Hogwarts Legacy: Boycott or Not?

Photo credit to Wikimedia Commons.

With the release of the video game “Hogwarts Legacy,” some fans of the Harry Potter franchise have desired to boycott the game to prevent J.K. Rowling from using her revenue to support transphobic ideas.

For those who still wish to play the game, it is an immersive Harry Potter role-playing adventure that includes open-world exploration and player-guided storylines. The game includes enthralling wizarding lore, secrets around the castle, a huge and beautifully detailed environment and an incredibly intriguing story. 

Furthermore, the NPCs are personable and fun to interact with. If there are long time fans of the Harry Potter franchise, the only disappointment arises from the lack of quidditch; however, there is plenty of other content to make up for the loss.

As for the spell-casting system, it was designed very well. You can pick and choose which spells you want easy access to, and it is effortless to swap spells out mid-battle if you need to. Decisions made in the game, including which spells the player chooses to learn and cast, will affect the outcome, creating a unique and lively experience for every gamer. If not for the boycott, Hogwarts Legacy could easily rise to the top charts of 2023.

Rowling has had a complicated relationship with her fans and is known for excluding her fans from contributing to the story of Harry Potter; however, her controversial political views are the biggest issue that fans take with this author. 

While there were many instances of Rowling speaking out, the tweet capturing people’s attention is from June 6, 2020 when Rowling responded to an article that stated “people who menstruate” should have improved equality following the COVID-19. Rowling made fun of the phrase, saying that the article should have referred to “people who menstruate” as women, which would include trans-men and excludes trans-women.

Reacting to this tweet, followers were outraged, arguing that it was Rowling’s intention to draw lines regarding who qualifies as a woman. She continued this discussion in a different tweet in response to the outcry, “If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased.” 

Following the video game’s release on Feb. 10, 2023, this tweet thread, as well as others that followed along the same vein, resurfaced as motivation to boycott the game, but discussion about the franchise as a whole has been neglected. Because of Rowling’s controversial views, reviewers of the game have been hesitant to play for fear of backlash that some Twitch streamers, including Girlfriend Reviews, and casual players have faced.

 Girlfriend Reviews was brought to tears over the bullying that surfaced in the live chat during a stream, which resorted to death threats when the streamer stated that their job was to play games. On the side of casual gamers, friends and family that share game libraries have reportedly been harassed because they bought Hogwarts Legacy.

When asked about how she feels supporting the Harry Potter franchise with Rowling’s views in mind, Meghan Coley, a fourth-year writing and literature double major at Point Loma Nazarene University, said, “I feel like I associate Harry Potter with childhood memories that don’t immediately connect to the opinions and aspects of the series’ author, so I see supporting Harry Potter in regards to ‘art for art’s sake’ and the magic of its storytelling and characters as acceptable.”

Coley described the idea of ‘art for art’s sake,’ which disconnects the art from the artist and Coley stated it should be situational to the art, the artist and the consumer.

Fourth-year writing major Morgan Charrette said, “I believe in art for art’s sake. I think you can enjoy a piece and still be critical of it. I grew up on Harry Potter so there is a big nostalgia factor for me. It’s hard for me, having grown up with those characters and with that world, to completely reject it because of something stupid that the creator tweeted. That being said, I don’t agree with or appreciate J.K. Rowling.”

Regarding the debate to continue support for Harry Potter as well as the new game, Charrette said, “Personally, I believe that just because J.K. Rowling herself is transphobic, you still have to take into consideration that there are other people that worked on the game: designers, programmers, animators, directors and more. There is no guarantee that they are also transphobic. They are making their living off this game too. The profits aren’t going only to J.K. Rowling.”

Charrette brings up a valuable point that even though Harry Potter is the intellectual property of Rowling, she is not the only contributor to this new bit of culture.

As an active player of Hogwarts Legacy and Santa Clara University graduate, Miles Elliott commented on the effectiveness of the boycott, saying, “The calls for the boycott brought the game to the people’s attention long before the marketing campaign was released. Hasan Abi’s video put it in perspective when he said that people could use this as an opportunity to fundraise and advocate for trans-rights, but they’re not. Overall, it was a missed opportunity that was blown out of portion. J.K. Rowling would not be hindered by this boycott. She got her check long ago.”

If art and the artist can be separated in this situation, the game lives up to the hype of a highly anticipated extension to the Harry Potter universe for fan integration into the well-loved story; however, Twitch streamer Hasan, a video game player and reviewer, left the conversation saying, “For me, this is more about unsuccessful and successful protest movements and how people end up hyper focusing on things that are otherwise counterproductive…It’s not worth it to get bullied endlessly.”

Written By: Rachel Grace Heckle