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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.

May apply to non-arcade games too, but it's less of an issue because Who Would Be Stupid Enough...? to break into someone's house to watch them play?

Rhythm Games are a pretty special case. This trope can make the default song into a scorned Ear Worm, 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.

Examples of Default Setting Syndrome include:

Driving Games

  • The Beginner tracks of Daytona USA and Daytona USA 2. Justified in that the other courses tend to be Nintendo Sega Hard.
  • 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 (when fully upgraded) were both starter cars, of which, 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.

Fighting Games

Rhythm Games

  • In Dance Dance Revolution, 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.
  • "First Kiss" in DJMAX Technika.
  • Pop N Music has Enjoy mode. And within Enjoy mode, there's 5-button mode, which makes use of only 5 out of the machine's 9 buttons.
    • Playing entry-level songs in Beatmania IIDX or Pop N Music without Hi-Speed modifiers is fine, but good luck passing anything harder on default speed.
  • Para Para mode in Para Para Paradise.
  • 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.
  • Rock Band (the original) has Say It Ain't So by Weezer as it's 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.

Shoot Em Ups

  • The normal, blue version of the RVR-01 Gauntlet in Thunder Force V; the other versions have to be selected with a code involving the player 2 controller, which makes them relatively unknown to most players.

Other

  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • In Star Trek: Star Fleet 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.
  • According to statistics collected by BioWare, the vast majority of people who played Mass Effect 2 picked Soldier, the first class on the list.
    • Only arguably an example of this trope. MEII changed how powers work in a way that dramatically altered the balance towards using firearms instead. Basically, any enemy dangerous enough to bother using a power on is immune to most biotic or tech powers until they're already at least half dead from gunfire; on higher difficulty levels it's more like 3/4s for the meaningful ones and even the chaff take 1/2. This obviously favors Soldiers, since they're the class built from the ground up to shoot things.
      • It also helps that Soldiers are the only playable class who have access to assault rifles from the very beginning and that assault rifles are often the best tactical choice for their balance in terms of ammo capacity, rate of fire, and accuracy.
    • Dragon Age Origins was similarly slanted in favor of Human Nobles.
  • 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.

Non-video game examples:

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.

Software

  • Starting with Office 97, 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"
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