JK Rowling’s transphobic views and her effect on Hogwarts Legacy – controversy explained

How much does one author hurt a game?

Images via Avalanche Software and NBC

When people talk about Hogwarts Legacy, they almost always talk about the controversial author behind Hogwarts — JK Rowling. It’s difficult to divorce the game from her troubling behavior and statements across the internet. Arguably her most deliberately harmful opinions come in the form of her rampant transphobia, something she’s only become more open about over the past few years. As Hogwarts Legacy releases, what does Rowling’s behavior do to the game’s launch?

Related: JK Rowling continues transphobic rhetoric, targeting trans gamer over Hogwarts Legacy comments

The history behind JK Rowling’s transphobic comments

While JK Rowling’s polarizing opinions on womanhood had been brewing in the background for years, her views came to a head on June 6, 2020, when she retweeted an op-ed complaining about the usage of “people who menstruate” instead of the word “women.” Since then, Rowling hasn’t backed down from her trans-exclusionary rhetoric. If anything, as a public figure, Rowling has doubled down. Later that year in September, she published a thriller novel under her Robert Galbraith pseudonym that depicted a cross-dressing serial killer.

For the past two years, JK Rowling has gone on to write a variety of Twitter threads discussing her opinions on what she believes are the dangers of transitioning and mental health problems. These scientifically-unfounded claims have alienated many fans. Some have dissociated their love of her work from her as a person, and many others have denounced the world of Harry Potter entirely.

Where does Hogwarts Legacy fit into Rowling’s controversy?

When Hogwarts Legacy was announced in September 2020, the same year as Rowling’s first transphobic tweets, there was bound to be trouble with marketing the game. Over the past few years Avalanche Software, the studio behind Hogwarts Legacy, has desperately tried to separate its game from its controversial inspiration. For example, the developers added diverse skin tones and gender options to their character creation in hopes of offering fans racially and trans-inclusive options.

Related: Hogwarts Legacy fans have met Sirona Ryan, and they’re divided on her

However, that’s not enough for many fans. While Avalanche Software made attempts to appeal to them, the world of Harry Potter is still Rowling’s work. The story that Avalanche wrote is still set during the goblin rebellions, flaring controversy about JK Rowling’s depiction of goblins and how they read as a deeply offensive antisemitic caricature.

Though Avalanche Software is disappointed in the fan backlash, it’s clear that divorcing Harry Potter from JK Rowling’s inflammatory transphobic, antisemitic, and problematic depictions is difficult. Because of this, conversations around Hogwarts Legacy are riddled with controversy, and the game’s release has emboldened transphobic commentators.

Despite all of Avalanche Software’s complaints and concerns about the controversy, Hogwarts Legacy was already the #1 selling game on Steam and PlayStation 5 as of January 16, and the #2 selling game on Xbox. If JK Rowling’s controversies are affecting anything, it’s their reputation, not their paychecks.