Leading up to and after the release of the open-world fantasy game Hogwarts Legacy by Swedish dev studio, Avalanche Studios, there has been a lot of controversy in regards to the contents and development of the game, its association with the problematic world that Joanne K. Rowling created, as well as Rowling’s views on trans-people.
People are calling for a boycott. “Don’t buy the game, don’t stream it, don’t promote it!” – and on the other side of it all, there are people that think that “it’s just a game” or that people are being “over the top” about it.
Hence, I want to talk about this controversy today.
I’ll outline some facts surrounding its release and the world it’s set in – aka why it’s a problematic release. I’ll talk about a few of the arguments that are being made, about what general stances there are, and I want to also give my own two cents on the topic.
Therefore, I hope that this sort of sheds some light on the issues at hand. Enjoy!
This post was written back at the beginning of February and was supposed to come out before the game was released… but editing took me a long time, especially with me having exams, some health issues arising, and depression being a thing… So, now it’s March and I’m finally releasing it. Huzzah!
But I really wanted to write this post and then I did and I was contemplating a lot on whether or not it’s actually still okay to do this… but the game is still relevant with Rowling adding “more bigotry” onto her to-do list, and people still streaming and buying the game.
Hence, sorry for the delay!
Also, please don’t attack people verbally or physically.
- Joanne K. Rowling – a TERF, a bigot.
- Is “Separating Art from Artist” even possible? – Antisemitism and Bigotry in the Wizarding World
- Hogwarts Legacy has lots of issues and…
- …if you stream the game, I won’t support you.
- My Opinion
- Better Wizard games!
Joanne K. Rowling – a TERF, a bigot.
At the root of the problem is JK Rowling aka Robert Galbraith, a popular author that is known primarily for the “Harry Potter” franchise, as well as a book where a male serial killer is dressing up as a woman and other works where she incorporates her political views into her writing.
JKR created a world where wizards and non-wizards live separately. Wizards and Witches have their own society where they reign supreme while oppressing all sorts of other magical creatures, from centaurs to goblins even if or rather because their magical power is higher.
The main character of the series is the titular Harry Potter, an orphaned wizard who’s being mistreated and abused by his foster parents in the human world before eventually getting rescued to the world of magic and wizardry. There, a lot of things happen and he learns eventually that’s the key figure to fight against a great evil.
In more recent years, Rowling has been quite active on Twitter – a platform she utilized to tweet hurtful and bigoted messages.
When an op-ed talked about “people who menstruate”, Rowling took issue with the fact that the article didn’t make use of the word “woman”.
Afterwards, Joanne doubled down stating that “if sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction”, followed by some other statements that invalidate anyone trans (thread). And more recently, Rowling states that she’s been deeply misunderstood, even when she keeps comparing transwomen to rapists and sexual offenders.
But then again, all of these instances are just a few out of many. You can read up on all the other instances of transphobia by Rowling over here at the GLAAD Accountability Project. It’s very well-documented with a lot of information, context and sources.
Rowling recently stated, in response to people claiming she’s become like the villains in her books, that “people didn’t understand the books”. The Death Eaters are apparently transpeople, according to her. But the issue here lies in the fact that Death Eaters wanted to keep wizard spaces pure and wanted to exclude people that attained wizardry later on, like those whose bloodline is mixed. In essence, they’re the transphobes that don’t want transwomen in their spaces that weren’t assigned female at birth. Weird. It’s so weird. (Paragraph was added on March 17th: Source)
Either way, since J.K. Rowling has a big platform that keeps perpetuating harmful stereotypes about transwomen on top of invalidating others under the guise of a “concerned” survivor, a lot of people are calling her out on her bigotry. Many people are against what she stands for and hence are against supporting her any further.
On that note, here’s a video on Rowling by Natalie Wynn from ContraPoints that I’d highly recommend giving a watch. ContraPoints not only is a channel that makes very, very good content but it also has the know-how and experience to talk about the topic of transphobia and trans issues, given that they’re trans themselves. Hence, I’d like to highlight that video.
