Liam Ferguson takes a look at Harry Potter: a Hogwarts Mystery in light of J.K. Rowling’s retconning of information, extreme views on LGBTQ people, and a new game in the works.
It has been two years since the release of the mobile game Harry Potter: A Hogwarts Mystery and its subsequent slamming by members of the games media. With Avalanche Software’s Hogwarts Legacy slowly but surely rearing its head towards release, as it continues to be smeared with controversy it is time to wonder why we should even care about Hogwarts Mystery - or any game that results in J.K. Rowling gaining profits for that matter. In recent years, the Harry Potter IP has been one associated with its controversial author who should simply have never installed Twitter, and Hogwarts Mystery does not help its case. People are seemingly starting to realise that despite their childhood affection for the franchise, it is simply not worth supporting anymore now that Rowling has so overtly drawn her line in the sand regarding human rights. Regardless of this, Hogwarts Mystery was not a game worth caring about in the first place, and these comments from Rowling only cement the desire to ignore the mobile game entirely.
The game is, at its core, a cash cow that uses predatory pay-to-win tactics in order to lull its audience into spending as much money as possible in the app store. There really is not much merit in caring about or supporting a product like that.
When Hogwarts Mystery launched on Android and IOS in April 2018, it was immediately met with harsh and justified criticism. The game lived up to almost every stereotype you would associate with the mobile gaming genre. There was an appalling amount of microtransactions hammered inside of it that made you wait, unable to play the game for hours on end unless you were willing to part with real money on the premium currency that was set up. This premium currency, energy, is used to do practically everything within the game and frequently runs dry. When that happens, the game comes to a complete standstill as you have to either wait (for what could be hours) so it can replenish or break out the credit card and buy bundles of it. As a result of this, the game is basically pay-to-win and requires you to spend money if you do not want your immersion to be broken. The game is, at its core, a cash cow that uses predatory pay-to-win tactics in order to lull its audience into spending as much money as possible in the app store. There really is not much merit in caring about or supporting a product like that.
On top of this, releasing a game like this deals with a much larger audience than any books or movies. Gaming is a billion-dollar industry, and the fact that everyone has a phone makes this cash grab immediately accessible to many, many people. Harry Potter is ultimately a franchise aimed towards children and the developers behind Hogwarts Mystery are well aware that these same children will impatiently go towards their parents’ credit cards. There is something inherently deplorable about cramming so many pay-to-win elements inside a children’s game based on a beloved IP. Any kid can watch a Harry Potter movie on Netflix, look up the name of it in the app store and download this game to begin a descent into spending money on timesavers, and it is plain to see why that is wrong.
If you’re a die-hard Harry Potter stan, there is no shortage of great fanfiction to read instead of playing something that Rowling directly profits from.
On a more positive note, the game seems to sit well from a lore perspective with most Harry Potter fans. The inclusion of actors from the films such as Maggie Smith’s Professor McGonagall is a nice touch, and any praise directed towards the game is typically in regard to its story and how it influences and expands upon the universe as a whole. The game is still consistently updated and, microtransactions aside, appears to have been a huge hit with high download rates and a steady player base. The largest complaint stems from the fact that the player gets to pick what house they’re a part of at the start of the game instead of being randomly sorted in true Harry Potter fashion, but that is a very minor gripe and makes sense for a videogame. That being said, if you’re a die-hard Harry Potter stan there is no shortage of great fanfiction to read instead of playing something that J.K. Rowling directly profits from. In spite of it being a decent tale (if you’re willing to put up with the grind or spending exorbitant amounts of money), in my opinion, the game is still not worth the effort of caring about.
Unlike most “separate the artist from the art” arguments, the separation of Rowling from the Harry Potter franchise is nearly impossible. For one, the fact that she is alive and still actively profiting from anything to come from it means a ticket to Fantastic Beasts or the purchase of energy in Hogwarts Mystery adds to her wealth. The Harry Potter franchise is unabashedly her vision and hers alone, there is no separation. She repeatedly retcons matters after the fact, whether it be the backhanded inclusion of more diverse characters such as a claim that Hermione was always envisioned as a black woman, or a comment on how wizards used to defecate on the floor of Hogwarts. It’s been made abundantly clear that she did not have that coherent of a vision when crafting the universe, and with every retcon, she digs herself into a deeper hole as to how the wizarding world is seen. Another thing she has made very clear are her radical feminist views, specifically in regard to her views on transgender people’s rights. Rowling has publicly doubled down on harmful and dangerous beliefs about transgender people, specifically women, publishing incredibly troubling rhetoric about how to police trans womens’ right to use the same bathroom as cis women, among many other comments. While some former Harry Potter stars have come out against her views, urging people to not let her ruin these stories for them, I believe it really has come to a breaking point. There truly is not much use in trying to defend her or continue to fund a franchise that is so deeply rooted in her specific vision and this microtransaction riddled mobile game falls into that bracket.
But for now, Hogwarts Mystery almost perfectly summarises what Harry Potter has become as a whole; a dressed up but insidious marketing ploy with a few good ideas to string itself together.
Ultimately, pop culture is moving on from the wizarding world as a result of remarks from the original author and mediocre spin-offs. In regard to gaming, the future for Harry Potter also looks quite grim. The aforementioned Hogwarts Legacy has already been drawn into controversy after it was revealed to be helmed by a known supporter of gamergate. Many were already set on boycotting the game because of what Rowling’s views represent, but this point resulted in the popular forum ResetEra banning all threads regarding what should be a major and hotly anticipated AAA release. But for now, Hogwarts Mystery almost perfectly summarises what Harry Potter has become as a whole; a dressed-up but insidious marketing ploy with a few good ideas to string itself together.