Saturday, April 13, 2024

Representation in Hogwart’s Legacy is important, but not at the cost of marginalised communities

Representation of marginalised communities, particularly the LGBT+ community, has always been an ideal that we’ve wanted gaming developers to uphold. It always feels a little like beating a dead horse whenever you mention it though, because yes, representation is important, but there has to be more to the media we consume, surely? Representation can’t be everything, and for Hogwart’s Legacy, it isn’t worth the cost of the trans community being targeted.

Avalanche Software’s Hogwarts Legacy is an RPG set in the world of JK Rowling’s Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The latest news to come out about it is that that you will be able to create a transgender character if you so choose. Which, considering who will be making money out of each and every purchase is… certainly a choice.

When Hogwarts Legacy was revealed, it was met with significant backlash from fans of the series that were very aware that JK Rowling’s ‘gender critical’ takes were actively harming the perception and livelihood of the trans community.

The backlash against the game didn’t just reach communities online, but the developing team behind the game too. According to Jason Schreier from Bloomberg, the frustration and anger at Rowling had “rattled” developers working on the game, too. So much so, that during an interview with Shreier about the inclusion of trans-inclusive character creation options, nobody wanted to give their name to be used.

Despite this, the news of an inclusive character creator that allows players to create transgender characters isn’t a negative thing – out of context, anyway. More and more character creators in triple-A games are allowing different ways for you to create a character that isn’t cis, but they are still stumbling just short of meaningfully saying something. It’s a great first step for this side of the games industry, even if they are lagging behind at an almost comical rate in comparison to queer indie game developers, but this slow drip of representation isn’t enough to wipe away the sins of a creator that actively targets marginalised communities.

Harry Potter means a lot to many people – but rewarding transphobia isn’t worth it

JK Rowling’s descent into full-on transphobia has been well documented since 2017, with her ‘liking’ a tweet that referred to trans women as ‘men in dresses’ being the very first incident that had her attitude towards trans women thrust into the limelight. Her actions have since got worse, with her ‘TERF Wars‘ post sparking Harry Potter actors Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson – amongst others – to step in and distance themselves from Rowling’s views. Others, including Hogwart’s Legacy’s own publisher, have refused to condemn Rowling’s derogatory views of the trans community.

Let that sink in for a moment. Hogwart’s Legacy’s own publisher, who still wants you to buy the game and give them money that then goes to Rowling, doesn’t want to condemn Rowling’s transphobic views. And that’s not even touching on the fact that the game’s lead designer is pro GamerGate, or that, according to Shreier, the inclusion of trans-inclusive character creation and character was actively met with resistance by higher-ups.

Ultimately, this whole situation is a sorry affair. Hogwart’s Legacy developers doing their utmost to include trans representation, whether it be by a well-meaning character creation, or the inclusion of a trans character within the game itself, is something to be commended – but it isn’t enough.

While I hold no doubt that there are trans developers working on this game, those who will put their heart and soul into creating something that goes against what Rowling’s ideal vision is, it is a case of simply being unable to separate the art from the artist. Rowling is woven into the Harry Potter IP in an interchangeable way. She cannot be ripped from it like you would a scab – and that’s something fans of the wizarding world of Harry Potter will need to come to terms with.

The reveal of a trans-inclusive character creation is important to a certain extent – particularly what that says about Rowling’s grip on what stories she wants her world to tell – but Hogwart’s Legacy and its representation isn’t worth the cost of giving profit to someone who actively targets trans communities with their hatred.

Aimee Hart

[She/They] Aimee Hart is Editor-in-Chief of Gayming Magazine. She specializes in queer fandom, video games and tabletop, having started her career writing for numerous websites like The Verge, Polygon, Input Magazine and more. Her goal now is to boost LGBTQ+ voices in the video games industry.