Does the legacy of Harry Potter hold up?

New Harry Potter video game, Hogwarts Legacy, garners controversy upon release

With 500 million book copies sold and 11 movies and 17 video games released, it’s no secret that Harry Potter is a well-known franchise. However, its newest video game, Hogwarts Legacy, has been met with controversy and boycotts since its release on Feb. 10.

The game follows a fifth-year Hogwarts student in 1899 as they join the school late into the year. The plot functions similarly to the movies, as the player’s character meets new friends and defends Hogwarts from evil.

The original source of controversy around this game, though, is the author of the series, J.K. Rowling. Rowling has become infamous for serving as a leading voice in the Trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF) movement, a group that believes that trans women aren’t “real” women and seek to alienate them from the feminist movement.

Unfortunately, Rowling’s activism isn’t the only issue; fans have also called out instances of racism within the original books and films. Examples include the portrayal of goblins as money-hungry, hook-nosed creatures, resembling many stereotypes associated with Jewish people, as well as the insistence that house elves enjoy living as slaves.

Although Rowling was not directly involved in writing the game, the game still maintains this portrayal of the goblins, as they are the main antagonists of the story.

The game also — seemingly in opposition to Rowling — introduces a trans character, Sirona Ryan. The intentions of this inclusion are unclear, but fans have quickly called out the character as a cop-out because her role is very limited in the story. The character’s name sparked further controversy, as many saw the inclusion of traditionally masculine elements in Ryan’s name, like the inclusion of the word “sir” as well as the last name “Ryan,” as references in favor of Rowling’s beliefs.

These various controversies have led many people to boycott the game entirely out of concern for supporting its divisive aspects. Fans are not in agreement with this stance, however, which has spawned an extensive online discourse.

Althea Delwiche, communication department chair, warns about the risks of divisive discourse.

“As a trans person, right now it is important to be strategic,” Delwiche said. “Asking all these potential allies to choose between us and possibly the most beloved franchise of all time. … It’s a very dangerous choice that I worry could nudge people towards transphobia.”

The argument of separating the art from the artist is not a new one, and people are quick to defend their respective sides. Still, even after much discourse online, there is no “right” answer regarding the ethics of this argument. The question of whether artworks should be separated from their artists seems to be judged on a case-by-case basis and yields a different answer from person to person.

Sam Jeffe, sophomore computer science major and video game connoisseur, does not plan to buy the game.

“Separating the art from the artist doesn’t apply when the person’s hatred is actively profiting from the product,” said Jeffe. This refers to Rowling’s promise to donate her royalties from the game to anti-trans organizations including politicians such as Allison Bailey, who believes that trans people should not be protected alongside the LGBTQ community.

This complicates the separation of art and artist, because her profits from this game aren’t simply funding her lifestyle, but also funding her hateful agenda.

Despite the boycotts and controversy surrounding the game, it brought in extensive profits upon release. The game’s digital launch in its first week was the biggest game launch in terms of sales since Red Dead Redemption 2, with the exception of games in the FIFA or Call of Duty franchises.

Even with this massive success, though, many have criticized the game’s quality, pointing out significant bugs and mechanical errors and critiquing the high price of the game — 036;60. While these critiques are valid, the issues they bring up are not unusual: such prices have become the industry standard and major bugs are common in new releases.

Regardless, some fans still have hope for the game. Its open-world nature has drawn fans to the game, as it yields many possible paths players can follow in their gameplay. A full play-through would take quite some time, even for an experienced gamer.

Trinity Wagner, sophomore engineering major, looks forward to playing the game.

“I feel like J.K. Rowling is far enough removed from the game that playing it doesn’t mean you support her views,” Wagner said.

Ultimately, there is a myriad of opinions and strategies that fans believe are the best. While these groups don’t often agree, it is important as ever to ask these questions and look upon major media content with a critical eye.

“We’ve got a long way to go, but I think pressure is important,” Delwiche said. “And I hope that the publishers are starting to think more about the impact of their images.”