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Hogwarts Legacy’s game reflect the Harry Potter gender debate

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The controversial and keenly anticipated open-world role-playing game Hogwarts Legacy was released a week ago, and reviews have been mixed.

Some have praised the sweeping expanses of Hogwarts castle and its surrounds, and others have criticised its stagnant loot-collection mechanics. Much of the discourse has centred on tensions and expression around gender.

The game has been subject to controversy regarding the anti-trans remarks made by the Wizarding World franchise’s creator, Harry Potter series author JK Rowling.

Many reviews are prefaced by denouncements of Rowling and her views on gender, while some Harry Potter fans argue that the work should be separated from its originator.

Rowling has written about her “deep concerns about the effect the trans rights movement”. The inclusion of a trans character and other gender-inclusive elements by the developers, such as character creation mechanics, show that tensions around gender expression also manifest in Hogwarts Legacy.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, on which Hogwarts Legacy is based, is deeply structured around a patriarchal gender binary. The in-world equivalents for male and female are “wizard” and “witch”, respectively, but the default term for someone who uses magic is wizard – much as the word “man” refers to both the gender and the human species.

Anxieties about men in female spaces appear in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, in which Ron attempts to enter the girls’ dormitory. The staircase magically transforms into a slide and he is ejected. No such system exists for the boys’ dormitories.

A metaphorical kind of identity-essentialism is built into the Sorting Hat process of Hogwarts as well. At the age of 11, new students of Hogwarts are “sorted” into a school house. Their house determines what colours they wear, whom they share living spaces with, and whom they have their classes with, and it inevitably becomes a huge part of their identity during their time at Hogwarts and into their adult lives. This decision is made by a sentient hat who looks into each peri-pubescent child’s mind and decides their fate forever.

Transitioning house is not an option.

So how does Hogwarts Legacy metabolise all of this? Hogwarts Legacy supposedly features the first transgender characterin the Wizarding World franchise, a witch named Sirona Ryan, who is the proprietor of the Three Broomsticks.

The game’s character creation system approaches gender in a way that suggests it is trying to distance itself from Rowling, by ostensibly allowing players to create their own trans player characters.

But I think it is slightly more complex than this.

Hogwarts Legacy is an open world role-playing game (RPG), meaning the player starts the game by creating their own character before the story begins.

Conventionally, RPG character creation starts with choosing a sex for your character. This determines what their body will look like, and often limits the cosmetic options for hairstyle and clothing. It also usually determines the pitch of your character’s voice during gameplay and the pronouns with which your character is referred to by others during cinematic cutscenes.

More recently, RPGs are incorporating slight changes to their character creation systems to make them more inclusive. In 2022’s Game of the Year, Fromsoft’s Elden Ring, players can choose between “Body A” or “Body B” in place of male or female.

Similarly, in Hogwarts Legacy, players begin by choosing a starting appearance from a selection of presets, half of which are wearing skirt versions of the starting outfit, and half wearing trousers. Players then go on to modify facial features, hairstyle and voice.

Players also name their own characters. Because of how voice-acted cutscenes work in games, the player character is never referred to by their customised name. The player character is always spoken of using they/them pronouns, or called “the child”.

In this, players can chose from a variety of gendered characteristics, and are in many ways non-binary. But when this is done, players are asked to select whether they are a “witch” or “wizard”. An on-screen note indicates that this determines which dormitory they are placed in.

Once the game begins, players may make some cosmetic modifications to their character but cannot change their gender, much as they cannot change their house.

Although Hogwarts Legacy’s developers have incorporated mechanics to make the game more inclusive, the world in which it is set is a product of its creator’s views.

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TikTok implements stricter guidelines on weight-loss drug promotion

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TikTok is tightening its regulations on influencers who promote weight-loss drugs like Ozempic.

With over 170 million users in the US, the app aims to prevent the spread of potentially harmful content related to rapid weight loss.

Starting in May, TikTok will prohibit influencers from posting “before-and-after” photos and restrict minors from accessing weight-loss content deemed risky. The crackdown extends to any content promoting drastic weight loss methods, aiming to combat the promotion of unrealistic body standards.

However, some influencers, like Dave Knapp and Kim Carlos, criticise the move, arguing it discriminates against those with health conditions. Others fear losing their income as TikTok takes down their content, prompting concerns about the platform’s future amid potential US bans.

As TikTok enforces stricter guidelines, influencers may seek alternative platforms to share weight-loss content. Despite the popularity of drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy, the crackdown reflects growing concerns about the impact of such promotions on user health.

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Game on with indie devs celebrated by Nintendo

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Nintendo Switch fans rejoice! The recent Indie World Showcase unveiled 17 new titles coming in 2024.

Including in the rundown is the adorable “Little Kitty, Big City” and explosive platformer “Anton Blast.” In other news, “Stellar Blade” confirms an uncensored release on PlayStation 5, Fallout’s TV adaptation gears up for Season 2, and Keanu Reeves joins the cast of Sonic 3 as Shadow. New releases this week include “Tales of Kenzera: Zau” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Arcade: Wrath of the Mutants,” while “Fallout 4” gets a next-gen update. With “Stellar Blade” topping the list, gamers have plenty to look forward to in the coming weeks.

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What are the major takeaways from day one of Trump’s trial?

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The first day of Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial that the former president broke the law and corrupted the 2016 election, while his defence lawyer said he committed no crime.

On this episode of Ticker Today – Former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial is officially underway, President Joe Biden makes cannibal claims, TikTok US ban enters the next phase and Gen Z’s are dropping degrees and picking up tools to become blue-collar workers.

Ticker’s Ahron Young and Veronica Dudo discuss.

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