OPINION: With the imminent release of the next Harry Potter game, should we keep supporting J.K. Rowling’s franchise?
Gameplay footage for Hogwarts Legacy was officially unveiled in the latest PS5 State of Play, with a vague release date of holiday 2022. This is the type of game that Potterheads have been dreaming of, with impressive graphics and an open-world map that allows you to explore both Hogwarts and the surrounding fantastical area.
But thanks to the creator of the franchise, J.K. Rowling, this game has now become a sort of morality test and an interesting insight into how much you can let an artist ruin their own art.
For transparency purposes, I will open with the fact that I have never seen a Harry Potter film and never read a Harry Potter book. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever consumed anything that Rowling has produced, which does put me in a fairly neutral position.
It also puts me on a very specific soapbox, as we’re all likely aware of Rowling’s controversial views on the transgender community. For anyone that’s somehow missed this news, author J.K. Rowling has spent a good few months using her Twitter account to promote her own views on transgender people, specifically transgender women.
We are not going to break down everything she’s ever said on the topic, and you can view Rowling’s own rambling 3700-word essay if you’re that interested, but it all boils down to the idea that she is not supportive of the transgender community, and believes cisgender women no longer feel safe in ‘women only’ spaces.
To be clear, I don’t agree with these statements, and with the trending hashtag #JKRowlingDoesntSpeakForMe, I can only assume that a lot of other women don’t agree either.
We could talk about the ongoing pushback to her statements, but the question comes down to this: are you willing to buy into something that’s strongly associated with someone with such controversial views?
It’s also important to note that Hogwarts Legacy itself has been developed and published by Portkey Games and Avalanche Studios, with the Hogwarts Legacy website claiming that Rowling has not been directly involved in the creation of the game.
So, are you really supporting Rowling here? Or are you supporting hundreds of game developers, artists and publishers that, we assume, don’t share the same views as the author? Does the basis of the game, rooted in Rowling’s own mythology and ideas, make it tainted by association?
I wanted to argue that it gets trickier when you consider who’s actually getting paid for this game and whether Rowling will receive any residuals off of the sales of this game and any future sequels or spin-offs. But ultimately, even if she doesn’t make a single penny, her name is so intrinsically linked with the franchise that the game’s success will still be hers, in some way.
For someone like me, who’s managed to avoid the Harry Potter franchise for their entire lives, this is obviously an easy choice. I am also a feminist, and I don’t believe that someone with so much reach should waste their time trying to invalidate the feelings of hundreds of women, and people in general.
But for anyone that loved the franchise as a child, anyone that looked up to the single mother that managed to create one of the most popular franchises in the world, this dilemma may be a little harder.
There are a couple of options, and I think it needs to be said that even if you do buy the game, you are not a bad person, and it does not mean that you necessarily agree with Rowling’s views on this specific topic. You can ignore the game and maybe donate money to a worthy trans charity, or you can buy the game to support the hundreds of people that aren’t Rowling.
Ultimately, the choice is yours, you are allowed to stand in either camp. But keep in mind that this game will come and go, and if you’re really looking for a way to help, there are dozens of organisations that deserve your attention a lot more than Harry Potter does.