Gaming

Upcoming 'Harry Potter' game faces new controversy, but not over J.K. Rowling

The lead designer behind 'Hogwarts Legacy' has a history of bigoted views.

Warner Bros.

The wizarding world of Harry Potter is facing new controversy — but not over any comments made by its creator J.K. Rowling, who's gained infamy over her anti-trans views. Earlier this week it was reported that Troy Leavitt, the lead designer behind the upcoming Hogwarts Legacy game — due for release by Warner Bros. in 2022 — previously maintained a YouTube channel full of far-right content.

Leavitt's checkered past was unearthed by journalist Liam Robertson, who says that Leavitt's videos included one in which he characterized the #MeToo movement as a "moral panic," and another in which he downplayed sexual harassment allegations against former Pixar executive John Lasseter. Leavitt has claimed that Warner Bros. is aware of his videos. His LinkedIn indicates he still works at the company.

More baggage — "I want to make something clear here — I'm not trying to "cancel" anyone," wrote Robertson in a series of tweets. "I just wanted to let people know this because I feel like it's something people might like to know before deciding whether to support this project."

In response to the new discovery, a popular video game forum called ResetEra decided to ban all discussions of Hogwarts Legacy, though it might permit discussions that pertain to the controversy itself. “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 public statement made by a ResetEra administrator.

Moral hazard — Harry Potter fans have long struggled with the question of whether or not it's ethically possible to support a brand that could put money in the hands of Rowling, who has repeatedly used transphobic dog whistles and for the seemingly anti-semitic stereotypes present in her movies. Rowling has never been directly involved in the development of Hogwarts Legacy, but is still inextricably linked to the universe she created.

The way copyright protection works today means that Rowling and her estate will see the fruits of Harry Potter's success for a long time to come. A boycott might inflict some pain but they are, unfortunately, rarely effective. It's still possible that the consequences might finally spread further than the small niche community that is ResetEra.

Either way, the best course of action is the simple answer of directing attention away from the brand — most Potter-related works after the last of the seven original books have received tepid responses anyway. As long as Rowling is inextricably tied to the Potterverse, though, persisting in discussing the series could prove nothing but an exercise in masochism.

ResetEra clearly wanted to do a small part to minimize that pain for its community. There will surely be people who try and argue that de-platforming Harry Potter discussions is a violation of free speech, which is the same argument Facebook and Twitter have faced for exercise their right as private platforms to decide which content they carry. As for us, we'll be spending out money elsewhere, not only because we don't care for Rowling, but because there are so many other great games out there and not enough time to play them as is.