Yesterday Sony had a State of play dedicated to a third-party game, which is quite unusual, but it soon became clear that this was a special occasion. The game was Hogwarts Legacy, a new title from the developers at Disney Infinity, which made me somewhat skeptical that I could handle a project of this scale, but the result was a deeply impressive presentation that made Legacy look like to everyone’s dream Harry Potter game.
Hogwarts Legacy feels like a fully immersive Harry Potter experience with a range of everything from taking lessons to battling wizards and goblins to battling with spell combos. The visuals are stellar, the action looks intense and enjoyable. I came away deeply impressed with something that wasn’t even really on my radar before.
Enter JK Rowling’s problem.
Talking about the game on Twitter, even briefly, sparks a debate between the two parties. The first is that this game, and really nothing related to the Harry Potter universe should not be supported or covered due to Harry Potter creator JK Rowling’s strongly anti-trans stances that she expressed in the years after the books were released. The other side says that Rowling had nothing to do with the development of this game, and you can separate the creator from his universe to always enjoy it. There may be a third party that supports Rowling and her positions, but I’m not even going to entertain those views at all.
All of this leads me to be very personally torn about what to do about something like Hogwarts Legacy. The game do everything possible to say very clearly JK Rowling didn’t write the story of this game, but she did give the game her “blessing” and obviously the whole world was created by her in the first place. What’s happened now with gaming and things like the new Harry Potter movies is you have a Warner Bros. very nervous and thousands and thousands of people working on Harry Potter projects that don’t do not support Rowling’s views by trying to make pleasing and profitable deals for fans.
If you’re my age, you probably grew up with Harry Potter as the cornerstone of your youth. I was exactly the same age as Harry and his friends when the books came out and grew up with him during my teenage years. I didn’t really recognize the problematic aspects of the series until much later (goblins! Cho Chang! Dumbledore sexuality ret-conning!), but it’s hard to separate that from the initial joy I felt reading them in growing.
I can understand the argument of playing the game without feeling like you support Rowling and her views. All over Hollywood and the gaming industry, there are all kinds of people who have created things that I love and have terrible personal opinions or character flaws. For example, is it still ok to love one of my favorite space westerns, Firefly, now that I know how terribly creator Joss Whedon treated women, or how actor Adam Baldwin came out of it? ‘far right?
But I also understand how different and divorced JK Rowling’s situation is from, say, someone like HP Lovecraft and his extremely awful views on race, because he died in 1937. JK Rowling is very present today , and constantly making daily headlines with new anti-trans rhetoric, a truly bizarre obsession that has made her one of the leading figures in the anti-trans movement. And it’s not a settled issue in our society, inasmuch as in America we have Texas trying to enforce blatant anti-trans laws against children and their parents, and the trans community remains one of the groups most at risk in the world, namely because of the way we have treated them. JK Rowling is actively hurting them Daily.
JK Rowling is also not divorced from Harry Potter as an entity. Not as much as Warner Bros. would like you to believe it. No, she may not be writing Fantastic Beast scripts or working on Hogwarts Legacy, but this isn’t a George Lucas situation where she sold the rights to Harry Potter to WB (as much as they might love it). It stands to reason that yes, every time a Harry Potter property makes money, it goes directly to JK Rowling herself.
Yes, I know we support a lot of different products that end up giving money to bad people or bad companies doing bad things with them, but this one seems more tangible. We can just go to Twitter every day and see Rowling’s latest anti-trans statements in real time, which is why I know so many people have a problem with it.
I don’t know the answer here. I have deep childhood ties to Harry Potter and know that thousands of perfectly untroubled people have worked hard to create a fun and charming game based on this world. But JK Rowling’s presence is too prominent and she remains too connected to the franchise, so I understand the desire for boycotts based on that alone.
It’s difficult and a very unique situation in many ways. I appreciate comments and opinions on what you think of the game itself and how it should be covered.