Hogwarts Legacy Controversy Explained: Why Are People Boycotting the Game?

The ongoing controversy surrounding Hogwarts Legacy has resulted in calls to boycott the game in various ways. Here's what you need to know about the situation.

Hogwarts Legacy
Photo: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Warning: This article contains references to transphobic remarks and comments on sexual assault.

Hogwarts Legacy is an open-world action/adventure game set in the Wizarding World popularized by the Harry Potter novels. While Hogwarts Legacy is generally considered to be one of the biggest new releases of 2023, the game is also at the center of an ongoing controversy that has led some to boycott the title.

If you are unfamiliar with the controversy surrounding Hogwarts Legacy and Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling (or want to know more about it), here are some of the most important things you need to know about the project and its controversial creator.

Why Are People Boycotting Hogwarts Legacy?

The controversy surrounding Hogwarts Legacy can largely be attributed to a series of transphobic statements made by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling in the years before and since the game’s announcement.

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In 2018, Rowling liked a tweet that referred to transgender women as “men in dresses.” Not long after, Rowling’s representatives claimed she liked the tweet accidentally as the result of a “clumsy and middle-aged moment.” In 2019, though, Rowling tweeted her support of Maya Forstater, a Centre for Global Development researcher who lost her job after tweeting that she believed a person could not change their biological sex. As there was no doubt that Rowling intended to send that tweet, concerns regarding her beliefs, and the ways she expressed them, began to spread further at that time.

However, one of the most significant such statements made by Rowling occurred in 2020 when Rowling tweeted a criticism of a Devex.com article that used the phrase “people who menstruate.” Despite immediate public backlash, Rowling continued to defend her statements, though she did respond to certain accusations regarding the harmful nature of her views with a tweet that read “I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them. I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans. At the same time, my life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so.”

Not long after, Rowling published a 3,000+ word essay that included her “Five reasons for being worried about the new trans activism.” That essay (along with Rowling’s earlier tweets) caused many of Rowling’s fans and colleagues (as well as a number of organizations) to publicly denounce the author, her views, and her works. 

For instance, Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe published a statement on the Trevor Project website (a nonprofit organization that works to prevent suicide attempts in the LGBTQ community) expressing his support for the transgender community. At the time, he noted that “certain press outlets will probably want to paint this as in-fighting between J.K. Rowling and myself, but that is really not what this is about, nor is it what’s important right now.” Fellow Harry Potter stars Rupert Grint and Emma Watson have issued statements that express their disagreement with Rowling’s views but do not necessarily target the author directly. 

One of the most important responses to Rowling’s essay came from Mermaids, a trans children’s advocacy group based out of the U.K. In a post, the group stated, “We do not consider it a crime for women to express concern. We do however consider it abusive and damaging when people conflate trans women with male sexual predators, impute sexual criminality to trans identities, suggest that support of a trans child is parental homophobia and misogyny, and share uncorroborated and inaccurate information which severely damages the lives of trans and non-binary people.” The group then asked Rowling to “meet with transgender young people and listen to them with an open mind and an open heart.” To the best of our knowledge, that meeting never occurred. 

In recent years, Rowling has expressed her controversial views much more frequently. She began to identify herself as a trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF) and has participated in so-called “TERF events” designed to question and challenge LGBTQ rights. Rowling has also publicly given various levels of support to anti-trans figures such as Magdalen Berns, Maya Forstater, Caroline Farrow, and Lisa Littman. 

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Through her Twitter account (and other publicly available forums of discussion), Rowling has also weighed in on various ongoing topics related to her previously expressed views. For instance, she referred to International Women’s Day as “We Who Must Not Be Named Day” due to the decision to include transgender people as part of the celebration.

Rowling has also suggested that trans people and trans supporters may be inherently dangerous or more likely to commit violent acts. In some cases, she may have even implied that her comments and actions are designed to target dangerous individuals. For instance, she recently tweeted, “Deeply amused by those telling me I’ve lost their admiration due to the disrespect I show violent, duplicitous rapists.”

In 2020, Rowling published a new book called Troubled Blood under the name “Robert Galbraith.” Mermaids (and others) criticized the book for featuring a serial killer who dresses as a woman, a problematic trope seen in other divisive works such as Dressed to Kill. Others mentioned that the name Robert Galbraith is similar to that of Robert Galbraith Heath, a psychiatrist who claims to have “cured” homosexuality through the use of electrodes implanted in the patient’s brain.

