of all the above, many rooms tend to look similar where, in most cases, the entrance door is always on the side, the television is off camera, any form of stairs are always in the rear, etc.
- Blackadder Goes Forth has a French chateau being used as General Melchett's headquarters. We see a court room, a classroom for a flying school, the general's office and a dining hall. They all have the same large round painting above a wide fireplace, though oddly the fireplace frame itself appears to sometimes change colour. Furthermore, the whole set is probably a redress of the Prince Regent's bedroom from the third series.
- A rare Live Action TV example occurs in Caprica. As Zoe-A and Philomon travel in the Virtual World, Zoe-A makes note of the repeated objects and discusses the possibilities of a generative software to independently create environments and objects. The idea is that a program that takes the basic pattern of an object (a tree in this example) but build over it would prevent Cut and Paste environments.
- They know what they're talking about. This is an actual trend in game design. Works really well for trees, too.
- In the Doctor Who serial The Invasion, the same set is used for two different offices belonging to Tobias Vaughn, the only difference being the view out of the window. Lampshaded by the Doctor.
- Whenever the Doctor and friends are traveling through the TARDIS's corridors (especially during the '80s era), it's the Console Room's walls rearranged.
- Power Rangers does this, but most of the time it's just recycling Super Sentai footage.
- Red Dwarf uses this a fair bit due to the limited budget:
- The Red Dwarf Back To Earth special creates corridors by shooting in the quarters and turning the camera to the wall.
- The quarantine quarters in the episode, erm, "Quarantine", is the normal bunk room with green panels over the top bunk and Holly monitor.
- The Season VIII opener, "Back in the Red", goes out of its way to invoke this by accurately replicating the original bunk room from the first two series, right down to the awful painted wood look... for a scene that couldn't have lasted more than five minutes!
- Several episodes feature alternate, duplicated or otherwise parallel versions of familiar locations, allowing for the same sets to be given extra dressings for what is essentially the same location. Notable examples of this are in the "Parallel Universe", "Demons and Angels" and "Only the Good..." episodes.
- Due to the limited flexibility in sets, most levels and rooms of starships/bases/etc are the same set lit differently or filmed from another angle.
- Very noticeable in Star Trek, especially Voyager — their science/robotics/engineering labs are all the same set. They're also the sickbay with no beds and blue lighting panels instead of yellow.
- There is also the fact that away missions, regardless of series or time period, seem to have an inordinate fixation on exploring familiar looking grey caves/tunnels.
- Speaking of Super Sentai, many locations across different seasons are reused and some appear in Kamen Rider. This includes the park scenes that are filmed in Hikarigoaka Park. Mountain Iwafune's mountains and valleys surrounded by green forests are used for the large location action scenes, and with gouges so the multiple actions scenes and explosions can be utilized more, although Super Sentai uses it far more than Kamen Rider, especially in their team-up specials. Saitama Super Arena's interior and exterior is frequently used in Kamen Rider productions, mostly notably in Kamen Rider Double's first episode, and in the two part beginning of Kamen Rider Ryuki.
- More recently built subdivisions can tend to look like this, often having only 2 or 3 house designs repeated throughout the entire area.
- In theory, Roman military encampments were supposed to follow a single design pattern, resulting in the same fort built thousands of times all over Europe. In practice, the design was usually modified to suit local requirements.
- Some people argue that this is happening to Manhattan thanks to the proliferation of chains like 7-Eleven and Duane Reade and bank storefronts.
- It's also a common complaint that the high streets of England consist of exactly the same chain stores and restaurants these days. If there are any independent stores selling the same stuff, they are usually in trouble. Slowly becoming a subversion as internet shopping kills off the big chain stores the way they killed off their smaller competitors in the 80s, although there are other problems with the new status quo.
- Almost every newly-constructed (mid-2000's and up) suburban district in Sweden ever. They all consist of shoebox apartment buildings that all look alike, with no outstanding detail whatsoever except slightly slanted roofs in some cases.
- Ever go to an office high-rise? Endless cubicles like they were a texture in MS Paint, plus the fact that the floors of most skyscrapers tend to have identical floor plans. And look at the buildings themselves. Once people figured out that glass boxes with a central core are both sturdy and roomy, they started turning up everywhere.
- Russian city districts built in the Soviet period, from the Khruschev times onward, often look like this, showing little to no variation even between different cities. This is because they were built according to standardized plans out of the same identical cheap, mass-produced panels made on the same state-owned factories. From The '90s onward, new Russian buildings feature increasingly more variety in architecture.
- On a related note, British public housing in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War was built this way, particularly large tower blocks. Re-using the same building plan and placing bulk orders of the materials saved time and money, neither of which the newly-formed Ministry of Works had in abundance with the country almost bankrupt and a lot of returning veterans and their families needing a roof over their heads before winter arrived.
- Number 14 of this Cracked list shows a Brazilian housing development consisting of square houses of the exact same dimension giving the impression that it's something out of SimCity. To complete the look they've coloured whole sections differently; presumably to help people find their house.
- One of the better known routines of German comedian Dieter Nuhr spoofs this. He describes a meeting with a friend thusly: "I had an appointment with a friend at an Italian restaurant in Koblenz. I followed the directions to a T: turn right at the Schlecker drug store, opposite of perfume store Douglas left past the Sun Point tanning salon, at computer store Vobis enter the mall, then Citi Bank, Apollo Optik, H&M, and diagonally across from Eduscho there's the Ristorante Veneziano. So I was waiting for an hour, but my friend didn't come. Until I realized: I'm still in Augsburg."
- This is on purpose in some communities in which control-freak local politicians use zoning and business permitting to impose a single aesthetic vision on the entire community.