So let’s get this out of the way: JK Rowling is a complicated person, whose genuinely good deeds are vastly overshadowed by the TERF hill she is dying on. It’s an immensely disappointing matter because Harry Potter is a big part of my life and it ruined any future rereads. But fortunately, Rowling did not need bigotry to run her own wizarding world into the ground – the absolutely abysmal second and third part of her “fantastic beasts” movies managed this on their own. So yay, I guess, for her making it easier for me?
Then came Hogwarts Legacy.
For those not terminally online, here’s a short recap: The internet hates notorious TERF yet somehow simultaneously a philanthropist writer JK Rowling and thus hates everything related to Harry Potter. This leads to a boycot, because “you vote with your wallet” and it’s morally wrong to financially support vile people. Then, suddenly, gaming company Avalanche acquires the rights to a wizarding world game. The internet explodes: Should the world collectively boycot this game because it sprung from a morally problematic mind?
Now as someone who makes TV for a living, I always found this last sentence a bit hard to swallow – unlike the Harry Potter books, a game like Hogwards Legacy employed hundreds of people for multiple years. These people poured their hearts and souls into something and honestly, they cannot help it if the discourse around Rowling massively changed throughout development. They do a good job, because they love doing what they do: Create things. So I understand shunning Rowling and her work (I quit reading her books), but if I were an Avalanche employee, this discourse would emotionally destroy me.
Now all this bullshit aside, this discussion would be super easy if Hogwarts Legacy were, like anything Rowling has created the last ten years, shit. Unfortunately, Hogwarts Legacy is good. It’s really, really good. It’s a labour of love featuring a whimsical, fun wizarding world, a castle brimming with creativity, side quests that are surprising, characters that are engaging… It might be the best open world game I’ve played since Breath of the Wild. And – sidenote! – it is hella inclusive. It does curly hairstyles like no other game (ask any person of colour about creating matching avatars in video games!). Unlike Harry Potter, it features a diverse cast, makes goblins relatable, and makes Slytherin into something other than wizard nazis. And finally, it asks two questions: “what is your body type” and “are you a witch or a wizard” – which is basically a way of showing Rowling and her TERF beliefs the middle finger.
So I’m actually kind of sad “the internet” is ignoring this game. I get the impression that Rowlings behaviour caused Avalanche to, as a studio, sit down and talk about what Harry Potter meant to them growing up. That it felt like an inclusive world, in which different people were accepted the way they were. A feeling soured by Rowling – and the reason the internet is so black-and-white about this topic. Readers who felt different found consolation in Harry Potter – and Rowling destroyed that twofold: not just as a person, but as a writer of terrible fiction, as well.
Avalanche still knows what makes the wizarding world great, though, even if Rowling has forgotten. And thanks to Rowling’s terrible opinions, they elevated the universe into what everyone thought it was (inclusive), but it actually wasn’t.
I know it’s morally wrong to support a terrible person. But I also know hundreds of motivated artists poured their hearts and souls into this game and the “vote with your wallet” argument goes for them too: They will lose bonuses, future projects and – if I may be overdramatic – in some cases, their jobs.
And I also know you’re missing out on a great piece of media set in a world you grew up in. A world Rowling grew out of – but that lives on in the creative visions of other people.