On another note, there is also this video here by Sarah Z in regards to the question as to whether or not Rowling “ruins Harry Potter” that I only found thanks to Shaun, an essayist that I really enjoy watching, who also published this video here talking about the fact that J.K. Rowling has a lot of friends who appear to be close to the alt-right and anti-trans movements, coincidentally of course.
Is “Separating Art from Artist” even possible? – Antisemitism and Bigotry in the Wizarding World
Something that a lot of people are trying to do when it comes to Harry Potter is “separating the art from the artist”. The world that Rowling created surely isn’t bigoted in the same way as her person, right?
While the world isn’t openly transphobic, afaik, there are a lot of instances of problematic patterns and material in the world of Harry Potter, including antisemitism, slavery, as well as fatphobia.
As I previously mentioned, wizards look down on and oppress other races.
Goblins and Centaurs are not allowed to wield wands and nobody in the world questions their treatment. Elves are treated as house slaves. When Hermione wants to free it, the acronym for her activist organisation becomes “S.P.E.W.” – Rowling probably is trying to criticize some form of activism here but it’s weird to do that in the context of freeing slaves…???
Also, she’s being dismissed because the slaves apparently “like being slaves” – that’s the slave owners talking, btw, not the slaves themselves. There is one example of an elf being freed and then drinking themselves to death (if I remember correctly) but that one example is being used as a strawman to facilitate that any action for the freedom of all elves would harm all the elves… which is bad.
But there’s also the issue of the Goblins in the world looking like antisemitic caricatures of Jews with long crooked noses and other features.
Something that is referenced both in the books and the game is the 1612 Revolution – which appears to coincide with a real historical event, the Fettmilch Pogrom (Wikipedia) that took place around that time in Frankfurt, targeting Jewish people.
People argue that this is just a coincidence and that the actual event was against Jews whereas the in-universe event is about the “Clearly Not Jewish” Goblins trying to take back artefacts that were stolen from them on top of also wanting rights and representation… but then there’s also other instances of “coincidences” found in the game with references to blood libel as well as Jewish artefacts and instruments being used by Goblins. (read this and read this, too)
Btw, blood libel is a false antisemitic conspiracy that has been perpetuated for centuries stating that Jews are kidnapping non-Jewish and Christan children to use them for rituals. In Hogwarts Legacy, the Goblins attempt to kidnap children for their rituals. Weird coincidence, right?
Oh, btw, did I mention already that in Hogwarts Legacy, you’re supposed to STOP the Goblins from attaining rights and freedom as well as representation? Yeah, you’re “the good guy” stopping the “evil Goblins” who “want to have rights, those idiots” or something. It’s atrocious.
Hence: Even if you separate Hogwarts Legacy from the author and try to see it as a work of its own that only supports Rowling through royalties… the game is problematic and people not raising an eyebrow is “odd” to say the least.
You can’t really separate the art from the artist here as the world itself is deeply problematic with many instances of fatphobia, lookism, antisemitism, slavery being excused, wizard supremacy and bigotry.
As long as Rowling is still alive, she’ll profit from the sales of anything Harry Potter related and she’ll spout bigotry, harm people, and she’ll use the success of anything Harry Potter related as validation for her bigotry.
That being said, this is not a call for violence. This is a call for a boycott. Don’t do violence!
At last, a while ago, Shaun published a great video on Harry Potter going into detail about the many issues with Harry Potter. I’d recommend giving it a watch if you have a bit of time. He read all the books for this and even The Cursed Child – and then goes into detail with many different things about Rowling, her politics and the views that are represented in the books.
Hogwarts Legacy has lots of issues and…
With this in mind, it would already be enough to say that supporting a game like this knowingly should leave a bad taste in one’s mouth.
Rowling is a bigot that is very much against transwomen and keeps pushing narratives while making a shitload of money. Rowling doesn’t understand the difference in sex and gender. One’s gender identity is different from one’s sex – and her claim that accepting people’s sex being changed invalidates the experience of cis-women is just wrong.
The game further perpetuates antisemitic stereotypes (Jewish Caricatures, Blood Libel, etc.) – which is something that is incredibly fucked up.
