Controversy Surrounds This Year’s Biggest Game and the Wizarding World


Brodee Schmidt, Staff Reporter

*This article contains opinions from the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Madison Consolidated Schools or The Madisonian

There is controversy surrounding the recently released game Hogwarts Legacy. Hogwarts Legacy is an immersive, open-world RPG set in the same world as the Harry Potter books but 100 years prior. Your character is a student at Hogwarts, and you hold the key to an ancient secret that threatens the wizarding world. You can explore an open-world Hogwarts, meaning you can freely roam anywhere on the map.: The map includes Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, the Forbidden Forest, and the surrounding Overland area. With this game, you can finally be the Witch/Wizard you want. You can learn spells, brew potions, grow plants, and form relationships with mythical animals during your adventure, get into your house [Bravery (Gryffindor), Curiosity (Ravenclaw), Loyalty (Hufflepuff), Ambition (Slytherin)], make relationships with other students, teachers, etc., and acquire skills to become the witch/wizard you wish to be. Battle against various enemies, from trolls, dark wizards, goblins, and more as you go against a villain jeopardizing the world’s fate.

Up to this point, reviews on just the game itself have been solid. Hogwarts Legacy is not groundbreaking, it is your run-of-the-mill open-world RPG, and it follows the same “rules” or “basics” of any other RPG. What makes it so ‘amazing’ and ‘better’ than previous RPGs is that in Hogwarts, people can finally fulfill their dreams of wanting to be the witch/wizard they’ve been waiting for so long. You learn spells from professors, befriend your classmates, and find out that you possess rare magic that becomes the key to defeating the evil goblin rebellion. It’s the Harry Potter video game fans have been begging and waiting for, for a long time. The game is around 30-35 hours and has 13 bosses. Throughout the game, you can obtain different handwear, face wear, headwear, neckwear, cloaks & robes, an overall outfit, and brooms and flying mounts. These come in different tiers, these being in order lowest-highest, Well-Appointed (green), Superb (blue), Extraordinary (purple), and Legendary (gold). These things can help with defense and offense, can be upgraded, and can also be sold.

However, Hogwarts Legacy has a problem, but it’s not in the game. It is because of J.K. Rowling, her pessimistic or, in some cases, flat-out negative views of transgender people, and her funding politicians and other people of power with the same or more intense views as her money has caused significant controversies and debates. The most famous discussion about whether or not to buy Hogwarts Legacy has been going on since before the game was even released. All of these debates, but this one specifically about Hogwarts Legacy, are starting to wear on everyone, from people boycotting the game, playing it for themselves, or people having to hear about it in public from others talking. The discourse has been making would-be players exhausted by the controversy. Some have lost interest in the game and, in some cases, the whole conversation around it. The debate is not surprising because video games are supposed to be an escape and a fun and relaxing hobby. So when the game and all the situations surrounding it are under a giant microscope, on display for everyone, and there are controversies and debates everywhere, there is going to be a lack of interest and people just not wanting to get involved at all, whether that is because they don’t like J.K. Rowling or her views or they find the whole situation annoying.

English: Audio-animatronic goblin at Gringotts Wizarding Bank, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
Date 13 July 2015, 15:28:21
Source Own work
Author Eliedion via

Rowling has funded politicians known for their anti-trans and LGBT+ opinions; boycotters say that if you buy Hogwarts Legacy, you’re financing an anti-trans person who has some power, following and funding politicians that also have anti-trans views. The first known incident where this happened was in 2022 when Rowling asked her supporters to help raise money for UK Barrister and LGB Alliance co-founder Allison Bailey. People argued that Rowling was raising money for someone known to criticize trans people and the LGBT+ community. The fundraiser reached its goal of around $666,287. This means that Rowling made it public that she was using her wealth from the Harry Potter IP to fund politicians with opposing views on trans and LGBT+ people. Video games are meant to be a fun escape from reality, people want to escape real-life problems, and in today’s world, a way to do that is gaming; but if we can’t even enjoy a game because of all the issues, controversy, and debates outside of the actual game, is the game even worth buying and playing anymore? Now that all these problems surround the game, the exact thought goes through many gamers’ heads. These issues also throw everything off because there were prejudiced views of J.K. Rowling; even if Hogwarts Legacy is the best game of 2023 or many years prior, it will not get that recognition because it is associated with J.K. Rowling. 

