We don't have an exact release date for Hogwarts Legacy, but it's expected at some point in 2022, while there has been some general buzz around a trailer and other important details being shown off soon. As a trans woman who grew up reading Harry Potter, writes about video games for a living, and actively writes about gender in media frequently, I'm expecting the Harry Potter game to utterly exhaust me, and not just because it will probably have too many collectibles. Since I've been asked about Hogwarts Legacy by my real-life friends who exist outside our sphere of gaming discourse, I thought it best to organise my thoughts on the matter, and to offer up a resource for those who may have similar questions.
Some people will have read the headline and simply said "yes" or "who cares?", likely followed by some hilarious and not-at-all-recycled jokes and insults. Attack helicopters, genius! Anyway, this article is not really for them. Some people just won't care about this and, hey, there's a literal war going right now. This is not the most important thing in the world. But there are people out there concerned about this issue – I know, I've met them – and since my feelings around the game, and Harry Potter in general, have crystalised the more JK Rowling has committed to the bit, it's worth discussing them.
One final note on the very real war going on right now – I find it incredulously strange that right-wing commentators who have made a living for the past five years targeting gay people, trans people, and minorities are now lambasting us for ignoring 'the real issues'. No one forced you to write column after column after column about trans people. You were free to write about our failure to wean ourselves off Russian natural gas. You chose to write about us. We were just having a bake sale.
That's an important note because trans people do not want to be the story. We do not want to be important. We just want to go to the bathroom. It should not really matter if you play the Harry Potter game or not, but trans people are so constantly pelted with metaphorical rotten fruit in the form of legislation, hate crimes, and endless column inches that any show of solidarity is of increased importance. To answer the question in the headline, ‘should you play Hogwarts Legacy if you care about your trans friends?’, the answer is a very vague 'it depends'. I don't know you. I don't know your friends. I don't know your circumstances. But if you care enough to ask the question, the answer is probably no.
On the face of it, there is no damage being done by just playing a video game. A trans person is not kicked in the face for every copy sold. If you just buy it, play it, and quietly go about your life, you're not really hurting anyone. And hey, WB Games has repeatedly distanced itself from JK Rowling by insisting she is not involved in the game, though it also said she is entitled to her opinions, which feels like a weak rebuttal of said opinions. She still owns Harry Potter as an IP – she has not sold up. While it may be indirectly, supporting Hogwarts Legacy is supporting JK Rowling. The cash is trivial – she's already very wealthy. But as long as Harry Potter succeeds, she remains current and relevant, and her platform grows.
JK Rowling matters particularly because she is the acceptable face of transphobia. A few of her celebrity chums have declared for her in this nonsensical culture war, but none have come out with half the degree of erroneous and transphobic rhetoric as she has. A great number of middle-class media columnists seem to agree with her, and they have a significant platform themselves, but there are few other major cultural figures waiting in the wings to replace Rowling as the transphobe-in-chief. She is crucial to the movement.
For a while, it seemed as though she was being locked out of her own legacy. She was not present for the Harry Potter reunion, and again, the developers have deliberately and explicitly distanced themselves from her. However, the latest trailer for Fantastic Beasts promotes itself under her name, fluttering across the screen in huge letters. It's easy to convince ourselves that she's a pariah, that she is now divorced from the world she created, but she's not. She seems to be heading in that direction, but as long as you all support Harry Potter regardless of how hateful and deliberately malicious JK Rowling's statements become, you're saying trans people just don't matter as much as fictional wizards. A boycott got rid of Papa John after his repeated racial slurs, but Papa John’s as a business still exists. There doesn’t seem to have been any serious attempt to remove JK Rowling from the idea of Harry Potter, lest it mean missing out on the next instalment of a series that ended its golden age a decade ago.
If you say you're playing it to support the developers, sorry mate but that's bollocks. Unless you buy every video game ever because you want to inject cash into one of the biggest industries on the planet, you're not supporting the developers. You're specifically choosing to support these developers, not because you've sat down and had a nice chat with them, but because you want to play this game specifically. Support has nothing to do with it.
There is nothing wrong with just wanting to play the game because you want to. Media is powerful. Harry Potter was a definitive series of novels for a generation, and while the movies don't quite have that power, they made a lasting impression on those who saw them as children. Fantastic Beasts has spawned a successful movie series off what was essentially a coffee table stocking filler book. If Harry Potter, and by extension Hogwarts Legacy, means that much to you that no matter how conflicted you are you just can't sit it out, you can't bear to go without a game you know very little about and have not played a single second of, just say that. Don't insult us by lying that it's about supporting a faceless group of developers who you haven't met. If you're supporting them specifically because they're working on Harry Potter, then you're not supporting them. You're doing this thing called 'buying a video game'.
Don't insult us, and don't get defensive either. The people who tell me they're buying seven copies because I'll never have a womb are incredibly strange individuals, but they don't bother me. It's the people who are ordinarily very nice, normal people who consider criticism of Harry Potter's continued success as bullying against them personally. As if they are being discriminated against for being a Harry Potter fan, often followed by long and laborious rants about why Harry Potter means so much to them and horrible trannies are going to break into their houses and steal their Lego sets. JK Rowling represents the wave of aggression and hatred that erodes us every day. We don’t like her. We’re angry. If you can’t help, just play with your toys quietly and stay out of our way.
Wanting to play Hogwarts Legacy, even buying it at launch and enjoying it, does not make you a transphobe. But it’s asking you to forget about JK Rowling's obvious bigotry and continue to fund her platform and provide her with ongoing cultural relevance in exchange for playing a video game. It doesn't make you a bad person if you make that choice, just be sure to make it knowingly.
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