The game’s story revolves around the Goblins rising up against the Wizards and Witches to attain freedom & representation as well as the right to equip wands. They don’t want to be mistreated and oppressed anymore… but the player has to fight against them because we can’t have the slaves attain freedom, right?
On top of that, Hogwarts Legacy’s lead designer, Troy Leavitt, had to leave the studio after it got out that he runs a YouTube channel defending Gamergate and dismissing sexual misconduct complaints (source). Both Avalanche and Warner Bros had been aware of this. Leavitt wasn’t fired but rather decided to “resign despite feeling safe in his position”.
So, to sum this all up, Hogwarts Legacy’s premise is highly problematic, (at least) one of the devs is problematic, it’s set in a problematic world, it perpetuates antisemitic stereotypes and falsehoods (blood libel, etc.), and it supports a TERF… So the game has a lot of issues, basically.
And if you still decide to buy it, that’s your choice but know that any criticism you face isn’t based on “just Rowling” but rather the game and the world as a whole. It’s not “cancel culture” but genuinely people not wanting others to play this game because of its contents.
Screenshot: Citizen Sleeper – Highly recommend it especially with how personal it is
…if you stream the game, I won’t support you.
It’s not about feeling morally superior or anything like that – and it’s weird but I kinda have to lead with this because a lot of people try to break down this whole controversy by stating that “woke people are just on a high horse” or whatever. It’s not that… at all.
If anything a boycott is a personal thing, in my opinion, and I personally can choose to not support this game’s release. I won’t try to get others to boycott it, too, since it’s their choice – but what I can do is talk about the issues and shed some light on them, hence this post.
I can also be vocal about the fact that I don’t feel comfortable with people that proclaim themselves “allies” but who are totally fine with the bigotry depicted in the game or with supporting and promoting a game like this.
I can utilize this platform I have to inform others about it… and I can hope that others join in but I won’t judge or attack others for disagreeing.
What I may do, however, is unfollow you if you do end up streaming the game. It’s my personal decision to do so. If you play Hogwarts Legacy, I may feel uncomfortable with you and your space and that’s fine.
“Actio = Reactio” – Newton, I guess?
If you stream the game, I may not find your community safe anymore. As a consequence of your streaming the game, I decided to leave.
I think that’s valid. I mean, in my honest opinion, if you stream bigoted content on a channel proclaiming you’re an “ally”/”safe space”, I find that iffy. I’m not saying that anyone that streams the game is a bigot or a transphobe – but weirdly enough whenever I saw that someone streamed in my followed list, I needed to go to their channel to unfollow… and in every instance, there were chat messages that were clearly bigoted and transphobic, utilizing dogwhistles, and the streamer in question didn’t do anything against it.
“Streamers are being Harassed!11!!!” – Manufactured Outrage
I may ask you about why you made this choice in particular and I may tell you that I’ll leave for good because you made this choice… but I don’t think that this is “bullying”. This is what you call criticism. At least, when I did it, I did it civically.
In fact, I’ve seen plenty of people do exactly this. Let people know why they’re leaving and hold them accountable. And while these people were being civil, the reactions weren’t as respectful.
There are people who react quite strongly to it. The other day, I got banned from this one channel that I followed for two odd years, apparently, because I asked them if they were aware of the issues the game has with the blood libel references and you suppressing slaves wanting freedom… and they said that they are fine with it. So, I stated that I’m unfollowing then and I wished them a nice life.
They ended up banning me before lying about what happened, stating that I called them “a nazi or something”, essentially gaslighting their community. You can’t clip on their channel, there are no VODs and the only chat logs that can prove otherwise are only visible to the streamer and me, the person that was banned. This streamer also pulled up my stream for whatever reason which was weird… and kept playing the victim for literally no reason, making content out of “getting attacked” – which just didn’t happen.
Dodged a bullet there, eh?
And this is sort of something I’ve seen a lot with other streamers and rumours out there: Some people are proclaiming that streamers are getting attacked and harassed by people “just” for streaming the game.
