Rowling makes playing “Hogwarts Legacy” controversial

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“Hogwarts Legacy” was released on Feb. 10 and was developed by Avalanche Software and published by Warner Bros. Games under the Portkey Games label, according to its website. The website said that the game is not a direct adaptation of the books and movies but is based in the same universe. The game’s website also said that author J.K. Rowling was not involved directly in the creation of the game, but since she is the creator of the Harry Potter universe, she did create the foundation for the game. 

Rowling’s connection to the game is important if you are worried about the ethics of playing it because of several controversies she’s been involved in. According to The Week, Rowling has been “liking” transphobic tweets since March 2018, and she has continued to do so since then. Additionally, Rowling has openly disagreed with bills and individuals seeking to make transitioning easier for transgender people. The Week reports that in March 2022 Rowling claimed that a bill in Scotland that sought to make transitioning easier for transgender individuals would harm vulnerable populations. 

Rowling also has tweeted controversial comments on her account. On June 6, 2020, Rowling tweeted about an opinion article from Devex that used the phrase “people who menstruate.” Rowling’s reply said ‘‘‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?’” This has been criticized as invalidating the existence of transgender men and nonbinary people who may still menstruate and not identify as women.

Fans of the Harry Potter series also have begun to criticize racial prejudice. According to Seventeen, the eight Harry Potter movies total 1,207 minutes, of which racial minorities only speak for 5 minutes and 40 seconds.

Although the lack of representation for people of color is a glaring issue, there is also controversy surrounding the most prominent Asian character in the series, Cho Chang. According to HITC, the name Cho Chang comes from two different Asian cultures: Korean and Chinese. HITC calls this lazy naming, and it serves as evidence pointing toward a lack of consideration for minorities. 

All of this comes into discussions surrounding “Hogwarts Legacy” and whether playing the game is ethical, considering the creator of this world repeatedly has been criticized for transphobia and racial prejudice. I think the most significant consideration in deciding whether playing the game is ethical is whether Rowling benefits. According to The Escapist, Rowling likely does benefit from the game, although she was not directly involved in the making of it. The Escapist said that since Rowling has so much leverage over what is created from Harry Potter, she likely profits in some way from the game, whether in royalty arrangements or in other ways.

Some people may argue that playing “Hogwarts Legacy” is not unethical because the author should not have anything to do with the work itself. If the creator of the universe is taken out of the picture entirely, and Harry Potter is examined as the game’s foundation, then there is less controversy surrounding it. While in some cases looking at a creative work beyond the perspective of the author, or what the author says about the work post-release, can be beneficial, consuming work from, and inherently supporting, an author criticized for transphobia and racism is controversial.

This can be difficult for some people, including those who have enjoyed Harry Potter since before there was any controversy surrounding Rowling. “I understand the disappointment of those who enjoy Harry Potter, but I do not support Rowling’s words and actions. And I do not understand those who stand up for Rowling and say her behavior should not impact how people consume the body of work she has created or been connected to. If she benefits from something, as she likely does from “Hogwarts Legacy”, I do not think playing the game can be ethically defended by saying that Rowling did not make the game.

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