‘Harry Potter’ game allows creation of trans players despite J.K. Rowling’s remarks
Transgender witches or wizards can reportedly enroll in the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in an upcoming video game set in the 1800s — a century before famed boy wizard Harry Potter ever received an owl informing him of the fictional school’s existence.
In an attempt at an inclusive wizarding world in the gaming universe, the “Harry Potter”-themed video game, “Hogwarts Legacy,” will allow players to create transgender characters depending on how they customize their character’s voice, body type and gender placement in the school’s fabled dormitories, according to a Bloomberg report published Tuesday.
Publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and developer Avalanche Software are scheduled to release the game in 2022.
According to Bloomberg, when players start the console or PC game, they will be able to create a character that has a masculine or feminine voice no matter what their body looks like. Character customization options in games typically give players a broad tool set, but some games, such as “Cyberpunk 2077,” have come under fire for tying voice to gender. It’s unclear if the new game will allow for nonbinary or other identifiers, though.
While this level of customization isn’t new to video games, it’s notable because the inclusion effort is a stark contrast from the controversy swirling around “Harry Potter” scribe J.K. Rowling. The bestselling author has repeatedly been accused of being transphobic, and her tweets have been denounced by fans and the lucrative film franchise’s stars Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson. Last September, the billionaire author was criticized for including a transphobic plot line in her novel “Troubled Blood.”
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Rowling’s comments also reportedly rattled people working on the game, Bloomberg said, prompting them to make more character customizations and pushing for a transgender character to be added.
Reps for Warner Bros. did not respond to The Times’ request for comment.
“Hogwarts Legacy” also made headlines late last month when the video game forum ResetEra banned all promotional material for it. Coupled with Rowling’s comments, the ban on threads for promotional media came after reports that Troy Leavitt, one of the game’s lead designers, previously created YouTube videos attacking feminism and praising the Gamergate controversy and cultural appropriation. Leavitt also posted anti-social justice material and referred to the #MeToo movement as a “moral panic,” IndieWire reported. (It is unclear if Leavitt is still involved in the project.)
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Warner Bros. Games is publishing “Hogwarts Legacy” under its Portkey Games label. When it announced the video game in September, it described it as an open-world, single-player, action role-playing video game that will be available on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 4 Pro, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One consoles and PC.
“Players will experience life as a student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry like never before, as they live the unwritten and embark on a dangerous journey to uncover a hidden truth of the wizarding world,” the statement read. It’s filled with immersive magic that puts players “at the center of their adventure to become the witch or wizard they choose to be. They will grow their character’s abilities as they master powerful spells, hone combat skills and select companions to help them face off against deadly enemies. Players will also encounter missions and scenarios that will pose difficult choices and determine what they stand for.”
“Hogwarts Legacy” joins a number of mobile wizarding world offerings, including Niantic’s Pokemon Go-style “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite,” Jam City’s prequel series “Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery” and Zynga’s match-three game “Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells.”
The Times’ video game critic, Todd Martens, contributed to this report.
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