Screenshot: The Dark Pictures Anthology – Little Hope
It’s wild that you can manufacture outrage like this and get away with it because it’s cis-people – but when trans streamers get harassed on a daily basis nobody cares at all, seemingly. There’s no evidence of it happening for the cis-people. Just people claiming it’s happening.
Trans-Streamers have been calling this shit out all the time now and nobody seems to care about it. At least, I haven’t seen any major news-site report on it in this capacity.
I’ve seen people follow-bot these streamers with death threats for names. I’ve seen people get hate raided in the past. It’s wild.
Until now, I only found one instance of a streamer being harassed – GirlfriendReviews… but in that case, the clips just appear to show Shelby stepping away, seemingly about to cry, but Matt’s not following her and doesn’t seem too concerned. So, it can’t have been that bad, right? Or maybe it was? The chat messages appear to be gone. There’s no proof of what was said, from what I can tell.
Still, a lot of people do report on it but don’t report on the trans streamers that receive death threats daily. Biased much?
Anyhow, while there is something fishy about the biased reporting, I don’t want to dismiss every single report of harassment. I know that the topic is something a lot of people are very emotional about… and I don’t want to play down the scale of things or what people go through or what they’re capable of.
There are probably are people out there that do react viciously to people streaming the game in question… but there are also transphobes creating Twitter accounts of “transpeople” that then end up saying vile shit… and it’s just media manipulation.
Rather than trying to dismiss cases that may have happened, I’m criticizing the biased reporting that just seems to lack all sorts of nuance… The whole discourse has become toxic. Whenever you mention Hogwarts Legacy on Twitter, a whole swarm of transphobes and trolls appear – just like the Death Eaters in Harry Potter. Odd, eh?
Whenever you call it “the wizard game” or “the game”, people tell ya that you’re treating it like “he who shall not be named” and that that’s hypocritical… but it literally is Voldemort. Saying HL’s full name summons Death Eaters that want to bully you.
What doesn’t help at all in this discourse is…
- Twitter’s letter limit leaves no space for nuance
- People have very strong feelings about this
- A lot of people are arguing about different topics
The last point is quite important which is also why I’m getting into the nitty-gritty about the discourse like this:
There are lots of different people out there. A lot of them don’t want others to support Rowling. Others are angry because the game has a bigoted premise or because of antisemitism. And then there are others that argue about allyship.
Again, someone proclaiming to be an ally but fostering an unsafe space is iffy. A lot of people want to call out this fake-allyship. Personally, I’m not a fan of cis-people proclaiming to have a safe space or proclaiming to be an ally. The marginalized people that you’re an ally to are the ones that have the right to deem your space a safe space, after all, not you yourself.
More than anything, friends that I have in the trans community are stating that there are people out there that proclaim themselves an ally of trans people but when it comes to the one thing they’re supposed to not do, they don’t do it. Literally, just one thing… and they refuse to do it.
Either way, it’s different topics… and bigots only talk about transpeople and bathrooms. They’re super obsessed with bathrooms for whatever reason. There are also people that rally against “the left”, the “woke mob” or “SJWs” or whatever… and it sucks.
But because of strong feelings, lots of different topics and opinions (on the one side at least). there is a lack of nuance going on. People are not listening to each other and that sucks.
I’ve jotted it around this post like breadcrumbs to lead you here to this final paragraph on the matter, so it should come as no surprise that I don’t want people to actively promote the game by writing about it or streaming it. I’m not a fan of it.
Obviously, though, there are people that do that for a living and if their boss tells them to, they can’t just refuse, necessarily. So, I’m not super quick to judge.
In the first place, I think it’s a moral standard that is hard to uphold.
Using Twitter arguably supports a transphobe known as Musk… at the same time, for many people, it’s where their job is or how they get commissions or where their biggest platform is. Imagine working for someone transphobic offline. I doubt many people can afford to just quit right away without finding a different platform.
But if we look past Twitter, there are bound to be transphobes out there and other bigots that we will support in one way or another… but if I don’t know about it, I can’t avoid it. Some of them aren’t avoidable. Your necessities (food, water, clothes, housing, etc.) are tied to some other people – who themselves could very much be transphobes.
