Imagine I’m being held hostage, with a knife at my throat, a gun to my chest, and a slightly damp sock ready to be slid onto my foot. These particularly cruel kidnappers tell me they’ll let me go on one condition: I have to say one nice thing about JK Rowling. I gulp, look down at the wet, grey sock, the slow, gloopy drip sliding down the toe, and stare my kidnappers dead in the eye: “She writes good characters.”
I know that you do not, under any circumstances, ‘gotta hand it to her’, but I gotta hand it to her – Rowling writes characters well. Many of those who defend Rowling’s transphobia, or at least don’t consider it a dealbreaker, aren’t actively transphobic. They were on the Harry Potter train before Rowling revealed that side of herself, and now the Hogwarts Express has arrived at bigotville, they don’t want to get off. That still makes them passively transphobic, but they aren’t engrossed in the world of Hogwarts or desperate to buy the Harry Potter game because of JK Rowling – for many of them, it’s despite her. Oh, and before the ‘HoW iS sHe EvEn TrAnSpHoBiC’ crowd pipe up with their deliberate ignorance, you should probably read this, and this, and the sources contained within them, and of course then continue to ignore them.
Related: Stop Putting Down JK Rowling And Start Lifting Up Trans PeopleIn any case, people are Harry Potter fans for more than the transphobia, and that’s because Rowling writes good characters. Her follow-up novels to Harry Potter have not necessarily proven her consistency, but within Harry Potter itself she struck gold and kept on digging. They’re not the most original (the blank everyman, the smart and bossy girl, the dim but brave sidekick), but they are excellent executions of old tropes. If they’re white, at least. Characters of colour tend to be given stereotypical traits and caricaturish names to match, but fans have handwaved that way for years. I guess the acceptance of transphobia shouldn’t be too surprising. As I wrote when I tried to interrogate my own biases around the game, I mentioned my particular fondness for Luna Lovegood ahead of most other characters I’ve ever read. The heroes (and villains, who doesn’t love Bellatrix?) of Harry Potter are brilliant interpretations of classic outlines, and while the transphobia should definitely be a dealbreaker given Rowling’s power and how she wields it, with the most generous of hearts you might at least be able to see why giving up Harry Potter is so difficult.
That’s why Hogwarts Legacy is such a perplexing concept for me. It’s set decades before even Dumbledore was around, and as a result we’ll see zero familiar characters here. No Harry, no Hermione, no McGonagall. Nobody. There could be a handful of great-great-great-great-grand relatives in there, but they’re just minor Easter Eggs. Why, in the face of everything JK Rowling has done, are you that excited to play a game you know nothing about besides the fact it has the incredibly unoriginal setting of a magical school?
‘JK Rowling wasn’t involved in the game!’ yeah so why do you care so much? Isn’t she the only reason you like this shit? Otherwise it’s just random people telling stories about a school for wizards, a trope that several other video games already have. One of those random people, in case you had forgotten, was Troy Leavitt. Supporting the developers doesn’t come into it either, otherwise you’d buy every video game ever in order to save our massively profitable industry. You just want to play it because it’s Harry Potter, and it isn’t even Harry Potter. It’s a new story, written by people you don’t know, with no input from the woman who created it that you all revere so dearly. It’s a story about characters you’ve never met going to a magic school. It should mean nothing to you.
The lack of JK Rowling is being used as a positive, or at least an excuse not to boycott, but it is a clear negative for the game. It means the reason you all care about the game in the first place (Rowling’s writing and her characters) are not present at all, while the side effects of continuing to support Harry Potter (Rowling’s profit and continued public platform) are still set in motion.
Please don’t tell me it’s because of the worldbuilding. What, you mean the wildly anti-Semitic goblins? The elves who like being slaves? Everything about Hogwarts’ worldbuilding is either stolen (Harry Potter is just Groosham Grange, and even that’s not entirely original) or terrible (the whole goblins/slaves deal). Rowling writes great characters, but she cannot successfully construct a world without relying on cliche, tropes, and characters to carry it. Don’t like it? Give me the wet sock.
Hogwarts Legacy has been referred to as ‘the Harry Potter game’, but the fact is it’s not a Harry Potter game. That’s its entire deal, and it’s not even true. Buying this game continues to support and offer a platform to the most prominent (and therefore dangerous) transphobe in the world, but hey, at least it also contains none of the characters you know and love! Tough choice, right? Give me a break. You know nothing about this game beyond it having magic powers and quite dull combat, and that’s still enough for you to go all in. Don’t scream at me that JK Rowling isn’t involved, it’s you who needs to understand that, not me.
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