Hogwarts Legacy has long become a cultural battleground. Ever since the open world game from Cars 3: Driven To Win developer Avalanche Software was announced, audiences have been standing for three separate causes. The first is a morally justified protest against the transphobic views of Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling and how this product will both line her pockets with continued profits and further elevate the platform of the most influential transphobe on the planet.
The second are fans who grew up with the Wizarding World, keen to put aside any political arguments and just enjoy the game for what it is – even if it means ignoring the trans people constantly fighting for human rights and healthcare whom Rowling continues to throw under the bus and turn into a political punching bag. Lastly are the bigots, those who aren’t particularly enamoured with game itself, yet remain aware of its potential as an unparalleled clout machine, one that can be used to label Potterheads as innocent victims at the hands of woke virtue signallers with nothing better to do than drag a video game everyone is simply trying to embrace. TikTok has only made this divide worse.
People underestimate TikTok’s power as a sociopolitical tool in the modern world. It is one of the fastest growing social media platforms ever, with celebrities and influencers repeatedly picking up millions of followers in a matter of hours after signing up. Videos can be lengthy or bite-sized while also capitalising on current trends and topics, meaning users are thrust into an algorithm of similar viewpoints built to reinforce who and what we’d like to believe. It is a robust, ever-changing echo chamber with a terrifying influence on how we’ve come to consume content in recent years. It’s also unpredictable, with users unable to draw stark political lines in the sand like Twitter or Facebook where it is so easy to maintain insularity.
I’m as queer and woke as they come, but sometimes videos of Jordan Peterson quotes on the value of masculinity set to emotional music invade my feed, puncturing the algorithm. Gone were my usual offerings of The 1975 and Bluey, replaced by right-wing rhetoric because TikTok thought I was in dire need of a red pill. I manually removed it from my feed, only for it and others like it to resurface a few weeks later. If this is happening to me, I fear how younger users are being inadvertently railroaded down the pipeline after binging a few MrBeast videos only to suddenly find themselves learning about how vaccines give you autism and are constructed by the government to ensure societal obedience. You can laugh at the absurdity of it all, but this has happened and will continue to do so as TikTok grows in prominence. Hogwarts Legacy feels like another nefarious stepping stone on that journey.
The game is everywhere on TikTok, and at the time of writing it hasn’t even officially launched. I tend to be served gaming content, and given it’s the biggest release of the year thus far, the platform has naturally started divvying up clips of content creators hyping up the house common rooms and offering guides for secret wands. While the intention is clearly to cover and inform us on the game, TikTok isn’t a nuanced enough platform to separate the three camps fighting over Hogwarts Legacy I mentioned earlier.
Then there’s the fact that the kinds of creators we see on TikTok typically are there to celebrate games, so enthusiastically they might as well be coming from an official trailer. Even critique towards game mechanics and characters are lined with obvious reservations, meaning viewers are seldom ever shown a side of the game worth delving deeper into, nor the political culture surrounding it that shows all the facts without slinging mud all over the place. There is no winning.
Leaks for the game ahead of release were plentiful on my feed, mostly framed in a way to reinforce the aforementioned hype or attack trans people while trying to prove them wrong by showing how inclusive Hogwarts Legacy really is. A trans character, now revealed to be named with almost laughable conventions as Sirona Ryan, has been held up as proof that naysayers had nothing to worry about, and even with this inclusion we will still throw this game onto the bonfire and claim there is nothing redeemable about it.
It’s more welcoming than this universe deserves with its diverse character customisation, but this cannot and will never take away from the wider context which defines Harry Potter in the modern day – any support for Harry Potter, financially or publically, is taken by investors and Rowling herself as support for her views. TikTok doesn’t understand that divide, and I fear it never will because the stream of content it aims to deliver is all about quick bursts of serotonin with coverage designed to be surface level. Any deeper and you lose the viewer’s attention, equivalent to taking meaning from a headline or treating review scores as the only critique that matters in this medium.
Games media outlets around the world have resorted to lightweight disclaimers and links to trans charities to offset ethical quandaries that come with covering Hogwarts Legacy, and many aren’t in an economic position to ignore what will likely be one of the year’s biggest games. It isn’t an option for some, and I sympathise with their plight, but just as many have given into the marketing cycle and made themselves look like ignorant fools.
Hogwarts Legacy Your New Character Puts On The Sorting Hat
Coverage that transfers over to TikTok reflects this as every other video labels it as ‘the best game in years’ or ‘the journey into the Wizarding World we’ve been waiting for’. Mainstream audiences are keen to embrace their nostalgic connection to magic and leave the guilt-laden politics behind, but doing so opens the floodgates for this to happen again. TikTok only serves to perpetuate this attitude, an invitation to ignore the bigger picture and punch down on those striving to be heard in spite of everything.
I’ve long feared our woeful media literacy as entertainment shifts towards quantity over quality, and to see Hogwarts Legacy and all of its controversy treated as an afterthought on a platform that represents the last, current, and next generation of creatives snuffs out much of the hope I have for the future. At least in a couple of weeks we will have forgotten its existence and moved onto the next big thing.
Next: Twitch Streamers’ Hogwarts Legacy Ad Protests Are Fruitless Without The Biggest Stars