Sony recently introduced a new open world video game, Hogwarts Legacy, set in the wizarding world of Harry Potter during its PlayStation 5 Showcase.
The trailer is the most-viewed out of all the games introduced, for good reason; it’s based on a beloved IP, and a concept that translates well to an open world game, where fans can finally experience their own adventure through Hogwarts.
But any expansion of the wizarding world now comes with a side of culture war, due to the poisonous opinions of author JK Rowling, creator of Harry Potter and full-time TERF. Over the years, Rowling has made her beliefs regarding trans people abundantly clear; her lengthy essay justifying her “concerns” about trans people has been thoroughly debunked (turns out, a children’s author who writes about wizards going to magic school isn’t actually an authority on this subject).
Recently, Rowling even had a friendly Twitter exchange with anti-gay, anti-abortion activist Caroline Farrow; it’s gotten to the point where transphobia and casual bigotry has become permanently associated with the Harry Potter brand.
Hence, the announcement sparked a debate over whether fans should spend their time and money on the game, with some vowing to boycott, and encouraging trans allies to do the same. However, Warner Bros. claims Rowling is “not directly involved” in the game, and reports confirm that the game will allow players to create trans characters, who are free to stay in the dorm rooms of their choice, bathrooms and all (a very serious breach of ethics, according to the philosophy of trans-exclusionary radical feminists).
While it’s deeply unfortunate that a beloved children’s author would choose to spend her time spreading vitriol against a marginalized minority, it’s also a terrible PR move – the Harry Potter fandom is famously LGBT-friendly, particularly the fan fiction; the wizarding world is the kind of place where one can change their gender on a whim, with a flick of their wand or a swig of Polyjuice Potion.
For fans, Rowling’s unhealthy obsession with chromosomes and genitalia has become impossible to ignore, especially considering the current climate, in which gay and trans rights are being chipped away in Texas and Florida. In the UK last year, transgender hate crimes shot up by 81%. In June, a Republican senator from Oklahoma actually quoted Rowling directly when voting down a bill on LGBT rights.
Anti-trans activists seek to paint trans people as sexual predators, echoing past hate campaigns launched against the LGBT community, and Rowling is one of their loudest, most influential cheerleaders.
Should fans boycott the game?
While Rowling isn’t creatively involved with Hogwarts Legacy, some feel conflicted buying the game knowing that she will profit from it, to some degree.
Others worry that a boycott will harm the developers who worked hard on the game.
Both concerns are irrelevant, as the developers have already been paid, and Rowling is the wealthiest author on the planet – fans can’t make a dent in her pile of golden galleons, and Harry Potter is far too popular to kill with collective disinterest, especially in our era of reboots and retreads, where even niche, cult classics are endlessly resurrected for consumption. Concerned fans have as much chance of cancelling Star Wars as they do Harry Potter.
Refusing to buy a video game is not activism – it’s not even close. If Harry Potter fans want to enjoy the magic of the wizarding world, they simply should do so; what’s the difference between sending money to Rowling, over someone like Jeff Bezos? Disney’s complicity in Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill is just as repugnant as Rowling’s “activism,” yet fans aren’t considering boycotting all things Disney.
Perhaps it’s the fact that Rowling has made herself, as an individual, so proudly and publicly aligned to this cause that has fans conflicted. After all, Jeff Bezos isn’t posting on Twitter about how much he grudges paying Amazon employees or allowing them bathroom breaks; maybe it’s easier to support the villains of the world who stay silent.
While fans are unlikely to affect the popularity of the wizarding world, media outlets, popular YouTubers and Twitch Streamers can make a difference. Some sites and reviewers are vowing not to cover the game at all, which is certainly more substantial than an individual purchase.
Perhaps the wizarding world is slowly eroding itself away, regardless – Rowling’s inability to write a coherent Fantastic Beasts screenplay is destroying her franchise more effectively than any boycott could.