When Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was published in 1997, it ignited our twenty-six-year-long love affair with the boy wizard and his magical world. But no one could have predicted how it would end up as a $25 billion franchise, spanning 7 books, 8 films, more merchandise than we know what to do with, and countless video games.
However, the brand has been tarnished somewhat in recent years by its author’s numerous, well-publicised transphobic comments, leading to many boycotting J.K. Rowling's works altogether. This has even extended to the highly-anticipated Hogwarts Legacy video game, which has been tipped to be one of the most successful games of the year - if not THE most.
Despite the lack of J.K. Rowling’s involvement in its creation, many gamers have felt they have had to choose between buying and enjoying the game, and staying true to their beliefs. However, one of AFK’s creators has used livestreams of her Hogwarts Legacy playthrough as a positive exercise by raising money and awareness for a women’s shelter and for transgender rights.
Sheffield-based Louise Rugg - a.k.a PooperNoodle - is a content creator and streamer of video games who has been very open with her followers about her own experience with sexual assault. She was supported at the time by friends and family, as well as a charity that funds a helpline in conjunction with the Northumbria police department, who continued to check in with her once a month for a year. However, she has subsequently seen first-hand the need for safe spaces for transgender women who have suffered abuse.
An eye-opening trip
On a trip to Los Angeles in 2022, Louise and a friend visited a women’s shelter and realised the difficulty that transgender women must have in finding support. Statistics show that a shocking 47% of all transgender people in the USA report having been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives, and she learned that safe spaces for transgender women were vital as they often don’t have anywhere to turn.
“It struck me that whilst this shelter offered help, support and counselling to trans women, I wasn’t aware of any back in the UK which offered the same,” says Louise. “It’s a sensitive subject right now; with the media focusing on people such as Isla Bryson (who spent time in a woman’s prison after being convicted of rape before transitioning) I have heard a lot of negativity and suspicion surrounding transgender people, particularly in women-only spaces.
“It’s made all the more difficult when someone as high-profile as JK Rowling suggests that allowing trans women into female changing rooms and bathrooms could be a danger to women who identify as cisgendered (a person whose gender identity corresponds to their sex assigned at birth). So with the highly-anticipated Hogwarts Legacy game being released, it seemed that a live stream was the perfect way to raise money and awareness for a fantastic organisation and important cause.”
Louise selected the Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre - a trans-led women’s shelter for survivors of sexual violence - to fundraise for, with Scotland being a poignant place for her due to her assault taking place in Glasgow. She feels that Gen Z are the key to overturning transphobia with the first of their generation being born in 1997, the same year the first Harry Potter book was published.
“Gen Z is significantly more politically aware and socially active compared to previous generations; they seem less likely to offer sympathy yet do nothing,” Louise adds. “They want to take action and with the first Harry Potter film being released in 2001, many of them have grown up loving the wizarding world.
“That’s why this Hogwarts Legacy live stream was the ideal opportunity to combine the passion of my followers with raising essential funds and awareness. We can unite and show that even though we’re Potterheads, we don’t agree with the mentality of the creator, and it takes something quite negative and gives it a positive outcome.”
The good, the bad and the ugly
During her Hogwarts Legacy playthrough which was broadcast on Twitch, Louise spent circa 45 hours live streaming to her fans over the course of 4 days as she explored every nook and cranny the game had to offer. To make the fundraiser more exciting she also offered Hogwarts Legacy-themed giveaways to those who donated, such as a Deluxe PC edition of the game.
However, Louise’s fundraiser also sadly attracted negative attention. There was some backlash on Twitter, with a small number of transgender associations that were against her playing the game, despite the positive message she was sharing. Both individuals and organisations on Twitter made rude comments and even went as far as to share game spoilers, hoping to put off her viewers and discourage them from watching her streams. Additionally, Louise found her DMs full of negative comments and even had her account hacked at one point. Despite this, she remained calm and continued to champion the cause.
“Internet trolls always have something negative to say, especially to a woman in the gaming space,” Louise explains. “However, the real disappointment was the trans associations who didn’t understand the message I was trying to convey, and were angry simply that I was associating myself with the game and - in their minds - the world’s creator and her transphobic views.”
Despite everything, with the ongoing and enthusiastic support of her family and community, Louise finished her streamed playthrough of Hogwarts Legacy and raised £900 for Edinburgh Rape Crisis, to which she added £100 to make a total of £1000 raised for charity. Just as importantly, however, she raised awareness of an important issue and got people talking.
“The key is to take action,” says Louise. “Often we’ll see a news article and think ‘oh that’s so sad’, but we don’t do anything about it. This experience shows that no matter even the most noble of causes attract negativity, so we need to use our voices and stand up for what’s right. Even if you don’t have the means to donate to a cause you feel passionate about, the act of spreading awareness is vital and can make more of a difference than you’ll ever know.”