Upcoming Harry Potter game keeps brewing trouble


Hogwarts Legacy, the upcoming open-world Harry Potter video game set in the wizarding world of the 19th century, won’t be released until 2022 — but the game keeps getting mired in controversy. Last year, publisher Warner Bros. had to clarify that Harry Potter creator J.K. wasn’t directly involved in the making of the game following a string of transphobic comments from the author. And now, the political views of one of the game’s developers has caught the public eye, leading one major community to eschew promotional coverage of the title.

The game’s latest controversy began when journalist Liam Roberston posted a Twitter thread highlighting that Hogwarts Legacy lead designer Troy Leavitt once kept a YouTube channel full of far-right content. Videos by Leavitt included a defense of men who were accused of sexual harassment, a defense of cultural appropriation, and discussions on whether or not “thought crimes” are a real thing. Some videos were also sympathetic of the Gamergate movement, which harasses women and marginalized groups in the video game industry under the guise of journalism ethics.

The videos are several years old by this point. But they were enough to make headlines, especially since one of the videos claims that publisher Warner Bros. is apparently aware of Leavitt’s channel and political views. W.B. did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In 2018, Leavitt said that, while Warner Bros. does not endorse things said on his channel, “at least they seem more concerned with making good games than with pushing some kind of a social justice agenda, so there is hope.”

Before any of this unfolded, some of the gaming community already found itself reflecting on whether or not one could ethically support a game that could potentially put money in the pockets of a person who continually uses her platform to mock and dehumanize trans people. Many Harry Potter fans are trying to determine if it’s possible to continue enjoying media set in the wizarding world without also tacitly endorsing Rowling’s views. Rowling, who is called a TERF by some critics — as in, a trans-exclusionary radical feminist — is controversial enough on her own that some have decided to not buy the game. But Leavitt’s involvement has tipped the scales even further for some.

a scene from the dining hall at Hogwarts in Hogwarts Legacy Image: Avalanche Software/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

ResetEra, a popular video game forum known for constantly surfacing leaks and industry news, is now attracting attention following a moderation decision taken by the site’s moderation staff. After deliberating on both Rowling’s history of transphobic comments and Leavitt’s YouTube channel, ResetEra admins decided to ban all promotional discussions of the game going forward.

“So this is a uniquely awful situation where both the creator of the IP and a senior producer on the game have unrepentant bigoted views,” reads a statement made by a ResetEra administrator speaking for the staff.

“This means there will be no threads for trailers or official announcements, no hype threads, no fluff pieces about its features,” the statement continues. “This functionally bans almost all threads leading up to release, unless there are major new developments about the controversy or something along those lines.”

According to the staff, ResetEra has never done something like this before — but in light of Rowling’s reach, influence, and power, the stewards of the community felt they couldn’t sit idly on the topic. Closer to the game’s release, the staff might revisit whether or not to allow a bigger discussion thread, but should that transpire, it will be text-only — a contrast from the forum’s typically robust, media-rich official threads, or OTs. The thread will also make sure to lay out the wider issues surrounding the game, forum administrators said.

“Some minority members want a space to discuss the game’s contents where they will not be shouted down by bigots,” the statement reads. “For now though we’re definitely not going to be platforming the marketing. If you see any threads for that stuff please report them.”

In 2020, after a series of transphobic comments by J.K. Rowling, publisher W.B. issued a vague statement noting that “inclusive culture has never been more important to our company and to our audiences around the world. We deeply value the work of our storytellers who give so much of themselves in sharing their creations with us all. We recognize our responsibility to foster empathy and advocate understanding of all communities and all people, particularly those we work with and those we reach through our content.”