The above is not a complete summary of Rowling’s statements, her political/social beliefs, or an attempt to summarize the thoughts of why everyone who is boycotting Hogwarts Legacy has chosen to do so. However, these are some of the notable examples of the controversy surrounding Rowling’s transphobic remarks and, by extension, the controversy surrounding Hogwarts Legacy

How Are People Boycotting Hogwarts Legacy?

In many cases, boycotts of Hogwarts Legacy are being conducted on an individual level. That is to say that people are choosing to not purchase, play, or otherwise support the game due to its connection to J.K. Rowling and the ways she will profit from the game. Many are attempting to raise awareness of this matter so that others are informed enough to decide if they wish to do the same. 

However, there have been some more organized boycotts/responses to Hogwarts Legacy. For instance, the popular gaming forum Resetera has banned all discussions of Hogwarts Legacy and issued a statement calling Rowling a “bigot” and expressing their concerns that “she uses the influence and money gained from her success with Harry Potter to push transphobic legislation.” Several gaming sites have stated that they will not cover (or will only run limited coverage of) the game.

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Fans have also organized charity drives encouraging gamers to give the money they would have spent on Hogwarts Legacy to LGBTQ charity organizations instead. You can find one of these charity efforts, supporting Mermaids, here.

Is J.K. Rowling Creatively Involved With Hogwarts Legacy?

In 2020, the Hogwarts Legacy FAQ page addressed the question “What is J.K. Rowling’s involvement with the game? Is this a new story from J.K. Rowling?” This was their official answer on the subject:

“J.K. Rowling is not involved in the creation of the game, but as creator of the wizarding world and one of the world’s greatest storytellers, her extraordinary body of writing is the foundation of all projects in the Wizarding World. This is not a new story from J.K. Rowling, however we have collaborated closely with her team on all aspects of the game to ensure it remains in line with the magical experiences fans expect.”

Since then, the Avalanche Software team has expanded upon what the collaboration with Rowling’s “team” might entail. Here’s what Stephen Dona, Technical Game Designer at Avalanche Software, had to say on the matter in an interview with GamesHub: “We worked closely with the Wizarding World team. We wanted to make the world feel very genuine. Anytime we had concerns, we talked with them – and that working relationship was great. They gave us a lot, [in terms of] ‘We want you to tell your story. We want to make sure you’re getting the creative beats and gameplay that you want.’”

Will J.K. Rowling Profit From Hogwarts Legacy Sales?

J.K. Rowling holds the rights to the Wizarding World and Harry Potter intellectual property in conjunction with Warner Bros. Entertainment, which means the author will profit from sales of Hogwarts Legacy.

This isn’t new. Rowling has previously profited from official adaptations of the Harry Potter books and the expanded Wizarding World universe they resulted in. At the time of this writing, we do not know how much Rowling could conceivably profit from Hogwarts Legacy’s sales. Ultimately, though, Rowling will receive money from the sales and success of anything that officially uses the Harry Potter license (and all related properties).

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What Has The Hogwarts Legacy Team Said About J.K. Rowling?

Members of the Hogwarts Legacy team have largely refrained from publicly sharing their personal views on J.K. Rowling or addressing the author directly when answering questions related to the controversies surrounding Rowling. However, many members of the team have fielded questions regarding how Rowling’s statements/beliefs may or may not be reflected in the game or the game’s development process.

In an interview with IGN, Hogwarts Legacy director Alan Tew had this to say on what it was like to develop the game amidst the controversy: “I think for us there are challenges in every game we’ve worked on. This game has been no different. When we bumped into those challenges, we went back and refocused on the stuff that we really care about. 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.”

When asked whether or not he had any second thoughts about working on the game after J.K. Rowling’s actions/statements, Tew reiterated that the team wanted to make a game for everyone.

Other members of the Hogwarts Legacy team have echoed Tew’s sentiments. Previously, actor Sebastian Croft, who provided the vocal performance for the game’s protagonist, sent out this tweet regarding their involvement with the title: “I was cast in this project over 3 years ago, back when all Harry Potter was to me, was the magical world I grew up with. This was long before I was aware of JK Rowling’s views. I believe wholeheartedly that trans women are women and trans men are men.”

Investigative journalist Jason Schreier published a report regarding Hogwarts Legacy’s development in which he noted that some members of the team anonymously informed him that they felt uncomfortable working on the game after they became aware of Rowling’s views. Some of those same developers also reportedly pushed for certain features (such as a non-gendered character creation option) to be included in the game in opposition to the author’s views. 

