Hogwarts Legacy controversy explained: Why are people boycotting the Harry Potter game?

A screenshot from Hogwarts Legacy, which has faced controversy and boycottsWarner Bros. Interactive

Hogwarts Legacy is shaping up to be one of the biggest video games of 2023, but it’s also facing boycotts and controversy due to its associations with Harry Potter creator J. K. Rowling.

There have been loads of Harry Potter video games released over the past two decades, but Hogwarts Legacy is finally delivering the open-world interactive wizarding experience that fans have been dreaming of.

Unfortunately, that excitement has been tarnished for some fans, who have begun to distance themselves from the franchise due to comments about the trans community made by author J. K. Rowling.

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If you’re unsure whether you should be supporting Hogwarts Legacy or you just want to know what all the controversy is about, we’ve done our best to explain why people are boycotting Hogwarts Legacy.

Warner Bros. Interactive

Why are people boycotting Hogwarts Legacy?

The main reason people are boycotting Hogwarts Legacy is because of its association with J. K. Rowling. The Harry Potter author has been accused of making transphobic comments on multiple occasions over the past few years.

LGBTQ+ media charity GLAAD has a pretty comprehensive list of all the comments that have been made by Rowling, but the main point of concern is an essay published by the author on June 10, 2020, that listed “five reasons for being worried about the new trans activism”.

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In this essay, Rowling stated that she was “concerned about the huge explosion in young women wishing to transition and also about the increasing numbers who seem to be detransitioning”. She also brought up the ‘bathroom debate’ which has received plenty of media attention in recent years.

“When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman – and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones – then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. That is the simple truth,” she wrote.

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In response to J. K. Rowling’s comments, LGBTQ+ charity Mermaids issued a statement where they called on the Harry Potter author to “meet with transgender young people and listen to them with an open mind and an open heart” before speaking about them.

“We do not consider it a crime for women to express concern,” they wrote. “We do however consider it abusive and damaging when people conflate trans women with male sexual predators, impute sexual criminality to trans identities, suggest that support of a trans child is parental homophobia and misogyny, and share uncorroborated and inaccurate information which severely damages the lives of trans and non-binary people.”

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A screenshot of Hogwarts LegacyWarner Bros. Interactive

Rowling has also faced backlash for her 2020 novel Troubled Blood (published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith), which features a cisgender male serial killer who dresses up as a woman to lure victims. Mermaids called this “a long-standing and somewhat tired trope, responsible for the demonization of a small group of people”.

On other occasions, Rowling has ‘liked’ a tweet that referred to trans women as “men in dresses” – which her representatives defended as a “clumsy and middle-aged moment” – and tweeted “Big love to you” to Caroline Farrow, who PinkNews have called an “anti-trans, anti-gay, anti-abortion activist”.

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Several cast members from the Harry Potter movies have spoken out in support of the trans community in the wake of Rowling’s comments, including Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Bonnie Wright, and Eddie Redmayne.

“To all the people who now feel that their experience of the books has been tarnished or diminished. I am deeply sorry for the pain these comments have caused you,” Radcliffe said in a statement via The Trevor Project. “I really hope that you don’t entirely lose what was valuable in these stories to you.”

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The Harry Potter franchise has also been accused of perpetuating harmful antisemitic tropes with the way it depicts goblins – something that is now receiving extra scrutiny, as Hogwarts Legacy will task players with fighting back against a ‘Goblin Rebellion’.

What have Hogwarts Legacy devs said about the controversy?

While the creators of Hogwarts Legacy haven’t directly addressed J. K. Rowling’s divisive comments, game director Alan Tew did briefly touch on the controversy in a recent IGN interview.

“I think for us there are challenges in every game we’ve worked on. This game has been no different. When we bumped into those challenges, we went back and refocused on the stuff that we really care about. We know our fans fell in love with the Wizarding World, and we believe they fell in love with it for the right reasons,” he said.

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“We know that’s a diverse audience. For us, it’s making sure that the audience, who always dreamed of having this game, had the opportunity to feel welcomed back. That they have a home here and that it’s a good place to tell their story.”

One of the game’s main voice actors, Sebastian Croft, has also addressed the Hogwarts Legacy controversy. In a pair of tweets from January 2023, he said he was unaware of J. K. Rowling’s views when he was cast in the game and expressed support for the trans community.

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Is J. K. Rowling involved with Hogwarts Legacy?

The developers of Hogwarts Legacy have stated that J. K. Rowling is not directly involved with the creation of the game. They’ve even addressed this in the FAQ section of the game’s website, which suggests they know this will be a topic of concern for fans.

“J. K. Rowling is not involved in the creation of the game, but as creator of the wizarding world and one of the world’s greatest storytellers, her extraordinary body of writing is the foundation of all projects in the Wizarding World,” they explained.

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“This is not a new story from J. K. Rowling, however we have collaborated closely with her team on all aspects of the game to ensure it remains in line with the magical experiences fans expect.”

Some people have pointed to this as their reason for continuing to support Hogwarts Legacy, arguing that a boycott would mostly be harming the game’s developers who have worked hard to create an experience that fans will love.

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But while she may not be directly involved in creating the game, it seems pretty safe to assume that J. K. Rowling will be earning a hefty chunk of royalties from sales of the game. She does own the Harry Potter franchise, after all.

As writer and filmmaker Jessie Earl explained in a GameSpot feature on the topic: “It’s still difficult for any trans person to look at any element of the Harry Potter franchise and not see the harm that continues to be perpetuated by the woman who created it.”

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This is why many critics are calling for a complete boycott: No matter how removed J. K. Rowling is from the game, she will still profit from its success – and the Harry Potter franchise as a whole will continue to rake in the cash from the continued publicity.

You can donate to the National Center of Trans Equality in the United States or Mermaids in the United Kingdom if you would like to support members of the trans community.

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