Despite fans’ excitement for the new Harry Potter game, Hogwarts Legacy, there have been threats of boycotting due to J.K. Rowling’s problematic tweets and antisemitism within the series. Alice Bennett asks whether it is ok to be excited to live out our childhood fantasies in a video game, or is boycotting the answer?
The upcoming RPG, set to launch on 10th February 2023, enables Harry Potter fans to live out their dreams as Hogwarts students in the magical school. However, J.K. Rowling’s transphobic comments and claims of antisemitism within the series regarding the portrayal of the Gringotts goblins threaten to dampen the excitement around the new release – with calls to boycott the game circulating on Twitter.
What is Hogwarts Legacy?
The game is available on multiple platforms including PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch and PC. According to its website, it will be “an open-world, single-player, [RPG] set in the 1800s wizarding world”.
The website also states that the company, Portkey Games, is a separate entity from J.K. Rowling and that the author is not involved in the making of the game, but “her extraordinary body of writing is the foundation of all projects in the Wizarding World”, and that they have “collaborated closely with her team”. Portkey Games is owned by Warner Bros. Games, and its previous releases include the mobile game, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery.
In all honesty, the game looks impressive
In all honesty, the game looks impressive. I have to admit, my 10-year-old self who obsessed over the books and wished for a Hogwarts acceptance letter in Year 6 would have longed to experience the fantasy world in a video game format.
The Rowling Controversy
Despite the series still being so popular even decades later, dedicated long-time fans will know that there has been tension in the fanbase within recent years, particularly due to J.K. Rowling’s transphobic antics on Twitter. Accusations of antisemitism have surfaced due to the description and portrayal of the goblins who work at Gringotts Wizarding Bank and the depiction of harmful Jewish stereotypes.
The debate… begs the question of whether one should separate the art from the artist
The debate around whether to remain in the fandom deserves a whole article to itself and begs the question of whether one should separate the art from the artist. Ultimately, many hardcore Harry Potter fans still love the series whilst criticising its creator, making efforts not to buy any more merchandise which puts money into her pocket. This is the primary reason that Twitter users have put forward in support of boycotting the game.
To Boycott or not to Boycott?
Frustration on Twitter has been directed towards those who have said they will boycott the game
With every new trailer and sneak peek that is released, there is another surge in Twitter debates and boycott threats. After the collector’s edition sold out “almost immediately” in August, there was a new wave of outrage. A lot of the frustration on Twitter has been directed towards those who have said they will boycott the game rather than Rowling or the developers, with Twitter users like @Peerfectly_ arguing that if someone buys the game, it “doesn’t mean they support the views” of Rowling, adding these problematic issues were “something as a child none of us knew”.
So if you buy hogwarts legacy people think you are the absolute worst now? People grew up on Harry Potter & want to live their childhood in what looks to be an amazing game, doesn't mean they support the views of said author, something as a child none of us knew ?— J ?? (@Peerfectly_) August 27, 2022
Others, however, point out that it is concerning that there is so much outrage at the thought of boycotting a game due to transphobia and antisemitism, and simply not buying the game would not be an “inconvenience”, as @mothmiya argues.
I know that not buying hogwarts legacy isn't going to stop antisemitism and transphobia. But you won't inconvenience yourself by not buying it. You cannot separate art from the artist when the latter is profiting from the consumption of her art and is using that money to further-— ? MEADOW ?!! (@mothmiya) August 28, 2022
This debate also concerns whether franchises with problematic names attached to them should be cancelled despite being bigger than the creator, involving many other people like actors in the films and the developers at Portkey Games. This is particularly interesting given that the money would most likely go towards the game developers rather than Rowling herself- and it is worth noting that Rowling is not involved with the game. However, because it is her intellectual property, she would earn royalties.
What should we do?
When big franchises like this inevitably have controversy attached to them, it’s hard to know where you stand. It’s also difficult to know exactly how much effect boycotting would have. Rowling will remain rich and powerful regardless of receiving royalties from Hogwarts Legacy, whereas an unsuccessful game could negatively affect game developers who do not share her views.
These controversies have likely made the transgender and Jewish communities feel uncomfortable and unsafe
Rowling’s offensive comments and problematic elements within the series have put many long-time, hardcore fans – as well as the game developers and anyone involved with the series – in a difficult position. More importantly, however, these controversies have likely made the transgender and Jewish communities feel uncomfortable and unsafe because of her influence.
Ultimately, those who would directly suffer from the boycott, such as the developers of the game, are worth considering, but so is the fact that more outrage seems to have been caused by the idea of boycotting than by the transphobia and antisemitism.
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