The release of Hogwarts Legacy has only heightened divisions among Harry Potter fans. By commercial measures, the game is already a massive success, with over 10 million copies sold. It is also currently one of the most popular games on Twitch. But the game’s release has also been marked by controversy. Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling has made repeated statements over the past few years that were widely viewed as transphobic. Trans advocates have suggested boycotting the game in light of Rowling’s ongoing actions.
The conversation, if you can even call it one, has been playing out on all ends of the internet. Major streamers, notably Hasan Piker, have decided not to stream the game — either as a form of protest or for fear of harassment. The Twitter replies to tweets from the official Hogwarts Legacy account are full of memes and trolls. People are making explainer videos on TikTok to cash in on the interest.
Discord has become one of the worst venues for conversation, as thousands of users spam their opinions and troll one another in real time, flooding the server with messages. The Hogwarts Legacy Discord server has become ground zero for one of the internet’s most toxic debates.
The Discord, which is simply called “Hogwarts Legacy,” has roughly 157,000 members. The first message in the Discord was posted to the announcement channel in September 2020, around the time the first trailer for the game dropped. Just a few months prior, in June 2020, J.K. Rowling published an essay on her website expressing skepticism over “new trans activism.” In the essay she also mentioned a discredited hypothetical about sexual predators being permitted in women’s bathrooms. (U.S. states in which trans people may use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity have not seen any uptick in assault in public restrooms.) In the following weeks, longtime fans started distancing themselves from the franchise, some getting their Harry Potter tattoos removed because of associations with J.K. Rowling.
Rowling’s heel turn and the launch of the Discord immediately collided, and on the first day of the server’s existence, fans discussed Rowling’s comments there. After several messages affirming trans rights were shared in the Discord, one person responded, “Also, can we please not have the trans topic here? It can cause a lot of arguments that we don’t want. Thanks.”
Now, alongside the game’s release, some Hogwarts Legacy Discord members are simply using it to send messages regarding technical concerns — like issues with downloading the game or dropped frames on PC. But many channels have become a toxic battleground for debate. Some users have popped in with messages of support for trans people, including messages that say “trans women are women” or “trans rights” with the emoji for the trans pride flag. Inversely, other members of the Discord have spammed channels with explicit transphobic remarks. While reporting this story, Polygon saw a few messages of this nature appear before quickly being deleted, presumably by moderators.
Polygon reached out to seven of the Discord’s moderators. Six did not respond. One mod told Polygon they would be “honoured” to answer any questions for the article, but later deleted the message. They then sent a Discord message that said, “You’re welcome! Per NDA, I actually am not at liberty to answer questions about moderation. Wishing you the best, though!”
Polygon also reached out to a community manager at Avalanche Software for comment and will update the story when we hear back.
And so, the Discord continues to boil over with chaos, a mix of earnest players, shitposters, and a whack-a-mole game with targeted hate.
Stand-alone messages about Dumbledore’s “big naturals” punctuated broken conversations debating the ethics of consumption under capitalism. One user pleaded, “Let’s just talk about the game. Period the end leave real world stuff out of this.” Meanwhile, Polygon observed someone send a support message for the gay ’ship of Sonic and Shadow from Sonic the Hedgehog.
Platforms like Twitch also heavily feature spammy conversations playing out in real time, but on Twitch a single streamer serves as a focal point for conversation. Discord doesn’t automatically relegate threads to another window, so all replies to a specific message just get sent to everyone in the main channel, often impeding consistent back-and-forth conversations. Even if people are talking back and forth, it’s often interrupted by dozens of other messages, allowing for little focus on anything.
Given the controversy surrounding Hogwarts Legacy, it’s unclear why this Discord server exists at all, or in this form. Or how moderators hope to salvage the situation. While Discord has tools that allow moderators to control channels and limit conversation from users, it’s unclear which are being used.
Polygon searched for a statement regarding the purpose or goals of the Discord. We read through the server’s welcome, announcements, server updates, rules, and FAQ channels. In April 2022, a community manager for Warner Bros. Games posted in the Hogwarts Legacy Discord server asking people to apply to be moderators, and said that mods could help make the community “a safe, inclusive environment for everyone.” And in February 2023, after debate had been brewing on the Discord, a moderator pointed out “increase in activity in the server recently” and shared links to Discord safety settings and mental health documentation. Polygon did not find any further messaging as to why the Discord was created, or the intended goal of creating it.