Lead Designer of Hogwarts Legacy Used to Be an Anti-Social Justice YouTuber

J.K. Rowling isn't the game's only problem.

Troy Leavitt, a lead designer on Hogwarts Legacy — the controversial upcoming Harry Potter RPG developed by Avalanche Software and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment — has come under fire for the anti-social justice politics he has touted on his YouTube channel.

Leavitt used to actively run a YouTube channel that focused on anti-social justice content, publishing videos with titles such as, “The Injustice of Social Justice,” “Are Thoughtcrimes Becoming Real?” and “Social Justice Ten Commandments.” He dedicated several videos to criticizing Feminist Frequency’s Anita Sarkeesian and used the channel at large to attack social justice and feminism — as well as to promote the GamerGate movement.

“#GamerGate” was an online harassment campaign primarily aimed at women and people of color, particularly developers and journalists, in the games industry. While it was ostensibly about concerns regarding the relationship between press and developers, the 2014-2015 hate movement is seen as one of the first collective alt-right online movements. (Though it’s important to realize that, while this is true, GamerGate was only demonstrative of the systemic bigotry that has always existed and continues to thrive in online and offline spaces.)

“GamerGate, in my opinion, was started by the press’ arrogance,” he says in a 2016 video titled, “Gamergate – Thoughts of a developer.” He goes on to say that the movement was a “consumer-led revolt against the religion of identity politics.” He began the video by stating that he was “generally supportive of GamerGate as I understand it,” and doubled down on this belief in a video titled “GamerGate Round 2?” that was uploaded a year later.

When he suggests that GamerGate sympathizers shouldn’t personally attack or harass anyone, he states, “Despite their protestations to the contrary, people like Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn thrive on the publicity that such harassment gives them. Mean-spirited attacks and threats provide the oxygen that they use to feed the fires of their victim narrative. They can’t argue a case on its own merits and so instead they emphasize how victimized they are. And the mainstream press eats this up, and it’s how they garner so much media attention. So starve them of their oxygen.”

The information has been out in the open, as Leavitt has his YouTube channel linked to his Twitter account. But it had flown under the radar until now. Leavitt’s ties to anti-social justice movements were first pointed out on Twitter on Feb. 19. Liam Robertson, a video producer for the “Did You Know Gaming?” YouTube channel, tweeted, “I know this is just shocking but the lead designer of Hogwarts Legacy is Troy Leavitt, a far right YouTuber who used to make anti-fem and pro GG vids.” Accompanying the tweet is a screenshot of his YouTube channel’s feed.

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Leavitt has directly addressed how his past content has impacted his role on Hogwarts Legacy: in short, very little.

“Some of you have expressed that, due to my commentary on some game industry controversies and my sympathies for the Gamergate movement, that I might have a difficult time should I ever want to return to professional game development,” Leavitt says in a 2018 video where he defends Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell from sexual misconduct allegations. “I’m happy to say that, even though I disclosed this, my YouTube channel, to WB Games, it didn’t appear to be an issue for them. Not that they endorse anything that I’ve said, of course, 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.”

And it’s not surprising. Hogwarts Legacy is based on the Harry Potter novels written by J.K. Rowling, who has been embroiled in constant controversy over the last several years for her transphobic politics. She has faced great backlash for her anti-trans statements, including from actors involved with the Harry Potter franchise like Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson. In September 2020, WB Games attempted to distance itself from J.K. Rowling by publishing an official FAQ page that states, “J.K. Rowling is not directly involved in the creation of the game, however, her extraordinary body of writing is the foundation of all projects in the Wizarding World. This is not a new story from J.K. Rowling.”

This distance didn’t last long. Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier reported soon after that WB Games president David Haddad addressed Rowling’s politics in an internal Q&A.  “She’s entitled to express her personal opinion on social media,” he reportedly said. “I may not agree with her, and I might not agree with her stance on a range of topics, but I can agree that she has the right to hold her opinions.”

While Hogwarts Legacy is neither written by Rowling nor an adaptation of existing Harry Potter material, WB Games declined from commenting further when Kotaku asked if Rowling would receive royalties from the game.

As noted in Kotaku‘s coverage of the controversy surrounding Leavitt’s YouTube channel, video games like Hogwarts Legacy are made by large teams consisting of people with a variety of politics, identities, and backgrounds. I feel for the file-and-rank developers who disagree with ideologies like Leavitt’s and Rowling’s — who are directly impacted in negative ways by them in the real world. Only they have the knowledge of how much or how little Leavitt’s politics, and WB Games’ acceptance of them, have shaped Hogwarts Legacy.

But it’s more than understandable that many people are, at best, wary about the game — especially due to how it benefits Rowling. While little is known of the upcoming title, it is inseparable from the pain her politics have inflicted on many. It’s easy to see why many are already rightfully taking a stand against it. And this controversy has surely done it no favors.

Hogwarts Legacy is planned to be released in 2022.

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Natalie Flores

Natalie is Fanbyte's Featured Contributor, with bylines at places like VICE, Polygon, PC Gamer, Paste Magazine, and more.

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