Back in the fall of 2018, footage of a rumored open world Harry Potter video game was leaked online. The massive RPG has yet to be officially announced by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, but the existence of the game is one of the worst kept secrets in the video game industry right now. The forthcoming title is reportedly slated to be released late next year, and it will allow players to become wizards and witches and roam the massive fantasy world inspired by the books and movies.
However, even though developers are still hard at work on the Harry Potter video game, the recent controversy that creator J.K Rowling has been stirring online with her transphobic comments has them concerned. Much like the Harry Potter film franchise stars who have publicly disagreed with her worrisome perspective on the trans community, game developers are concerned about how Rowling’s controversy might impact the future of the video game.
Bloomberg has a report further confirming the existence of the Harry Potter video game, which will reportedly be available on a variety of platforms, including the new PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X launching later this year. Two people currently working on the game at a Warner Bros.-owned studio, Avalanche Software in Salt Lake City, Utah, have reassured fans that the future video game title is still on the way, but they also acknowledge that there’s some anxiety behind the scenes. Bloomberg explained:
“The studio’s management has not addressed recent comments from the author J.K. Rowling that were widely viewed as transphobic, the people said. The situation made some members of the team uncomfortable and sparked private discussions among staff over the pandemic water cooler, the workplace communication app Slack.”
Rowling became embroiled in her biggest social media controversy yet when she made comments that discriminated against trans women. She has since doubled down on those remarks with a full essay on her personal website. This has resulted in the likes of Daniel Radcliffe speaking out against Rowling’s remarks, and fellow franchise stars such as Emma Watson and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them lead actor Eddie Redmayne have also followed suit. Unfortunately, Warner Bros. hasn’t done much to denounce her comments, choosing to make vague statements that sound like they defy Rowling’s perspective but which really only offer hollow platitudes.
Though there’s not any indication of a potential walkout by employees who may be troubled by Rowling’s comments, there’s always the potential that the author’s remarks will continue to tarnish the legacy of the Harry Potter franchise. If this situation gets worse and Rowling doesn’t see the error of her ways, there’s a chance that the target audience for the Harry Potter video game may still have a bad taste in their mouths, which could keep them from funneling more money into Rowling’s pockets.
The author’s perplexing stance on trans women is all the more frustrating when the Harry Potter books have put forth messages about love and acceptance in the face of discrimination. Her continued stubborn attitude in this arena is only turning away fans who once respected her and loved the wizarding world of Harry Potter. Felicia Grady, managing editor of the popular Harry Potter fan site MuggleNet, told Bloomberg:
“Based on what I’ve seen from fans, I do believe that Rowling’s comments have had some effect on the level of excitement they have for the Harry Potter RPG or other upcoming content. We’ve seen comments from fans who no longer wish to support Rowling or the brand financially.”
At the same time, Warner Bros. Interactive is currently being shopped around to prospective buyers, something that could also have an impact on the future of a big expensive game like this. Remember the big video games that were scrapped when Lucasfilm (including its gaming division) was sold to Disney? Let’s hope that’s not what happens with the Harry Potter video game, which may or may not be officially announced later this year. But even more importantly, let’s hope J.K. Rowling realizes that she’s in the wrong and takes some time to listen to those she’s hurting with her transphobic perspective.
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