Whenever the games industry hosts a big event full of gameplay and trailer reveals, cheering and applause are sure to follow. People love to see a hype trailer and get excited about a cool experience on the horizon. But what about a game steeped in controversy? Do you clap for games made in intense crunch, or from a publisher known for gender inequality? What about when the creative mind behind the property is a vocal transphobe?
Hogwarts Legacy was shown at Gamescom Opening Night Live 2022, and despite continued vocal protest from the LGBTQ+ community, it was met with thunderous applause. Despite arguments to the contrary, supporting Hogwarts Legacy platforms and enriches a creator who is actively working to harm a marginalized community under threat across the world.
If you clap for it, you should feel bad.
No, you can’t separate J.K. Rowling from Hogwarts Legacy
J.K. Rowling is inseparable from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Every piece of media under that umbrella is tainted by her continued efforts to encourage hate against the transgender community. That started back in 2020 when the author took offense to the phrase “people who menstruate” as a woke way to erase women.
Fun fact! Not all people who menstruate are women and not all women menstruate!
Since this first tweet, Rowling has continued to entrench herself in transphobic rhetoric. Perpetuating harmful stereotypes about trans women being men in dresses trying to take advantage of women, and trans men as confused queer women who have been pressured by a woke agenda to give up on being “real” women.
Hogwarts Legacy was initially announced in September of 2020 and immediately began to distance itself from J.K. Rowling. A F.A.Q. on the game’s official website even includes an entry for “What is J.K. Rowling’s involvement in the game?”
Developer Avalanche and publisher Warner Brothers Interactive want to make it clear that while this game has the blessing of Rowling, she has no direct involvement with the game. In addition, the game will give players the option to create transgender characters. Cyberpunk 2077, another game that met with controversy over transphobic comments, also allowed this but it left transgender characters feeling alone in the game world.
Crucially, Rowling will financially benefit from Hogwarts Legacy, which means that supporting Hogwarts Legacy puts money in the pocket of a powerful celebrity who works to undermine the safety of trans people.
There are two arguments against this. First, “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism.” I know buddy, you really caught me critiquing a society while also existing in said society! Good job. But the reality is that even in said messed-up society, an individual can choose to do what they can to protest unethical actions.
Secondly, “I can separate J.K. Rowling from the art”. No, you can’t. J.K. Rowling always benefits when you support the Harry Potter family of products. Both financially and in social currency, Rowling gains. Attempting to view her art in a vacuum is a fight-or-flight response to protect a property that so many people have a deep connection with. But Rowling herself is only part of the problem, the world of Harry Potter is intrinsically filled with racism and Hogwarts Legacy continues this problematic history.
Don’t be complicit
It hurts me to watch the games industry clap for Hogwarts Legacy. There have been countless outcries from trans people just asking for support. All you have to do is not support Rowling. But at the end of the day, so many people are desperate to justify to themselves why it is ok to consume a silly video game, or a book, or a play because it was important to their childhood. Hogwarts Legacy is just a game; you can miss it. There are a million other mediocre objective-filled games to play.
But for me and other transgender people, Hogwarts Legacy is more than just a game. It’s a depressing reminder that so many people are unwilling to take the most basic step to support us.
I have desperately tried to explain this to my own friends and family. Telling people that, hey, it's harmful to me that you actively support someone who thinks I would be better off dead. The response is often “Oh yeah, like absolutely fuck J.K. Rowling, fuck TERFs. But like Harry Potter is just soooooooooo important to my childhood and I still love it so much.”
It is active ignorance of the realities facing transgender people. I went to school for journalism, surrounded by three hundred other people who were told to stay up to date with important issues facing the world. Every day I would wake up and see a news story about trans rights being taken away across the country, or how it was the deadliest year on record for trans people in America. Nobody I went to school with knew about these things until I told them, but they would turn around and tell me about how they had gone to see the Harry Potter play on Broadway or how excited they were to wear a Harry Potter Halloween costume. I would go home and have daily panic attacks.
On the day of writing, hours before Hogwarts Legacy would receive thunderous applause at gamescom, a school district outside Dallas, Texas banned the word “transgender” as any protection for deadnaming and misgendering of trans students and faculty. Earlier this month Florida set in motion the banning of gender-affirming healthcare for transgender youth.
Hogwarts Legacy will be released on February 10, 2023, in the shadow of all this anti-trans legislation. So, if you want to sit around and clap for it, then go ahead. Just admit that it is at the cost of the safety of transgender people.