The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of We Got This Covered or its parent company, GAMURS. The author's identity has been kept secret, as per their request.
Confession time: I'm not really sure how I'm supposed to navigate the quote-unquote culture conflict.
I've become quite used to being an invisible minority of sorts as a South Asian who grew up in Canada and now lives in the United States. Yes, we got our brief moment in the sun when Slumdog Millionaire became the indie sensation of the late 2000s, but apart from a few exceptions, I became quite familiar with being present in the background — like that one guy who shows up to every party, half out of sight.
The internet, naturally, became a nightmare to navigate when it came to gaming. At the same time, the discussion surrounding Warner Bros.' latest film appears to be dominated by a mostly white audience.
If you're reading this and wondering what I'm referring to, I can think of no better example than everybody's favorite convenience store owner, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon (for the record, yes, that's not a real South Asian surname). In fact, this beloved Simpsons character appears fairly harmless, and for the most part, he's a pretty decent guy, and there's no question, white and Indian Americans would have given him a thumbs up.
To be completely honest, American culture falls into this trap at an alarming rate. Ghost in the Shell is one example of this. Before the film's release, you wouldn't have to look far to find explanations for Scarlett Johansson's casting, some outlets going so far as to say, "If Japanese fans aren't outraged, why should you?"
When it comes to Asian diasporas, this is where the divide exists. While the older generation (specifically, the ones who immigrated to America) (typically) have little in the way of expectations when it comes to being represented in the cultural realm, first-generation Asian Americans are a bit more vocal when it comes to having a seat at the table, though in the late 1980s through the 2000s, we didn't have much in the way of a soapbox.
This reintroduction to The Simpsons and Apu lowered our expectations... a lot. On a personal level, I learned quickly that I shouldn't expect much in the way of visibility in the pop culture scene. I'm certain many of my Asian brothers and sisters did the same, latching onto the cultures that resonated with us, even if we didn't like it. It wasn't much, but it was all we had.
Yes, I find J.K. Rowling's opinions extremely problematic, and frankly, it's very clear to me that she's deliberately attempting to poke the bear when she clicks the Send button, but I've adopted a somewhat laissez-faire stance when it comes to individual buying decisions.
Is Hogwarts Legacy a good game? Bad? Middling? I didn't spend nearly 800 words explaining context and waxing poetic just to distill it down into a few back-of-the-box points and a slapped-on score. What I'm trying to explain is that I found myself pleasantly surprised by Hogwarts Legacy, not as a gamer.
Although the gaming industry still has a lot of work to do, I can't deny that representation has improved tremendously in the triple-A game. This is a trend that Hogwarts Legacy has proudly championed. In fact, another writer here at We Got This Covered modeled the playable character off of their real-life girlfriend.
What I wasn't prepared for were the other Hogwarts students who, you know, looked and sounded like my family and friends. Take Amit Thakkar, a fifth-year student with a keen interest in astronomy and a dislike of anything that escalates into danger at a young age.
Satyavati Shah, the astronomy professor, stood out to me for not only her physical appearance (South Asians are not a monolith, and can have a wide range of skin tones), but also her professional attire. Someone(s) at Avalanche Software clearly modeled a rather elaborate sari, which I couldn't help but notice in the light of the evening.
Some might not find these changes particularly surprising, especially those unfamiliar with the Indian diaspora and the British ethnic makeup. While Hogwarts Legacy might have taken place over 100 years ago, its creators have made a conscious decision to include a diverse group of students and professors that more closely resemble modern Britain.
I'm quite certain that a few people who take the time to read this article will interpret it as a puff piece, one designed to enthuse you about the Wizarding World's creator, her ludicrous behavior, and how she singlehandedly tarnished a beloved franchise.
Given the amount of interest in Hogwarts Legacy it has had in its initial launch period, it's extremely probable that it will sell like gangbusters, and it's equally likely that the majority of players will oppose the game as a whole. This goes without saying, but even if that second prediction proves true, it shouldn't and doesn't discredit any legitimate complaints against the game and the franchise as a whole.
The danger lies in assuming that Rowling's vocal minority and the communities that are affected by his decisions are a monolith, or that any prevailing opinion or seemingly-clear decision was made by a privileged majority. Whatever the reason, gaming is a mostly white-dominated environment.
I for one am optimistic that things will improve, and I'm willing (and able) to be a part of that change. What I'm asking you, the reader, to consider is this: Make sure everyone has had the opportunity to speak up and take their position.