Many young people fondly look back on the Harry Potter franchise as an important piece of culture and an immersive escape from life's daily trials and tribulations. Many fans have had to reckon with series creator J.K. Rowling's transphobic views and reassess their relationship with the massive brand, and she has only further doubled down on it.
In comes Hogwarts Legacy, the new immersive, open-world action RPG that brings fans into the expansive world first introduced in the Harry Potter books and films. Ahead of its February 10 release date, reviews have flooded in praising the game's visuals, characters and gameplay. It has even earned a rare 9/10 rating on IGN. However, almost every review of the game has addressed the ethics of playing the game despite Rowling's beliefs.
IGN even shared a disclaimer in their Hogwarts Legacy review which reads:
IGN has always and will continue to champion human rights causes and support people speaking with their wallets in whatever manner they choose.
As critics, our job is to answer the question of whether or not we find Hogwarts Legacy to be fun to play and why; whether it’s ethical to play is a separate but still very important question. So just as in virtually all cases, we’re choosing to expose and address the views of the franchise creator separately from our consideration of the work of the hundreds of game developers and evaluate Hogwarts Legacy as it stands, leaving behind-the-scenes context to be considered in addition to that evaluation, rather than in place of it, so that it can be weighted according to your own values.
According to previous coverage of the game, it appears that Rowling was not involved in the making of the game and the developers of the game, Avalanche Studios, do not share her views. Warner Bros. Discovery did say that Rowling stands to make licensing royalties from the game as she created the franchise, and fans are conflicted about whether to support a game and developers who appear to be separate from Rowling's harmful views while still putting money in her pocket.
It only got more complicated when it was revealed that the franchise's first trans character, Sirona Ryan, is a major part of the game in the beginning. In an interview with IGN, Avalanche Studios addressed the creation of Ryan, saying, "It has been a high priority throughout the development of Hogwarts Legacy to create a game that is representative and diverse, aligning with our wonderful fan community. . . The team felt that it was very important to create a game that is representative of the rich and diverse world of Harry Potter as well as the groups of people who play games, which includes the LGBTQIA+ community. We have a diverse cast of characters that players will encounter throughout the game."
With an estimated budget of $150 million, the game already appears to stand to make that money back and then some. Hogwarts Legacy has broken Twitch records for the most-watched single-player game and is currently the most-preordered game on Steam.
However, people are fighting back against the game's popularity. According to several Twitch streamers, they have been bullied for playing the game. Shelby and Matt, also known as Girlfriend Reviews, got their hands on an early copy of the game for review purposes and used the stream's proceeds to raise money for The Trevor Project. Unhappy viewers criticized this move to play the game until Shelby left the stream in tears.
Some people have taken to social media to call for consumers to reflect on their support of the game and Rowling's politics.
\u201cbuying hogwarts legacy =/ you're a transphobe\n\nbut it does = you're giving money to a transphobe who is actively using said money to harm trans people\n\nif youre armed with that info, I'd hope you'd make the wiser and kinder choice and not passively support jk rowling\u201d— Jazzy \ud83d\udc7d\u2744\ufe0f (@Jazzy \ud83d\udc7d\u2744\ufe0f) 1675796326
\u201cI\u2019m just gonna put this out there: if you are still a Harry Potter fan and you want to explore that world without supporting Rowling financially or disrespecting the boycott of Hogwarts Legacy, there are millions of fanfics out there just waiting to be read. Some are very queer!\u201d— ella dawson (@ella dawson) 1675965843
\u201cHogwarts Legacy is not a transphobic game and bullying streamers that play it doesn't help your cause.\n\nJK Rowling is transphobic, but this game (and its ACTUAL creators) are not.\n\nThis tiktok really showed me the reality of things.\u201d— Dylan \ud83e\udd13 (@Dylan \ud83e\udd13) 1675806404
JK Rowling has yet to address the video game. Instead, she is on Twitter spreading misinformation about trans women in prison.
Photo courtesy of Hogwarts Legacy