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To say Hogwarts Legacy has split the gaming community would be an understatement. The long-awaited Harry Potter game, letting fans join Hogwarts and become wizards in a fantasy world they self-inserted in for so long, was finally here.
However, to call it a split of the gaming community—positioning the debate in a way where there are two sides that differ in opinion, and the truth might lie somewhere in the middle—is invalidating and reductive to the lived experiences of the communities the game’s existence affects.
I have been a journalist for six years, and in games media for nearly five. It’s seen as a progressive frontier, full to the brim of diverse voices. The LGBTQIA+ community especially has immense representation in gaming compared to traditional fields.
Never in all of that time have I felt so humiliated for the craft failing to stand up for a community who is so often downtrodden just because of a childhood fascination.
It’s not just games journalism though. It’s the wider community. And to me, it’s mind blowing that a topic which is so clearly one color—maybe we shouldn’t hate people just because of their gender identity—is somehow polarizing and there’s a debate about treating people fairly.
I cannot even begin to break down just how wrong J.K. Rowling’s views on the lived trans experience is. It’s fundamentally inhumane. If you want to read up on all of that, I urge you to read this comprehensive piece penned by Jessie Earl on GameSpot. And, in essence, that’s why Hogwarts Legacy’s release, and the reaction to it, is more than just “a game” to a small but significant section of this community we love.
Sadly, Hogwarts Legacy’s launch was always going to be rocky for trans people, especially for those with a sense of nostalgia for the franchise buried deep. Every tweet from J.K. Rowling is like a twist of the knife. But many approached the issue with dignity and grace.
In the lead-up to Hogwarts Legacy’s release, the trans VTubing community operated on a policy of “prevention is the best cure.” Speaking out, explaining why it was harmful before launch, politely asking people to not play it.
It was probably effective in changing the minds of some—those educating comments at least made me more than indifferent. But wider than that? As it stands, Hogwarts Legacy’s launch is one of the most popular in Twitch history. And if social media debate is anything to go by, trans harassment has only gotten worse with the game’s release, not better.
There has been reporting on streamers getting harassed for ‘playing the game’. The level of harassment varies. There are a minority of comments that are toxic and should be condemned. But most of the commentary is educational in nature, and conveyed with an air of disappointment and displeasure more than hatred.
The VTubing space has not been immune to this. Popular Japanese-English VTuber Amano Pikamee canceled her first Hogwarts Legacy stream after being ‘bombarded’ with hate on Twitter for it. Hololive talents Moona Hoshinova and Usada Pekora have streamed the game without major worries, but other VTubers may have faced similar comments. And yes, they were hit with some horrible messages.
But as one VTuber streams the game, more become comfortable with following in their footsteps, especially so as the bigger ones take part.
It’s important to note, genuinely attacking people—sending threats of violence and death — is wrong. There is also a definite cultural divide between the English streaming space and other languages (that's a debate for another day). But let’s not ignore two core facts here.
Trans VTubers face way more harassment on a daily basis. Hate raids are a common occurrence, no matter the amount of measures platforms like Twitch implement, or the protections each streamer individually takes. If you’re trans, critics come after you for every stream, every day, and try to invalidate every part of your existence.
That level of harassment is a bit more than telling a cisgender streamer to acknowledge the trans lived experience, and maybe not support the game.
The ‘bullying’ VTubers faced for playing the game is so tiny in comparison to what trans VTubers face. It’s like spitting in their face.
The easiest thing the wider community could do to support these trans creators is just not engage with the media. But that’s not happening.
“We see so many people paying lip service and saying they'll be ready to help us out,” one trans VTuber told NewsDrop, who asked to remain anonymous for their safety. “And then when the time comes, when the task is to literally save money and not buy a game, it's suddenly too much.
“It's a direct line to anti-trans stuff. Rowling's been caught donating to the folks doing all these anti-trans bills in Texas.
“I've seen maybe one or two death wishes towards people playing it, and that's awful. But the folks who say trans folk are too aggressive are some of the same ones calling us slurs and telling us to off ourselves in those hate raid clips.”
Editor-in-chief of TheGamer, Stacey Henley (who is trans), put it best: “I’m sure some people who are playing the game are dealing with comments that are nasty. I’m also sure that people who are playing it are equating reasonable objections and a lack of unanimous support as nastiness in place of any actual harassment."
The second fact is many online are overblowing just what harassment is. Stacey covers that nuance perfectly. “I’m damn sure, more than anything else, that trans people are dealing with the most nastiness, day in and day out, both because of this game and just because they’re trying to live their lives.”
People are calling the subtle art of expressing mild disapproval and moving on as ‘targeted harassment’. And these are the same people who call trans people ‘snowflakes’ for dealing with a barrage of death threats just for existing.
“The trans bully narrative is the same sh*t as when protestors as an entire group become painted as rioters,” VTRainbow member Marina said on Twitter. “It’s a narrative meant to invalidate a movement. It’s a narrative meant to serve the transphobic agenda. All bullying is bad, but criticism or unfollowing isn’t bullying.”
I’m not here to police whether you should play Hogwarts Legacy or not. By all means do so, but understand actions have consequences.
If you label yourself as a trans ally, know there’s a subtle undercurrent of disapproval every time you go live playing Hogwarts Legacy. “I don't think a friend playing it makes them an awful person, but it does definitely disappoint me or at least call their priorities into question,” the anonymous trans VTuber said.
And at the end of the day, if you’re asked to not play a game because of its problematic roots, maybe you should try to understand why it’s problematic and genuinely hurtful to a community, rather than turn heel and label them bullies. Don’t ignore their lived experience.
That concludes this opinion piece. Trans Helpline has a dedicated page of contacts for community-based crisis support.
Banner Photo: Tuyen Vo on Unsplash
Updated February 22, 2023