VIRAL NEWS: HOGWARTS LEGACY - THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE COMPLICATED
Accio controversy! (Spoilers Ahead)
It's Friday again, so it's time to talk about viral news. The internet moves fast, so we at Cassandra try to move even faster and catch all the topics young people can't stop talking about. This week we're focusing all our attention on the story taking over the world wide web and the wizarding world. Boycotts, postponements, and conflict sum up the development, launch, and reception of the Hogwarts Legacy video game. Already clocking in with over 3 Billion views on TikTok, the open-world adventure is set in the fantasy world of Harry Potter and, as we've seen for years with any new product of this franchise, is bringing a lot of controversy with it. J.K. Rowling's (author of the book series) harmful and repeated rhetoric around trans people, allegations of harmful anti-semitic tropes, and questionable decisions from the developers. Today we'll showcase how every corner of the internet is handling the launch.
Probably the loudest voices in this conflict right now are the ones calling for a general boycott. In response to all the times J.K. Rowling has made an anti-trans comment, allies and members of the LGBTQ+ community are trying to send a message of accountability to the world. Those saying that buying this game shows a disregard for trans people and their struggles —some taking it as far as accusing players of transphobia— are flooding social media. They have taken over Twitch chats of popular streamers trying to hold accountable people for buying (or profiting from) this title. Others are trying to provide alternatives to buying the game: Kritiqal recently organized the "Trans Witches Are Witches" game bundle, featuring over 60 magically themed video games, tabletop games, music, zines, and other works by LGBTQ+ creators, all for the same $60 price tag as Hogwarts Legacy.
"Moral conundrum" might sound like a spell, but it is where some of the franchise's fans are at the moment. Gen Z and Millennials have spent years - decades even- longing for the opportunity to inhabit Harry Potter's world, and now they have the chance. But with so much about this game out of alignment with their values, many players across Reddit and TikTok now find themselves working through the complex notion of "separating the art from the artist" when it comes to this game with many deciding to participate in a kind of “guilt offsetting”, a compensation tactic where they donate the same amount of money they spend for the game to an organization that focuses on trans issues like Gen-Z-favorite The Trevor Project. For some, this tactic allows them to enjoy the game guilt free, but to others, this is simply not enough.
Hailing as the best-selling game on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, and PC before it even launched, and holding the Guinness World Record for most viewed single player video game on Twitch, Hogwarts Legacy is being deemed a success. So, what happened? Apparently, a big part of the gaming demographic is either blissfully unaware of the title's problematic aspects, or they've decided that the game is too important to them not to play. Some argue that not buying the game will have no significant impact on Rowling's wallet and that being "bullied and accused of transphobia" because they want to buy a video game that means a lot to them lacks nuance. It's also common to find trans people on social media saying they plan to buy the game in order to reclaim the world of Harry Potter for the LGBTQ+ community and away from Rowling herself. Regardless, this video game certainly serves as a fascinating case study for understanding the complexity and nuance of youth’s behavior when it comes to their fandom and their values.