The Psychology of Mario Golf: World Tour’s Menu System

Mario Golf: World Tour is a fabulous game.  I heart it:  hard.  It isn’t a perfect game, by any stretch of the imagination, and there has been what I consider to be a “needless” controversy that has sprung up amongst gamers about it.  I call  the controversy “needless” because there may not be a controversy if people think about the psychology of how games are designed and how the size of each of the games “modes” is misleading to players.

Mario Golf has classically been divided into two parts: 1) a quick round mode in which you can catch a quick game of golf and 2) a pseudo-RPG mode in which you can improve your golfer’s stats.

MG:WT is divided into two main modes.  The first, called “Quick Round” and the Second called “Castle Club”.  Quick Round has several sub menus, including time attack, point play, stroke play, tournaments, and versus options.  There is a lot of stuff there.

“Castle Club” is basically the “overworld” of Mario Golf.  In the club you can talk to Nintendo characters, access costume challenges for six unlockable mini courses, access the three main 18 hole courses, practice and do practice challenges, and take on the Sky course challenge.  It also has the shop where you can buy equips and a spot where Kamek flies in and allows you to change your dominant hand and buy mulligans.  The RPG elements of character progression are toned down in this version.  Your golfer doesn’t get experience.  Instead, you just buy unlocked equipment which slightly influences your “stats.”

Castle Club basically gives you a place to needlessly run around in.  The same thing could be accomplished with an alpha menu of all of the choices.  With the pressure that Nintendo is under to cater to 3D and make games that appeal to kids, they clearly did this from a marketing standpoint.  Gamers aren’t impressed with the fluff.

On to the controversy.  With experience, you could probably get trophies on the three main tournaments in Castle Club in a few hours.  For many gamers, this is the mode of the game they prefer, and they consider their time with the game “done” after they’ve gotten those trophies.  They want more trophies for more courses, but the DLC courses of the game are featured in Quick Round, not Casstle Club.

Now there is a ton more to do in the game.  It just so happens that what you can access in Castle Club isn’t considered “meaty” and the options in Quick Round are, by many gamers’ standards.  There are over 100 star coin challenges in the game to complete and to earn equips from, as well as many official and unofficial online tournament options.  The game challenges you to collect coins on courses, do holes with only three semi-random clubs, do three holes within a certain time limit and to control any aspect of a course (wind, weather, starting position, etc) the player wants.  So with all of this extra content, what is the “problem?”

Perception is the problem. Gamers tend to have very stringent expectations when they approach games.  The tendency for a game like MG:WT, is the expectation that if the game has two “modes”, then by golly those two modes better be equally awesome!   The fact is that there aren’t really two “modes” in MG:WT.  There are over a half dozen (star coin challenges, time attack, stroke play, online play, tournaments, castle club, etc).  All of these ways of playing the game could have been split up into a unique “mode” or simply have an alpha menu for the entire game.

Why didn’t Nintendo do this?  We may never know.  I think the argument could be made that Castle Club is the more “casual” mode and Quick Round is a bit more “hardcore.”  So, they may have split it into two modes to appease two groups of gamers.  If casual players and kids see the ability to run around while playing a round of golf (which is actually more of annoyance to hardcore players), that may make it more happy for them.  More power to them.  I don’t dislike casual players.  They just want different things than me.  Nintendo may have done it simply because that is tradition, but most prior Mario Golf games have had an alpha list.  That argument doesn’t hold water.

From a marketing standpoint, games with “more modes” tend to attract more players because they prefer deeper content.  More modes equates to more content, to many gamers.  Gamers also have this tendency of evaluating games based upon “hours of content”, so the winter of their discontent here could simply be that being able to “complete” Castle Club tournaments in a few hours makes it a “weaker” mode.  You could spend dozens of hours playing the challenge missions, but the RPG enthusiasts in the crowd, who may not be inclined to do those challenges, may see the short “hourly” benefits of Castle Club and call foul. On the GameFAQs boards, there are quite a few people complaining about the DLC because the new courses are in Quick Round and not in Castle Club.  The only issue is that there is no tournament trophy in the single player to beat.  Yet, the DLC courses have tournaments under quick mode, and Nintendo will continue to support those for many months.  Once again, perception.  “It’s not in the ‘mode’ that I want it to be in, therefore it isn’t worth getting.”


I know gamers well enough to know that we wouldn’t even be having this discussion had Nintendo done one of two things:  1) make the game an alpha list or 2) Split the game into six or seven modes based upon the primary sub menus of each mode.  I’m not complaining myself.  Although I think the game could have just had an alpha list, Nintendo reserves the right to market however they see fit.  It is just ironic how the mind interprets “rewards” and how gamers in particular perceive games.

I love gaming and I love gamers, but in addition to Win At All Costs and Ego Trip players and rampant sexism in the hobby, there is also a lot of hypocrisy and misinterpretation of what aspects of the hobby “are.”  I think that just means that the hobby is in need of mentors, and we can’t sit idly by when people struggle.


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