Hogwarts Legacy game launch becomes a referendum on JK Rowling-Hogwarts Legacy, author J.K. New video game originated from. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” fiction is launching this week with big sales and big controversy.
Why this matters: The game, which lets players create their own wizard and go through magic school, has become a flashpoint for reviewers and fans about what to make of Rowling’s associated work.
The Potter author has been accused of transphobia—which she denies—since 2018 when she “liked” a tweet that said trans women are “men in costumes” (according to Politico, she said it was for research purposes). Among her many comments on gender since then, she has mocked the idea that the phrase “menstruating people” could refer to anything other than women.
Amid calls for a boycott of Hogwarts Legacy, the game still managed to top the major PC and console bestseller lists weeks before its release, indicating high pre-order demand.
News Driven: In a deviation from standard pre-release coverage, several outlets are adding warnings in their Hogwarts Legacy reviews, while others are bypassing the game altogether. (Access to the game has, until now, been controlled by Warner Bros., which chooses which outlets to send review copies to, like any other publisher.)
IGN, the most popular video game media site in North America, fumed, but also included a sidebar labeled “Relating to J.K.” Rowling” who states in no uncertain terms: “As critics, our job is to answer the question whether we find the Hogwarts legacy fun to play and why; Is it ethical to play this is a different but still very important question.
British gaming outlet RockPaperShotgun is counter-programming with a series of articles about magic-based games with a “particular emphasis on magic games made by trans developers”.
A Canadian outlet, TheGamer, is one of those that will not be reviewing Hogwarts Legacy. The publication also won’t create online guides for the game, a major source of revenue, editor-in-chief Stacey Henley told Axios. “This J.K. is not due to any issues with royalties or monetary support. Rowling, but because we feel that the continued popularity of Harry Potter only provides her with a greater platform and further legitimizes her views, which in turn we feel is harmful to trans people.
Between the Lines: Rowling May Have Benefited from the Hogwarts Legacy, But She Didn’t Write It. It was developed by Avalanche Software, owned by Warner Bros.
The game’s official FAQ notes that J.K. Rowling is not involved in the game’s creation,” but critics have said that its popularity will still benefit Rowling.
An actor for the game has said he is “genuinely sorry to have hurt anyone” by attending the game, joining actors from the Potter films who have distanced themselves from Rowling and are openly trans. rights are supported.
Meanwhile, some fans have sworn off buying the game because of what The Washington Post recently described as “the pain and hardship in being a Harry Potter fan of late.”
What They’re Saying: The game’s actual creators have largely avoided explicitly addressing the Rowling issue, although hints have been made.
News that the game would let players create trans characters by separating body and voice selection from gender terms in the users’ character creation process has been seen as a subtle retaliatory move from Rowling.
Management at Warner Bros. has pushed even further, apparently. When asked about a possible exclusion in August, the company’s head of gaming, David Haddad, told Axios: “We’re going to be very focused on the game that we’ve made and the great work that Avalanche Studios has done. ” He added: “We want everybody who loves this world and loves these stories and loves these characters to love it.”
In December, Rowling accepted calls for a boycott of Hogwarts Legacy after GameSpot writer Jesse Earl called her support of the game “harmful”.
Rowling tweeted the claim, calling it “pure thought” and sarcastically saying that those who disagree with her should burn libraries.
GameSpot has published an essay by Earle about Rowling’s ideas and the game. It has not published a review of the game yet.