Today on COG Considers: Can The Game Break Free From Its Own Legacy?
I was excited for Hogwarts Legacy all the way when it was just untitled Harry Potter RPG, and all we had were a few scant, low-quality video clips. I grew up on the books, went to the midnight releases, and even got a deathly hallows tattoo. I know my Hogwarts house (Ravenclaw), Ilvermorny house (Pukwudgie) wand (12 1/2, larch and dragon heartstring), and patronus (St. Bernard). I’m basically a textbook Potterhead.
I’m also a proud member of the LGBT+ community, so I was hurt when it was rumoured that JK Rowling was transphobic based on tweets that she interacted with – and later when that transphobia was confirmed as she doubled down on her outdated and hurtful opinions.
Add to that the revelation that the game’s designer, Troy Leavitt, previously ran an anti-SJW YouTube page where, among other things, he praised gamergate – a concerted effort to limit the voice of female and minority game developers – and it looks like Hogwarts: Legacy is in the news more often for the latest controversy, rather than the game itself.
So the question is, at what point do we give up on the game?
Well, opinions vary. Obviously there are some people who agree with Leavitt’s opinions, or even Rowling’s. Luckily, it appears that the team behind the game recognize that these opinions are in the minority; the game will allegedly address Rowling’s very public stance on trans rights by allowing players to create trans characters, and Leavitt has publicly left the production in a decision he claims was voluntary – however, it’s worth noting that people often claim that they decided to leave prior rather than got fired, or are even given the option to leave voluntarily rather than getting fired. Is that the case here? Not necessarily, but it could be that his quitting wasn’t entirely voluntary.
Still, the question remains, at what point is the game’s controversy too much for people to ignore? We may be given the option to play trans characters, but that still doesn’t alleviate the fact that, while she’s not directly involved in the game, Rowling will still make royalties off of it.
Unfortunately, there really isn’t a “right” answer. Some people are content to ignore the controversy, while others plan to purchase it second-hand. Others want to buy the game on day one, but match the price with a donation to a trans charity. Others want to avoid the game entirely, and want others to do it, too.
Of course, the team are doing something, which is more than a lot of companies do. They’re allowing players to create openly transgendered characters in a game based on a family franchise, despite the fact that this could court controversy all on its own. They’re trying to do the right thing, instead of just doing what’s easy – and we have to wonder how many of the people working on the game are members of the LGBT+ community – or have loved ones who are.
The big issue is that, unlike other games, books, or movies created by people with questionable, or downright offensive views, Harry Potter really is a worldwide phenomenon, and arguably the most beloved book series of all time. The game will continue to sell, either due to people who don’t understand the issues at hand, don’t care, or can separate their love for the franchise from their feelings for Rowling. This is likely to result in some bitter fights down the line, with everyone thinking that their opinion is the right one. This isn’t just an ordinary argument, this is an argument that will stretch for months, and see people painting the other camp as the enemy. It’s every internet fight over whether something is too PC applied to one of the world’s most beloved franchises, where even those working on the game openly criticize Rowling while continuing to earn paychecks.
How should we go about this? Well, that’s up to you. Are you going to avoid the game entirely, or enjoy it for what it is, in spite of Rowling’s opinions? Are you going to educate yourself on trans issues and donate money to worthy causes, or wait until you can score a second-hand copy? Ultimately, what’s right for you won’t be right for everyone, and the sad fact is that, unlike the battle between Harry and Voldemort, this isn’t a conflict that’s going to have a clean resolution.