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Default Setting Syndrome

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A number of arcade games will provide a variety of stages, characters, and other settings to select. For most newcomers, none of this matters, because they'll just go for the default settings. These are the settings you'll always, always see whenever someone at the arcade tries a game that they're new to, and in bigger cases of this trope, merely picking something other than the defaults is a sign of experience with the game.


This can also apply to online multiplayer games and, to a lesser extent, local multiplayer and single-player games.

Rhythm Games are a pretty special case. This trope can make the default song scorned, with some people developing the urge to brutally murder any more players who play that song.

A form of Complacent Gaming Syndrome, though in this case players aren't motivated by what's the best settings so much as not knowing much about the game or being too lazy to change settings (or not knowing how to change the settings.) However, if the defaults are the best settings, these two tropes can overlap.



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    Driving Games 
  • The Beginner tracks of Daytona USA and Daytona USA 2. Justified in that the other courses tend to be Sega Hard.
  • Mario Kart:
    • Mario Kart DS, where the first track (Figure-8 Circuit) is also the easiest to snake on.
    • Mario Kart Arcade GP has the Mario Highway course. Mario Kart Arcade GP 2 has Yoshi Park 1 take up this honor instead.
  • In a peculiar example, the Need for Speed: Underground games actually gave benefit to players who stayed default... well, sort of. The second game in particular encouraged you to find and buy new cars often, because the new cars' base stats were higher than the base stats of the starter cars. The newer unlocked cars also looked a lot nicer than the mundane, boxy starter cars. Players smart enough to experiment, however, would realize to NOT switch cars as the game wanted you to— the two best cars in the game were both starter cars fully upgraded, and the BEST car in the game was also the ugliest and had the worst starter stats. In this way, if you did the default (that is to say, change cars) of what the GAME wanted you to do, you'd end up with a worse car than if you stuck with the default you started with.
  • Sega Superstars:
    • Only the host in an online room can choose the racetrack in Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing, which always defaults to the first track, Whale Lagoon. The thing is that the track is chosen through a sub-menu, not from the lobby, where most other racing games allow you to choose. The result is online play being utterly dominated by races on Whale Lagoon, more so than any other track combined.
    • Its sequel, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, slowly grew into this as the game continued to be played online, making it an inverted case. At the beginning, many players picked all three game modes, between Race, Lucky Dip (randomized modes, including some exclusive to Lucky Dip), Arena (battle mode), and Boost Race (no items, lots of boost pads), but over time, people withdrew from the other modes and focused nearly entirely on Race mode, making it very hard to find opponents in any of the other modes, though there would occasionally be groups of people playing Boost Race.
  • Competitive Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune players—believe it or not—often play versus matchines with handicap left on. The rationale is that in a no-handicap round, the unpredictable traffic behavior combined with the massive loss in speed that comes with a single crash at 340 km/h means that a single mistake will completely screw over the victim unless the other player makes a mistake, resulting in luck-based outcomes, while traffic-less racing games like Initial D Arcade Stage offer room for recovery if one screws up.

    Fighting Games 
  • Who do the character select cursors in BlazBlue default to? Ragna and, that's right, Jin.
    • In general, most fighting games usually have their character select cursors default to whoever is the main protagonist and deuteragonist of the game (Ryu and Ken in Street Fighter, Kyo and Iori in The King of Fighters note , Sol and Ky in Guilty Gear, etc.), though there are some exceptions. It also helps that said protagonist and deuteragonists are usually easy to use, often to the point of being Shotoclones.
  • The arcade release of Soulcalibur III includes a mode where players fight through the roster to a powerful opponent who is strengthened by how many victories over human opponents the computer has has. While the player can choose this opponent, Maxi is almost always the highest, as he is the character the mode defaults to.
  • Tekken: The game defaults to the new characters of each game (Xiaoyu and Jin in 3, Raven and Asuka in 5, etc.), thus giving them free promotion for newcomers to see. Those already familiar to the games usually avert this, and even if they do choose the default setting, they tend to browse through the selection first.

  • For quite a while, Alchemist used to be the default pick of a new Dota 2 player. If you were playing at a low level and someone picked this character, you knew they hadn't even figured out how to choose a character yet.

