Harry Potter video game will allow trans witches and wizards – but fans say it’s too little, too late
Many gamers plan to boycott the game owing to explosive comments on trans lives and healthcare from Harry Potter author JK Rowling. WB Games studio Avalanche, who are developing the game, state on its website that the author is “not directly involved in the creation of the game”, yet fans remain undeterred.
Developers on the game reportedly “pushed hard” to include trans representation in the game, uncomfortable with Rowling’s comments.
Yet while the character creation is a step in the right direction for representation, the game is already tarnished in the eyes of fans.
“This news story about Hogwarts Legacy‘s apparent character creation options doesn’t go far enough for me to change my stance on the game,” said trans author and streamer Laura Kate Dale. “Lots of games without transphobes attached already offer this. Not gender locking character options isn’t enough to fix this.”
Come back and talk to me when WB Games have publicly stood against Rowling's views. Come back to me when you're talking about canon trans characters, who are heroes, and will spend the game explaining to the player why Rowling's views are hurtful.
— Laura Kate Dale (@LaurakBuzz) March 2, 2021
In June 2020, JK Rowling defended her anti-trans views in a lengthy essay, arguing against the rights of trans women to use single-sex spaces and peddling widely- debunked transphobic myths. The author has repeatedly denied she is transphobic but her comments are the key source of fan’s distrust of the game.
“Not enough for me to support a game that benefits dangerous transphobes who spread junk science around,” said critic James Stephanie Sterling.
Not enough for me to support a game that benefits dangerous transphobes who spread junk science around. https://t.co/hs4JzJYDqF
— James Stephanie Sterling (@JimSterling) March 2, 2021
“Rowling isn’t just a transphobe. She’s THE transphobe. She’s proud to be hurting vulnerable people. And the company is employing Gamergaters,” said Brianna Wu, executive director of political group Rebellion.
If you support trans people, I am begging you not to fall for this. Please don’t buy this game.
Rowling isn’t just a transphobe. She’s THE transphobe. She’s proud to be hurting vulnerable people. And the company is employing Gamergaters.
If you buy this, they get more power. https://t.co/an0dDEfIcI
— Brianna Wu (@BriannaWu) March 2, 2021
Despite Avalanche stating that Rowling is not involved in Hogwarts Legacy, as creator of the franchise she remains inherently linked.
As game critic Patrick Klepek explains, “One fundamental fact will remain unchanged: Rowling will still profit from the game’s release.”
I suspect moves like this will be a running theme from now until the game’s release, but one fundamental fact will remain unchanged: Rowling will still profit from the game’s release. https://t.co/pIdWCLz7Ra
— Patrick Klepek (@patrickklepek) March 2, 2021
Critic and streamer Kazuma Hashimoto feels similarly: “There might be the barest thread of inclusivity, but that doesn’t negate the fact that it directly supports a transphobe.”
People will disagree, but this doesn't fix the problem. The problem being that Rowling will still make profit. There might be the barest thread of inclusivity, but that doesn't negate the fact that it directly supports a transphobe who spreads and funds bigotry with that wealth. https://t.co/5pwb0alxMJ
— Kazuma Hashimoto (@JusticeKazzy_) March 2, 2021
Charlotte Clymer puts it simply: “Money to Rowling? No thanks.”
You know, this would be really cool were it not for the fact that J.K. Rowling still presumably receives profits from video games sales. So, unless that's confirmed otherwise, trans representation in a Harry Potter game doesn't feel great to me. Money to Rowling? No thanks. https://t.co/cjBTQiztcf
— Charlotte Clymer 🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) March 2, 2021
Some fans even claimed this news was a cynical PR move by the developer to drum up some positivity among a wave of criticism. This was later disputed by Jason Schreier, Bloomberg journalist who broke the story.
“The people leaking this news did it because development of the game started long before Rowling’s anti-trans crusade, and because they’re sad and frustrated,” he tweeted.
It's funny that people think that 1) game companies do controlled leaks and 2) if they did, they'd try to do it through me
The people leaking this news did it because development of the game started long before Rowling's anti-trans crusade, and because they're sad and frustrated
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) March 2, 2021
Schreier’s article explained the process of character creation in the game. Characters can have a masculine or feminine voice no matter what body type they choose. They will then select either ‘witch’ or ‘wizard’ to determine the dorm they’re placed in.
The latest controversy with Hogwarts Legacy was with one of its lead designers, Troy Leavitt, who runs a pro-Gamergate anti-social justice YouTube account. His involvement has further fuelled criticism of the game.
Has Rowling publicly recanted her views and begun making reparations to the trans community for all the harm she's done? Does the gator man still work there in a lead design role? Yeah that's still a nah from me. https://t.co/nvnWtBsXwx
— Rebekah Valentine (@duckvalentine) March 2, 2021
Fans have also joked about Rowling’s reaction to the game’s trans inclusion, summed up here by drag artist Juno Birch.
Lmao JK must be fuuumin pic.twitter.com/RP28tTB99Q
— Juno Birch (@JunoBirch) March 2, 2021