News on Hogwarts Legacy just will not stop. Despite the fact TheGamer is not covering the game in any material way (no review, guides, etc.), it clearly has an important place in the gaming conversation. As one of the few sites both electing to boycott the game and with trans leadership, whenever stories that go beyond ‘new wands revealed!’, we will still cover the game. The latest news across this threshold is that Sebastian Croft will be voicing the masculine player character. I’m inclined to give him a break.
Croft is best known for his role in Heartstopper, Netflix’s queer coming-of-age tale created by author Alice Oseman. Heartstopper has become a phenomenon, not just because it’s very good, but because almost all of the cast are in their first major roles and have made breakout performances. Added to this, it’s clear they go beyond their characters – trans characters are played by trans actors, most of the cast are queer and have used their platform to publicly support queer causes. Croft himself raised over £150,000 recently with his ‘Queer Was Always Here’ campaign.
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It’s disappointing that Croft is involved in Hogwarts Legacy, given JK Rowling’s penchant for transphobia (see this link if you’re still asking “how is she transphobic?” in bad faith), but I’m reluctant to make him the central villain here. There has recently been another issue with asking too much of the Heartstopper cast when they do so much already – star Kit Connor was forced to publicly out himself following pressure and criticism from fans. With this in mind, Croft has the right to reply, and he has taken it. I’m relatively satisfied with his response.
Taking to Twitter after the announcement, Croft chose not to celebrate the game, ignore his critics, or dismiss all negativity as trolling. Instead he replied “I was cast in this project over 3 years ago, back when all Harry Potter was to me, was the magical world I grew up with. This was long before I was aware of JK Rowling’s views.” He added the usual slogans about trans women being women and there being no LGB without the T, and perhaps I’m naive, but that’s a decent recovery.
It’s not perfect. Three years ago was 2020, but given that it’s January and Croft said “over”, let’s be generous and say 2019. JK Rowling’s views have been public since at least 2017, when she ‘liked’ transphobic articles on Twitter, but later walked this back and said it was a mistake. Minor incidents like this grew until 2019 when JK Rowling threw her weight behind Maya Forrester, a freelance worker whose contract was not renewed after she refused to call a trans person at her temporary place of work by their correct name.
For someone as passionate about queer causes as Croft, perhaps he ought to have known that. However, Croft himself was only 15 when Rowling’s mask first slipped, and JK Rowling did not become known for her views so absolutely until she published her blog ‘TERF Wars’ in June 2020 – after Croft was cast and had likely recorded some of his lines. At that point, there were huge questions over how Harry Potter would distance itself from Rowling, and like many queer people, Croft was probably shocked that the answer was, ‘It won’t’.
I think it’s wrong to make Croft our target here. It’s similar to Kit Connor’s story. Those who do a lot are always expected to do more, and those who do nothing get a free ride. Simon Pegg, who has much more influence and is in a better position financially and career-wise to turn it down, is also in the game. He’s far older and is notably tech and media savvy. He was also probably cast later, given his role is smaller and he’s a bigger star. He knew about Rowling’s views and did it anyway, and unlike Croft he has offered no defence or support for trans people.
Hogwarts Legacy is a complicated game to deal with. We weren’t even sure at first. It took us a while to go from ‘this game makes us uncomfortable and supporting it like every other game makes us feel negatively about our careers’ to ‘okay we should do something about’, and we still didn’t settle on a full boycott at first. Instead, I was going to conduct the review myself, as a trans person and (former, I suppose) Harry Potter fan. This was in an aim to be fair, but also ground it in context I feared other reviews would lack.
We were also going to place links to charities and further context on JK Rowling in all of our coverage, but that felt like making ourselves feel better rather than actually taking a stand. Other sites, you are here. We eventually opted for a more complete boycott, but I do have sympathy that this is a loaded choice. I believe that Croft was unaware of Rowling’s views when he was cast, or at the very least hoped she would not continue to sink deeper into the gender critical tar pit, or would be cut loose when she did.
The failure to separate Rowling and the Wizarding World means every future project will be tinged with controversy and criticism, even if Hogwarts Legacy sells well. However, this is not Croft’s fault for failing to notice JK Rowling liked some questionable tweets then lied and said she didn’t mean it, all while he was studying for his Maths GCSE. It’s disappointing that Croft is involved after doing such great work for queer causes, but it’s also heartening to see someone involved in the game call JK Rowling out. I think there’s no one more disappointed than Croft himself, and that’s enough for me to give him a break.