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Hogwarts Legacy designer quits studio following YouTube controversy

Troy Leavitt says the departure is amicable, will share more in a video later

a Hogwarts student brandishes his wand as a troll advances toward him in Hogwarts Legacy Image: Avalanche Software/Warner Bros. Games
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

The lead designer of Avalanche Software’s Hogwarts Legacy, an open-world Harry Potter adventure due to launch in 2022, has left the project. Troy Leavitt, whose YouTube channel espoused Gamergate sympathies and other far-right cultural criticisms, said Thursday evening that he had parted ways with Avalanche and would explain more in a YouTube video later.

On Twitter, Leavitt said he left Avalanche on good terms, and that he wanted to resign “for reasons that I will explain in that forthcoming video.” He said he has “nothing but good things to say about the game, the dev team, and WB Games.”

Hogwarts Legacy attracted controversy from the day it was announced in September, mainly because of Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling’s recent history of transphobic statements and writings. In response, WB Games specified in an FAQ, published after the game’s Sept. 16 reveal, that Rowling herself has no direct involvement in Hogwarts Legacy’s story or development.

Then, on Feb. 19, Liam Robertson of Did You Know Gaming? called attention to Leavitt’s four-year-old YouTube channel, whose 60 or so videos direct harsh, right-wing criticism at pop culture critic Anita Sarkeesian, other feminists, and social justice advocates at large. Some of Leavitt’s videos also sympathized with Gamergate, a six-year-old reactionary harassment campaign that targets feminist, progressive, and other social justice voices who develop or comment on video games.

In one video, Leavitt said he told his employers at Utah-based Avalanche, and WB Games, about his YouTube channel and its content, and neither seemed concerned about it. “Not that they endorse anything that I’ve said, of course,” Leavitt said, “but at least they seem more concerned with making good games than with pushing some kind of a social justice agenda, so there is hope.”

In response, the popular video game forum ResetEra, whose users frequently share trailers, screenshots, and other promotional materials of games in development, banned all promotional discussion, or “hype threads,” of Hogwarts Legacy going forward.

Then, earlier this week, Bloomberg reported that Hogwarts Legacy would include gender-agnostic character creation options, which will allow users to build out a player character with voice and body types that aren’t bound to one another, or any gender presentation.

Bloomberg’s report added that other developers at Avalanche Software were “sad and frustrated” by the controversy the game had drawn, more than a year away from launch, and that the project’s management had reportedly resisted developers’ attempts to put a trans-inclusive character creator in the game.

Polygon has reached out to Leavitt and WB Games representatives for additional comment. WB Games confirmed to Polygon that Leavitt “has made the decision to leave Avalanche Software,” and declined further comment.

Hogwarts Legacy is expected in 2022, on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

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