What Has J.K. Rowling Said About Hogwarts Legacy?

To date, J.K. Rowling has made very few public statements about Hogwarts Legacy. One of the only times she has even indirectly spoken about the game was when she tweeted out her criticisms of comments made by Jessie Earl, a trans writer/YouTuber who recently wrote about Hogwarts Legacy for GameSpot.

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On December 16, 2022, Earl tweeted the following:

That tweet drew these replies from Rowling:

Rowling’s response drew a lot of attention. Unfortunately, quite a bit of that attention came from those who took Rowling’s decision to address Earl as an excuse to attack the writer. In response to some of those threatening messages, Earl released the following statement:

As of the time of this writing, Rowling has not made any additional statements regarding the game nor has she directly addressed any critics who are calling for Hogwarts Legacy boycotts.

Is Hogwarts Legacy Being Boycotted Due to Any In-Game Content?

At the moment, most of the Hogwarts Legacy boycotts are related to Rowling’s past statements and views rather than content found in the game itself. While that may change once the game launches to the public, we don’t currently know of any in-game content that may represent or support Rowling’s transphobic views. On the other hand, several outlets have reported that there is at least one prominent openly transgender character in the game.

However, Hogwarts Legacy has been the subject of other controversies, some of which have contributed to the calls for a boycott. 

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Most notably, former Hogwarts Legacy developer Troy Leavitt resigned from the project in 2021 after it was revealed that he had previously posted videos in which he expressed his sympathy for the Gamergate movement and similar harassment campaign-related issues. In a 2018 video, Leavitt claimed that he had “disclosed my YouTube channel to WB Games, it didn’t appear to be an issue for them,” but noted that they did not “endorse anything I’ve said.” 

Furthermore, Hogwarts Legacy has attracted criticism over the decision to focus part of the game’s narrative on the goblin rebellion of 1890. Some have previously raised concerns regarding the possible anti-Semitic nature of the goblin characters in the Harry Potter universe and worried that the decision to feature them as villains in the game could further harmful and dangerous stereotypes. At this time, we don’t know the full scope of the game’s storyline or how goblins are featured and portrayed in the game. 

There have also been some concerns regarding the design of Hogwarts Legacy and some of its gameplay features, most notably the ability for the player character to use Unforgivable Curses to torture, maim, and even kill enemies.

Additional Resources

Here is a brief list of some notable organizations and charities that support LGBTQ causes and offer additional information regarding the challenges that people in that community (and others in crisis) face. If you would like to learn more regarding these subjects or contribute to their causes in any way, please consult these websites for more information on how to do so. The descriptions of each organization come courtesy of the official websites you’ll find available below.

GLSEN – As GLSEN was founded by a group of teachers in 1990, we knew that educators play key roles in creating affirming learning environments for LGBTQ youth. But as well as activating supportive educators, we believe in centering and uplifting student-led movements, which have powered initiatives like the Day of Silence, Ally Week, and more.

The National Center for Transgender Equality – The National Center for Transgender Equality advocates to change policies and society to increase understanding and acceptance of transgender people. In the nation’s capital and throughout the country, NCTE works to replace disrespect, discrimination, and violence with empathy, opportunity, and justice.

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The Human Rights Campaign – By inspiring and engaging individuals and communities, the Human Rights Campaign strives to end discrimination against LGBTQ+ people and realize a world that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all. HRC envisions a world where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people plus community members who use different language to describe identity are ensured equality and embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

GLAAD The world’s largest Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization – increases media accountability and community engagement that ensures authentic LGBTQ stories are seen, heard, and actualized.

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline – The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in the United States.

Mermaids (UK) – Mermaids provides a range of helpline services supporting transgender youth, up to and including the age of 20. We also support families and professionals. The helpline team offer emotional support, a gateway to the parents’ and young people’s forums, information about current legislation and protections under the law, plus signposting to training and resources.

Switchboard (UK) – Switchboard is a charity for LGBTQ people looking for a sense of community, support or information. We connect people and support them directly through specially developed Switchboard services or link them other specialist organisations.

Galop (UK) – Galop works directly with thousands of LGBT+ people who have experienced abuse and violence every year. We specialise in supporting victims and survivors of domestic abuse, sexual violence, hate crime, and other forms of abuse including honour-based abuse, forced marriage, and so-called conversion therapies. We are a service run by LGBT+ people, for LGBT+ people, and the needs of our community are at the centre of what we do.