The key different here is necessities. Games aren’t necessities. If you wanna play a game, why not play a different game? Why play this one specifically, especially after being asked not to by people that you proclaim to care about?
Screenshot: Cozy Grove
But I digress. In my opinion, it’s difficult to hold this moral high ground and to boycott all sorts of stuff.
Personally, I unfollow people that stream it and I avoid it wherever I can. If someone plays it privately, I don’t cut them off. They may have made the purchase and learned about it only later or they may have gotten it as a present without the gifting party knowing it.
I don’t know people’s reasons and I don’t care. As long as they don’t promote it to others, I personally don’t care all that much. I’d rather them not buy it, obviously, but who am I to try to convince others if they don’t want to be convinced.
So, that’s sort of my stance. I can’t refund games for others… but I can unfollow people. I know a few people that got it as a present and I don’t judge them if they wanna play it.
Where I draw the line is my own decision. Whether you boycott the game or not is your decision.
If you stream the game to an audience or write about it, that’s your decision, too, but no matter what decision you make, there are consequences. As previously mentioned, action = reaction, right? If you stream a game to Twitch despite being asked not to, you shouldn’t be surprised that people may not be happy about you ignoring them.
But like, there are better wizard games. I recently played Fable Anniversary again. Still a great game. Has a better magic system than HL and Harry Potter, too!
Better Wizard games!
There are plenty “Wizard” games that are better and I just wanted to thank you for reading this far… and I also wanted to showcase this link here with a lot of different games that are better than HL!
This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.
I understand the mindset behind the boycott, but I think just a boycott is not going to be enough to counter the bigot. She’s worth billions, probably always will be, so simply not giving her money just doesn’t seem like enough to me. If the boycott was more of a campaign to support trans rights organizations (ie the money the game costs goes there instead) than I think it would actually do more. Doing nothing does nothing, and just a boycott is doing nothing.
Just my 2 cents.
While I do agree that it’s important to do something to support trans rights and to actually help people, not everyone can actually do that. Not everyone has the means to go out there and protest – or to financially support Charity or any other organisations. Showing solidarity by boycotting a game raises morale.
It shows allyship. It shows that you’re listening to the voices that tell you to not buy or play the game. Something I see a lot in the debate is the argument of “slacktivism”: “People are only protesting on Twitter and not in front of WB’s where it would actually matter” – but it’s kind of an ableist take because not everyone is even able-bodied enough to go out there, not to mention that not everyone has a car or the funds to support something like that… or the option to take time off from their jobs to do that.
On top of that, I don’t think it’s healthy to say “this does nothing, they still earn money”. Every drop matters. To name another example: Just because big companies don’t do anything for the climate crisis, that doesn’t mean that I should leave the light on. Yes, me turning it off when I don’t need it is but a drop in an ocean – but it still matters. 70 bucks for a bigoted game is still 70 bucks that goes towards those people’s paychecks. There are lots of other (better and less problematic) games out there, so why does it have to be this one game that literally is about so many things that are not okay.
At least that’s my take on it. Of course, it won’t eradicate bigotry from the face of the earth when I choose to not support people that stream the game and when I chose to not buy or play the game… but it’s better than just giving money to people that made a game where you’re against marginalized people getting basic human rights.
And you can still do Charity and go to protests and educate yourself. I do that at least whenever there’s a protest nearby for trans-rights and LGBTQIA+ matters in general. But not everyone can.
In fact, I think supporting a game like Hogwarts Legacy financially is the equivalent to literally doing nothing against Bigotry and just letting it happen. Whereas not supporting it is the first step.
Fair enough. I hadn’t considered those without the means to do more, and that is a big blindspot on my account.
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Hey, no worries. It happens!
Frankly, spreading awareness like I tried to do with my post is important, in my opinion.
Obviously it’s not gonna stop bigotry but at least I’m not contributing to it by ignoring the issue or by supporting the game financially.
Also, I care about the topic and hence try to use the reach I have here to help as best as I can, even if or maybe especially because I don’t have the means at the moment to do more than this.
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