Harry Potter and the gamer's dilemma

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

No, I don’t condone any of the transphobic viewpoints of J.K. Rowling. Just making that clear now.

Rowling, the best-selling author of the “Harry Potter” series, is a transphobe and there’s no questioning that. Though many refer to Rowling as a "TERF" (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) instead of solely as a transphobe, I don't believe in the term TERF. Transphobia has no place in feminism, and to me, TERF implies there is some place for it somewhere, which is incorrect.

Rowling’s ideology has once again been cast into the public eye with the recent release of “Hogwarts Legacy,” an action role-playing game that is set in the wizarding world of the 1800s. Though the game has only been released on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC so far, it’s already seeing massive success. In the first week of sales, “Hogwarts Legacy” broke the 22-year-old record for the biggest launch of a “Harry Potter” game and has outpaced first-week sales of “Elden Ring” by 80 percent, both in the U.K. The second point is a big deal, as “Elden Ring” won the title of “Game of the Year” last year.

Additionally, some streamers on Twitch got early access on Feb. 9, the day before the game’s official release. According to the game’s developers Warner Bros. Games, roughly 1.28 million people tuned into a stream to watch the game, making it the highest-watched single-player game ever on the platform. I guess the game has some fans.

But before the game’s release, many gamers were calling its boycott due to Rowling’s transphobic views. According to the “Hogwarts Legacy” website, Rowling had no direct involvement with the project, but members of her team did. It’s not hard to imagine that since the game takes place in the “Harry Potter” universe, Rowling will earn royalties from the game. Due to her transphobic views, some gamers don’t want Rowling to make any profit from these games.

The call for boycotts and the controversy surrounding this game have just been amplifying its existence. This is yet another example of the Streisand effect — wherein the efforts to ban or censor something only makes more people aware of it. I would have invested no interest in “Legacy” if not for all the talk I see surrounding the game online. But now here I am, writing an article about it. Rowling 1, Boycotters 0.

Video game websites have been debating whether they should even cover the game. IGN’s review contained a side text “Concerning J.K. Rowling,” which stated that they are divorcing the content creator from the game, which is an understandable choice given the popularity of the game and how influential IGN is in the gaming review world.

Enjoying “Harry Potter” and all of its properties isn’t transphobic; agreeing with J.K. Rowling is. Many of us grew up with “Harry Potter,” and it played a substantial role in our childhood. I remember getting “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in second grade and loving it. While I don’t like the direction the franchise has gone since the end of the main series, it’s still an engaging franchise. I don’t associate “Harry Potter” with transphobia, but every time I hear Rowling’s name, transphobia is paired with it. Whether someone enjoys “Hogwarts Legacy” or not doesn’t determine their stance on trans people.

I am fully in support of people enjoying properties that they like. There’s an argument that since Rowling will profit off “Legacy,” gamers are enabling her views by purchasing the game. This is a narrow-minded view and there’s so much more to consider. Many people worked to create the game, and purchasing “Legacy” supports them too. Focusing the debate on Rowling takes away from all the hard work and effort they put into the game, and they deserve recognition for putting together a good game. (“Hogwarts Legacy” currently has a score of 84 on Metacritic and a 9.0 user rating.)

Twitch streamer TheYishai streamed “Hogwarts Legacy” to almost 10,000 viewers and stated, “Dude, just play the game if you want to play it. I’m a trans girl. I love ‘Harry Potter.’ I hate J.K. Rowling.” This is the mindset that I find myself agreeing with. It’s easier to separate the art from the artist than many people think.

Still want to protest “Hogwarts Legacy?” That’s your choice, and I’m not going to stop you. But there are alternative ways to enjoy the game. For instance, watch someone play the game on Twitch or YouTube. You’re directly supporting a content creator while not purchasing the game. Alternatively, if you wait three months, I’m sure that the game will be floating around somewhere online… (“Yer a pirate, Harry!”).

In the end, we don’t educate others on trans people and trans rights by boycotting a game that takes place in a world created by a transphobe. Instead of wasting time on making a “J.K. Rowling bad, trans lives good” meme and posting it on Reddit for seven upvotes, support trans rights to all the other people in your life. I promise you’ll make more of an impact that way.