The open-world role-playing game set in J. K. Rowling’s Wizarding World is finally due out next February. Despite leaks dating back to 2018, no one saw it coming when it was first announced. But the timing of the reveal was bold indeed: it came right at the heels of transphobic allegations against J. K. Rowling’s latest novel. Developed by Avalanche Software under the Portkey Games publishing label, the Warner Bros. game has been lauded for its graphical fidelity and the sheer number of possibilities on offer.
It doesn’t hurt that Hogwarts Legacy is rooted in a universe that has a horde of die-hard fans who swear by their houses and remember the page numbers of key events. But while the game has received a warm welcome, plenty of people believe their money shouldn’t go towards an empire devised by someone who uses their position of power to erode what it means to be a woman.
Have you ever seen a girl ask for the boys’ toy at a McDonald’s only for the staff to cast awkward glances at her? Or have you witnessed a gender reveal party and wished that blue and pink weren’t used to bolster the binary notion of gender? So much has changed and yet, some things remain.
While the efforts of the LGBTQ+ society have helped shatter orthodox notions and rendered obsolete the idea of gender being binary, we still live in a society where people often hesitate before understanding and embracing differences. Be it racism or prejudice against those who don’t conform to society’s norms, the world has a lot to learn. And while voting with your wallets against the Harry Potter universe might sound like a good idea, there’s a lot more at stake — at least in theory.
A tainted legacy
J. K. Rowling’s controversial tweets drew the ire of her fans, compelling Harry Potter actors to speak out. Despite owing a great deal to the franchise, Daniel Radcliffe stood up against the way she advocated an ideology that was harmful in the way it treated differences. Australian bookshop Rabble Books stated that they will no longer stock Rowling’s books on their shelves. The hostility the game now faces merely stokes flames that have already been set in motion.
It isn’t easy to separate the art from the artist. Don’t.
Creators have to be accountable for what they say and what they do, just like everyone else. Especially when you’re at the helm of Harry Potter, a franchise that has left an indelible impact on millions of fans across the globe. What was once a haven of acceptance is now the handiwork of someone who has sown discord among her followers.
But that doesn’t mean the Wizarding World has lost its charm or value.
Simmering at the bottom of Rowling’s serving of Butterbeer is a message of equality. That Mudbloods are the same as everyone else. Beneath the world of headless ghosts and Horcruxes, the trappings of Rowling’s narratives hinged on real-world problems like racism and tolerance. Of friendship and families who took orphans in as their own. It’s disheartening to see how the novels championed people of all kinds while the author questions the experiences and values of a group of people.
Treading down Diagon Alley might feel alien to a portion of Rowling’s fanbase today, but there’s more to the legacy of Hogwarts than J. K. Rowling herself.
While it remains the singular vision of an individual, Hogwarts has grown beyond the confines of a single mind.
Remember to turn on the light
Daniel Radcliffe did a great job of explaining why you should still be invested in the Harry Potter franchise and why the bond you share with the Wizarding World doesn’t have to hinge on the tweets of its creator.
“If these books taught you that love is the strongest force in the universe, capable of overcoming anything; if they taught you that strength is found in diversity, and that dogmatic ideas of pureness lead to the oppression of vulnerable groups; if you believe that a particular character is trans, nonbinary, or gender fluid, or that they are gay or bisexual; if you found anything in these stories that resonated with you and helped you at any time in your life — then that is between you and the book that you read, and it is sacred.”
What’s more important is that J. K. Rowling isn’t creating the next Harry Potter video game, Avalanche Software is. Sure, a small portion of game sales are going to deepen her pockets, but refraining from buying the game invalidates the labor of love that is Hogwarts Legacy. Abstinence wouldn’t cripple her fortune, not in the slightest. But it would invalidate the dedication and imagination of a team that has worked on an authentic Wizarding World game that intends to invoke the sense of wonder that Harry Potter gave you as a child. It’s an endeavor whose sole purpose is to get you excited for Hogwarts again, an endearing franchise whose cross-generational appeal shines brighter than ever.
And in these times, hope is a treasure.
Up to some good
First of all, Hogwarts Legacy is a creative endeavor that is bound to take some risks with the overarching narrative. It’s not something that sprung out of J. K. Rowling’s mind. Sure, it’s a licensed entry but it isn’t canon. And since it’s set at Hogwarts during a different era (the 1800s), it doesn’t lean entirely on the cast of characters you’ve come to love. Heading into a time over a century before Harry Potter’s entry into the scene, Avalanche Software had to ask plenty of questions while coming up with scenarios that adhere to the world’s original vision.
They intend to deliver an experience that is familiar while being a novel take on the ageless franchise. You’ve still got Nearly Headless Nick floating about. The Forbidden Forest is still, well, forbidden. And Gringotts probably didn’t have goblins tinkering about. While some details can be gleaned from the novels, much of it is up in the air. A time before mainstays like Newt Scamander and Tom Riddle is fertile ground for new ideas to take shape. Dialing back the clock makes for some interesting avenues where inventive detours are more than welcome.
It’s hard not to be excited with the impressive next-gen visuals on offer. And with the blistering-fast solid-state drives in both the new Xbox and PlayStation consoles, Hogwart’s iconic locations can be traversed more seamlessly than ever before. Avalanche Software also promises a unique sensory experience thanks to the PS5’s DualSense controller. Best of all, you get to experience the game through the eyes of a student at Hogwarts. Mastering spells, concocting potions, taming extraordinary creatures. Need I remind you of the countless possibilities that are in store? The Harry Potter universe remains a legacy of hope, one not completely marred by the opinions of its creator.
Your portkey awaits.
Hogwarts Legacy is due out on February 23, 2023 PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S, and Xbox Series X.
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