The highly anticipated Harry Potter video game debuts this week, but it’s been plagued by controversy and boycotts as players grapple with whether to support J.K. Rowling’s franchise in light of her history of comments widely seen as transphobic.
Hogwarts Legacy, a role-playing game set in the Harry Potter universe developed by Avalanche Software and published by Warner Bros. Games, will be released February 10 on PlayStation 5, PC, and Xbox Series X/S.
The game has garnered largely positive reviews on aggregator Metacritic, and has climbed the bestseller list of online vendors like Amazon and the Epic Store thanks to pre-orders.
However, some fans and gamers are boycotting the game in protest of J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter novel series who has a history of making comments offensive to the transgender community and stands to earn royalties from game sales (though she was not involved in the game’s creation).
Some popular game review sites like Kotaku, Polygon and Eurogamer have not yet reviewed Hogwarts Legacy despite the review embargo lifting Monday, while others have denounced J.K. Rowling’s comments and voiced support for transgender people in their reviews.
Jessie Earl, a trans YouTuber and writer, tweeted in December that unlike consuming previously owned Harry Potter books or films, purchasing Hogwarts Legacy while Rowling is “using her ongoing platform to target and also justify her continued targeting of trans people is harmful to trans people” (Rowling responded, accusing her of “purethink”).
Some streamers on Amazon-owned Twitch video platform—including Will Overgard and Nikatine—have publicly voiced opposition to the game.
Nikatine, whose name is Veronica Ripley, posted a statement to Twitter announcing a boycott of Twitch—which is known for its video game-related content—for hosting ads for Hogwarts Legacy, urging streamers to join in halting use of the platform until the ad campaign is suspended.
Hogwarts Legacy is set to feature the first transgender woman character in the Harry Potter universe, though her name, Sirona Ryan, has attracted some criticism for allegedly sounding masculine(beginning with the prefix “Sir” and ending with common male name “Ryan”)—but others noted the name Sirona refers to a Celtic goddess of healing and rebirth.
J.K. Rowling has regularly come under fire in recent years for her views on biological sex and the transgender community, which many have criticized as transphobic. In June 2020, she ridiculed an article headline for using the phrase “people who menstruate” (“I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” she tweeted), inspiring backlash from critics who said her tweet excludes transgender people. In response to backlash, she tweeted“if sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased,” adding that she knows and loves transgender people but criticized the alleged erasing of the concept of sex. She also published an essay on her website, calling it unsafe to allow “any man who believes or feels he’s a woman” into changing rooms and bathrooms, and she’s since stirred controversy for authoring a book about a character who is killed after facing accusations of transphobia and for calling Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who supported a bill making it easier for transgender people to be legally recognized as their preferred gender, a “destroyer of women’s rights.” Her comments have been criticized as transphobic by LGBTQ rights organizations including the Human Rights Campaign, and actors from the Harry Potter films have voiced support for transgender people in response.
HOGWARTS LEGACY REVIEWS
Early reviews for the Harry Potter game have been almost uniformly positive, though some publications have declined to review the game or have included statements critical of Rowling or in support of the transgender community in their reviews. Gamespot, a popular gaming website which has not yet reviewed Hogwarts Legacy, has instead published an article listing charities in support of trans people, along with an analysis of Rowling’s comments and rising anti-LGBTQ legislation and protests worldwide, the latter authored by Earl. In a positive review, IGN included a statement titled “Concerning J.K. Rowling,” affirming the publication’s support for human rights and stating the publication’s purpose is to “answer the question of whether or not we find Hogwarts Legacy to be fun to play and why; whether it’s ethical to play is a separate but still very important question.” Canadian outlet TheGamer said it will not review Hogwarts Legacy or create any online guides for the game.
Though the game’s release has inspired vocal critics, it’s still on track to sell well and has plenty of supporters who believe Rowling’s controversy can be separated from the game. Popular streamer xQc, who has more than 11 million Twitch followers, criticized people for making others feel bad for purchasing a video game, claiming “people fund all sorts of evil with their purchases across the board in way worse ways.” It’s already a hit on Twitch, where users who have early access are streaming the game; Hogwarts Legacy has more than one million viewers and 120,000 followers on the platform.
“If you are not willing to give up a piece of entertainment in solidarity against the harm J.K. Rowling continues to enact; then how can trans people feel assured you’ll be willing to fight for us in more important areas, such as anti-trans violence, be it physical, mental, personal, systemic or legislative, especially as the discrimination continues to rise?” Jessie Earl wrote in a Gamespot essay.
Why the new game ‘Hogwarts Legacy’ is roiling the LGBTQ community(The Washington Post)
JK Rowling’s Anti-Transgender Stance And Hogwarts Legacy(Gamespot)
‘Hogwarts Legacy’ game appears to introduce ‘Harry Potter’s’ first trans character (CNN)
By Conor Murray, Forbes Staff