    Rhythm Games 
  • A lot of rhythm games from Japan have a plethora of options to adjust how the note chart is displayed, how fast it scrolls, etc. The easiest way to tell someone's new to the game? The note chart is scrolling slowly. Almost everyone with more than a passing interest in the game will set the scroll speed to be faster.
  • beatmania IIDX generally averts this, as most players are experienced enough that you never see the default song getting played more than three times per day.
  • DanceDanceRevolution:
    • Most new players tend to not stray very far from the first song on the song select; as a result, when the game first came out, "Have You Never Been Mellow" (from the first US console release of DDR), "Make a Jam!" (from the first US arcade release) and "Butterfly" were the most commonly picked songs. In fact, this lead to a "Death to Butterfly" group on a particular forum.
    • A variation prevalent in the arcade version of Extreme is the Default List Syndrome. Instead of being stuck at the first song that comes up, new players get stuck at the minimized song selection displayed by the default sort. This is because unlike previous arcade games, the default sort only lists the 83 new original and revived licensed songs, making the master tracklist smaller than it really is (in reality, the game features 210+ songs). Accessing older songs requires you to toggle the sort by pressing the left and right selection buttons, which not many newbies would know from the get-go. Thus, "Speed Over Beethoven", "Crash!", and "Love Love Shine" are 99% guaranteed to appear in the Top 10 most picked songs.
    • This syndrome has slowly receded in later games; while licensed songs are understandably presented first, easier song access has made recognition of older songs widespread. To rectify the sorting problem in Extreme, folders of older songs are displayed alongside the new song folder starting in SuperNova.
  • DJMAX:
    • DJMAX Portable's 4-Button mode. It doesn't help that players who use 4B get used to it, and thus have much trouble progressing to any of the more difficult button modes.
    • "First Kiss" in DJMAX Technika.
  • The arcade version of Guitar Hero III tries to avert this by increasing the price of its most overplayed songs. "Slow Ride", the first song on the setlist, is almost always set at the premium price.
  • Para Para Mode in Para Para Paradise. Most players prefer to play it so they can mimic the routines, something that is near-impossible in Freestyle mode due to the changing camera angles on the on-screen dancer.
  • pop'n music has Enjoy Mode, or Easy Mode in pop'n music 20 fantasia. And within Enjoy Mode, there's 5-button mode, which makes use of only 5 out of the machine's 9 buttons. As of pop'n music Sunny Park, the trope is averted, as Easy Mode is removed and replaced with an Easy difficulty in Normal Mode.
  • Rock Band (the original) has "Say It Ain't So" by Weezer as its first song when ordered by band difficulty. When the developers were testing the game before implementing the song select screen, this was the default song that played every time, reportedly driving many Harmonix developers into madness.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • Larian Studios compiled user data on Baldur's Gate III to create a character based on the most popular choices made by first-time players. They were surprised to discover that the result was a fairly unremarkable-looking human male. In terms of class, the screenshot reveals that he's a life-domain cleric aligned to Selûne, which is the setup the creator defaults to.
    Congratulations, you've basically made the default Vault Dweller. What the hell guys. We gave you demon eyes, horns, and even tails. We are sorely disappointed. Go crazy. We worked hard on this!
  • Player statistics show that race/class selection in Dragon Age: Origins is slanted heavily in favor of Human Nobles, the first choice listed.
  • According to available statistics and player polls, the "default" race (the one that is pre-selected when you enter the character creation screen) in each The Elder Scrolls series game tends to be the most popular. It also happens to be the native race to each game's setting as well as the primary race used in marketing for each game, so it's Dunmer (Dark Elf) for Morrowind, Imperial for Oblivion, and Nord for Skyrim.
  • According to statistics collected by BioWare, the vast majority of people who played Mass Effect 2 picked Soldier, the first class on the list. More stats released after Mass Effect 3 also revealed that 82% of players used a Male Shepard, and it's probably likely a big chunk of these players simply went with the default setting (which was a Male Soldier modeled after Mark Vanderloo's face).
  • The Pokémon series has a number of game settings that your average fan has probably never used, and may not even know exist. These include options for speeding up the text speed, turning off battle effects (move animations, weather, status effect animations, etc.), and changing the "battle style" closer to how it is in PvP. All typically speed up the pace of the game, especially battles, but few players ever actually change them because it makes the games feel uncomfortably different.