Some supporters of J.K. Rowling feel art should be separated from its artist, meaning look at Hogwarts Legacy as just the game and not everything else that comes with it. While boycotters disagree, Rowling has said and done too many things to ignore. Including a trans character and other gender-welcoming aspects in the game, such as character creation mechanics, show that tension surrounding gender is also present. In-game equivalents for male and female are “wizard” and “witch,” but the default term for someone who uses magic is wizard, just like the word “man” refers to the human species. Yet whether it is a good or bad video game is not really what people are talking about when discussing Hogwarts Legacy.

Since the first rumors of its creation, back in 2017, to its official announcement in 2020, the game has not set right with people and made them question some things. Having Rowling involved brought attention to Rowling’s beliefs about trans people and has also reignited old conversations about her portrayal of groups in the book series. For example, her tendency to call nonwhite characters offensive and stereotypical names, an appalling example being the name for the Asian character “Cho Chang,” whose name has two last names traditionally of separate ethnic origins that one may consider insensitive. Furthermore, the black character Kingsley Shacklebolt recalls the imagery of slavery. Lastly, she also frequently used antisemitic dog whistles in her representation of the “greedy” “hook-nosed” goblins that work at the bank. Knowing that Rowling will profit from Hogwarts Legacy is enough to boycott it for many gamers. Even Warner Bros knows this; since 2020, Warner Bros has tried to distance itself from Rowling, saying the studio was not directly involved with the game’s development. 

Hogwarts Legacy features the first transgender character in the Wizarding World franchise, a witch named Sirona Ryan, who owns the Three Broomsticks. Sirona says in one scene, “He recognized me instantly, which is more than I can say for some of my classmates. Took them a second to realize I was actually a witch, not a wizard.” That line, the character’s name, appearance, and the voice actor being transgender prove that Sirona Ryan is also transgender. Usually, an RPG game’s character creation starts with choosing a gender. The character creation determines what their body will look like and often limits or adds some cosmetic options like hairstyle and clothing. It also typically determines the pitch of your voice and your character’s pronouns. Lately, RPGs are incorporating changes to their character creation systems to be more inclusive. In 2022’s Game of the Year, Fromsoft’s “Elden Ring,” players can choose either “Body A” or “Body B” instead of male or female. Comparably, in Hogwarts Legacy, players start by choosing an appearance from a preset selection.

Half of them are wearing skirts, and half are wearing pants. Players then modify hairstyle, facial features, and voice; players also name their characters. Due to how cutscenes work in video games, the character is never referred to by their custom name; the player is always referred to as they/them or “the child.” Warner Bros has stressed that they strived to make the game diverse. The director, Alan Tew, said, “We know our fans fell in love with the Wizarding World, and we believe they fell in love with it for the right reasons. 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.” In the first few hours of gameplay, gamers will encounter people from Uganda, India, and Korea, along with a female archeologist who mentions her wife. After making their character, players are asked to select “witch” or “wizard” (female or male); a note comes up and says that this determines which dormitory they are in. After the game begins, players can make some cosmetic changes to their character but can’t change their gender, and they also can’t change their house. 

At the end of the day, Hogwarts Legacy is a video game; video games are supposed to be an escape from reality, at least for a while. Whether you agree or disagree with Rowling’s views or the purchasing of the game, ultimately it will be up to the player to choose to enter Hogwarts Legacy.

Further reading:

Hogwarts Legacy Main Site

 Latest Fantasy News: Love it or hate it, everyone’s getting tired of the ‘Hogwarts Legacy’ disco

Hogwarts Legacy’s game mechanics reflect the gender essentialism at the heart of Harry Potter

How the Harry Potter video game became an ethical minefield