Hogwarts Legacy: the game people want and now feel shame for wanting. Hogwarts Legacy, despite the controversy revolving around J.K. Rowling, is still one of the hottest and most anticipated games this year. This game will be a love piece to the rich world Rowling has made, one that long-time Harry Potter fans have been angstily waiting for. However, as its release date of Feb. 10, 2023 comes closer, the hot issue of whether or not one should buy it becomes increasingly pressing to fans and gamers.
Rowling’s thoughts on the transgender community have spread far and wide since her beliefs came to light. To no one's surprise, this has also twisted the perception of her previous work as well. Despite coming out about her anti-trans views in summer of 2020, Harry Potter has become synonymous with that same belief, even though the last of her books had been released in 2007 and the movies in 2011.
If Harry Potter IP (intellectual property) has now become synonymous with Rowling’s anti-trans rhetoric, does consuming Harry Potter IP now make consumers sympathize with Rowling’s anti-trans rhetoric as well? Even though Harry Potter lore and content does not come from a place of hate, does consuming it associate people with hate speech?
Books, movies, video games and everything in between are all in the entertainment industry and are arguably undeniably art. They are the product of an artist’s imagination being told to the world in ways the public can find aesthetic value in them. A dilemma then emerges: can one value the aesthetics of art separately from the values of the creator?
The short answer is yes. It is undeniable that morally reprehensible people can make great pieces of art as an ED Times article illustrates. Among the list of people in the article are William Golding (author of Lord of the Flies), Roald Dahl (author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), and Bob Kane (co-creator of Batman) — all of whom still have IPs being produced and consumed to this day. “The Batman” was the highest-grossing movie worldwide the year it came out earning 752 million dollars, according to a Forbes article. That does not mean that the millions of moviegoers condone Kane’s ruthless treatment of his partner, Batman co-creator Bill Finger. This also relates to Dahl’s 21st century adaptations despite controversy surrounding accusations of his anti-semitic, racist and misogynistic views.
James Kiscaden, a senior majoring in creative technologies working in 3D animation, shares his opinion as an artist.
“With a lot of artistic practices there are design elements that go into them,” Kiscaden said. “You can look at the elements objectively and find value in them.”
However, it is not enough to simply accept that art can be appreciated detached from the creator. It is a pivotal time in history for the US social justice system and marginalized LGBTQ+ communities. Many see cancel culture as the newest form of boycotting, a method of making up for where the US social justice system fails. However, this has been contested by various groups and individuals including President Barack Obama in a New York Times article. Simply punishing an artist or creator for having arguably morally reprehensible beliefs accomplishes little. As hopefully ethical consumers, it is important to understand how consumption of specified art will affect marginalized communities. This is especially true if the individual cares deeply for the issue being addressed.
Josie O’Brien, president of the Ethics Bowl at Virginia Tech, addresses the dilemma facing consumers trying to be ethical.
“Appreciate the art while knowing the context in which it was created,” O’Brien said. O’Brien also emphasized the importance of measuring the real world impacts consuming products will have on the communities or issues in question.
For prospective players of the new Hogwarts game, there is not much to worry about in terms of damage done to the LGBTQ+ community, rest assured. Rowling’s charitable contributions are mainly found in disease research, which she has helped fund substantially. Moreover, she has been found to have supported the UK Labour party which actively supports the LGBTQ+ community.
However, as an artist, Kiscaden is befuddled by Rowling’s tweets on trans women.
“As an artist, I am trying to establish emotional connections to people,” Kriscaden said. “When they find out that I am intolerant of a demographic, it is no surprise that they would stop establishing an emotional connection with my work.”
From this point, Rowling’s tweets are contradictory to what artists should believe and do. People who are disenfranchised with Harry Potter IP have every reason to be as such. But for those still conflicted on playing the new Hogwarts game — purchasing the game will not make you a bad person, just as the artists working on this game are not bad people who do not share the same views as Rowling. In fact, the team at Avalanche and Warner Bros. studios claim that Hogwarts Legacy will have trans-inclusive character creation after developers were left feeling distraught after Rowling’s anti-trans tweets. Moreover, your decision on whether or not to buy the game should not hinge on social pressure. Your decision should simply come down to how much enjoyment you think you will get out of this game. For those who provoke a toxic cancel culture, there are better ways to advocate for a cause than hate.