    Shoot 'Em Ups 

  • In Fallen Empire: Legions, people new to the game and Guests almost always use the Sentinel because they haven't figured out that you can change characters. It makes it even worse that it takes time and practice to actually master the Sentinel. Poor buggers.
  • Most players in GHOST Squad never use any weapon other than the XM-2119, and always have their mission difficulty levels at 1. If an arcade with GS upgrades to GHOST Squad Evolution, most people will not notice the extra weapons, costumes, or mission levels due to, again, playing with the defaults, and as a result many players will think Evolution is no different from non-upgraded GHOST Squad.
  • In-universe example: In the Halo series, when Master Chief takes over a Covenant ship, Cortana finds that she can get vastly better performance out of it just by tweaking the settings. The Covenant believed the ships were holy relics left to them by the Forerunners, you see, and any modification of them would be blasphemy of the highest order, so it stayed on the factory defaults.
  • Star Trek: Starfleet Command:
    • Everyone plays as either Federation or Klingon. Sometimes Romulans, maybe Gorn. Hardly anyone as Hydran, Lyran, or ISC. Probably because the latter three aren't canonical to Star Trek. And does anyone really care about the Orion Pirate cartels? As for the Mirak, how many Trekkies remember missile salvos being used in Star Trek.
    • The Mirak probably aren't helped by the fact that while the Hydran, Lyran and ISC are all from one of the two sources of canon for Starfleet Command, the Mirak are not (they're an expy, due to a complicated rights situation).
  • Tetris: The Grand Master 3 defaults to World Rule, the game's implementation of the the rotation system used in newer licensed Tetris games. As a result, those who don't already play TGM may start off with World Rule and then get very thrown off when they try Classic Rule (a version of TGM rotation altered to accommodate TGM3's higher speeds), not only because of the more limited wall kicks but also due to its version of fast drop (drop the piece to the ground, but not lock it right away).
  • This is probably why many of the now-rare Virtual-ON arcade cabinets reported the most scores and plays with Temjin; it's the first Virtuaroid on the screen, though it doesn't hurt that it's also a well-balanced Jack of All Stats.

Non-video game examples:

  • Stern is aware of this trope and has implemented ways to deal with it:
    • Knowing newcomers stepping up to the AC/DC pinball machine wouldn't know you could pick a song, which prioritizes different playfield elements for jackpots, when the player is asked to pick a song, the machine randomizes where on the list it begins. Of course, that didn't solve the problem of people never looking up at the display and not even knowing they could pick a song, then wondering why their game wouldn't start, which leads to...
    • The Casual Mode for their Game of Thrones pinball machine, where it is enforced: Ordinarily, you can pick your house to be aligned with before when you begin a game (which creates slight changes to the rules and affects the order of modes available to play), but knowing people not into pinball would never know they have a choice in the matter, Casual Mode always begins with House Stark and begins the game immediately. Taken one step further here too: In early rule sets, Game of Thrones would be on Casual Mode by default (as they knew such people wouldn't know there is a Casual Mode otherwise), though it was changed in an update patch later on that allows the operator to specify whether to have Casual Mode or regular mode as the default.

  • Starting with Office 97, Creator/Microsoft included the now-infamous "Office Assistants." There were numerous assistants (including a robot and a caricature of William Shakespeare), but the default was a paperclip. However, most people, annoyed by the feature, never bothered to change it and it's still remembered by most people as "the paperclip."
  • The taskbar on all Windows products is at the bottom of the screen by default, and almost everyone keeps it there. One Microsoft Blog post spoke of the advantages of having the taskbar on the side in Windows 7, but since the vast majority of users kept theirs at the bottom in prior versions, changing the default would cause major Damn You, Muscle Memory! issues, to the point that even in Windows 8, which has such issues with nearly everything else, the taskbar is still at the bottom by default.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Space 1889 the vast majority of adventures are set on Mars so most gamemasters will make stories and players will create characters for this environment despite the fact that there are other really cool and interesting places.

    Web Comics 
  • In El Goonish Shive, an in-universe example — Newspaper arc "Dan in the MUD".
  • Go to memegenerator. Choose any "character" that has multiple templates. Observe that virtually all captioned images are the first in the non-cycling series.

  • In Sword Art Online Abridged, when Kazuto finally gets to customize his avatar, he falls right into this because he wants to get to saving Asuna after wasting hours going through derivatives of his preferred "Kirito" alias, ultimately settling on "xVx_k1r1t0_xVx_KillMe". Naturally, this is an in-universe example.
    Kazuto: Default! For the love of all that is holy, DEFAULT!!
    Interface: Are you sure you'd like to be a Sprig-
    Kazuto: YES! Whatever you're asking, I don't care! Just let me save my wife!!
  • When a question has multiple choice answers (be it a survey, test, or even a vote) listing any choice first makes it more likely for people to take it.
  • The Australian electoral system, which combines compulsory voting with a preferential voting system, has the problem of so-called "donkey voting", where people alienated from the political system simply write one-two-three-four-five... in the boxes on the ballot paper from top to bottom. The impact of this can be discerned in electoral results, and to try to counteract this on a national level the order of candidates on the ballot papers for each constituency is randomised.