Much like everybody in my generation, I grew up with Harry Potter. It was my favorite book collection growing up, having had a huge impact on my life as a reader and, eventually, as a writer. From the books to all the various screens, Hogwarts opened its many different doors to several platforms, leaving room for many interpretations of Harry’s world. It should have been fantastic that there were so many ways of making it real. But why is it that, as a fan, I never felt truly fulfilled with any adaptation?
It was my 10th birthday (December 14, 1999) when I unwrapped Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Even though I was already an avid reader, I was caught off guard and intrigued by this book. No other collection had made me visualize, feel and be part of a fictional world the way JK Rowling did and I will never forget that. I’d read a few pages before bed and then put the book down, turn off the light, and close my eyes. Yet, this intense curiosity boiled inside me. Everything pointed to Snape. He was definitely the one behind the disappearance of the stone. I had to know! I turned the light back on and kept reading until my eyelids burned and I had to quit.
I read the Harry Potter series repeatedly, especially while waiting for the last 3 to be released. That was when I started writing fanfic. I don’t particularly appreciate calling it fanfic, but writing about being there was the tool that helped fill in the void that waiting brought me. I did not even know what was in those books that kept me on my toes for so long. It was love, courage, and friendship that constructed The feeling of belonging. Harry Potter does have its flaws but, growing up, I was not even aware of them, and I do not wish to focus on them now.
I read the first four books and then waited years for the 5th and then 6th and then 7th book. There was nothing more frustrating than the wait between books. Perhaps there was one thing, now that I think of it. One of our generation’s most traumatic experiences was to turn 11 and see no signs of that bloody letter.
It was a good thing that the magic did not stay within the books. Even before the 5th book was published, Harry Potter and the Philosopher stone premiered in the movies in 2001. I remember leaving the cinema with a feeling of sinking in my chest because the characters were nothing like how I had always pictured them. In contrast, my friends who hadn’t read the books were so hyped by the movies, only to share my frustration later when they finally devoured the pages. I was only mad at the films because they left out parts and characters that were important to me that I did not get to see on screen. There was Peeves, the poltergeist. Or Tonks, who was such a rich character and, in the movies, the only in-depth information we get about her is that she hates her name.
Or even this scene, to me, one of the most hilarious.
“Did he eat it?” said Fred excitedly.
“Yeah,” said Harry. “What was it?”
“Ton-Tongue Toffee,” said Fred brightly. “George and I invented them, and we’ve been looking for someone to test them on all summer…”
[ROWLING, JK (2000), Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire]
Hermione was another disappointment. My peers frequently saw me as a snobbish and unbearable know-it-all, as if having intellectual interests was some infectious disease we should all be running away from.
With Harry Potter, I felt understood for the first time. I related to Hermione on such a level that I dressed as her for Carnival|Halloween countless times.
I respect Emma Watson’s work, but I’ll never see the real Hermione in her. It’s not her performance’s fault, just those sides of Hermione that were left out. How she was sensitive and aware of other characters’ feelings, consequently enhancing Harry’s and Ron’s perspectives and relationships with them; she had social concerns and founded the Society for Promotion of Elfish Welfare (SPEW), way before social network activism was a thing.
Hermione was the intelligent, hardworking ugly duckling who conquered her high-top place in that universe, inspiring millions of girls throughout the world against a society that diminishes those features. She gave us confidence and empowerment.
Even Dudley’s arc was undervalued. He apologized for what he did to Harry (JK mentioned they were in Christmas-cards terms).
So many other good scenes were left out of the adaptations.
Along with the movies came the videogames. Unlike these crossplay times we live in now, in which you have the same game for several platforms, back then, the same title had a different version for each platform. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was released for PC, PlayStation, GameBoy….and each version was unique. Maps and quests were different. Basically, each version took advantage of the features each platform had.
I remember playing them and realizing they had nothing to do with the movies or the books. The quests were funny and picked up characters such as Peeves.
I didn’t play every single Harry Potter game out there, but I remember enjoying these (and not necessarily in order):
1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for PC
A mix of exploring and platform, Philosopher’s stone was engaging and fun. You had to lead Harry to classes, avoid certain traps, collect beans and stickers. This was the same for every game, but I guess this one title is here because it was the first game.
2. Harry Potter Quidditch Worldcup
In my opinion, this was way better than Pro Evolution Soccer ’06. You could play with any role and team. Being the seeker was the easiest. As a beater, you needed a higher attention span. It was hard to manage the game, with so many balls on the field. Honestly, I don’t have vivid memories of this game anymore, but I remember enjoying it.
3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (PC, Game Cube e GBA)
I also played the PC version, but the one that stole my heart was the game cube one. There was just a setback that I hate in most games: automatic jumping. Chamber of Secrets was a semi-open world game and, once you unlocked “quidditch,” you could fly in your broom over Hogwarts’ fields. With quests such as degnome the Weasley’s yard to retrieving books in the restricted section, Chamber of Secrets was guaranteed to keep you hooked for hours.
The castle was different in all games and also different from the movies. If you also had the GBA version, you could link your Game Boy Advance to your Game Cube and unlock a special area in the Game Cube version.
4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (PC)
Although it was engaging and fun, it was much more limited than the previous versions in which you could explore Hogwarts as you pleased. The levels were closed, and you couldn’t get back there later to explore properly. On the bright side, you could also play as Ron and Hermione, not just Harry.
I found 80% of this game had made-up content. There was even a spell that we’ve never heard of in the books or movies: Depulso.
5. Harry Potter and the order of the Phoenix (Wii)
For me, this game delivered the best gaming experience. It was exactly like being in Hogwarts, plus the WiiMote could be used as a wand, and performing spells felt natural (I bet it would look gorgeous on Nintendo Switch). You had to lead harry throughout classes, quests, discovering secret passages. Everything was there—Umbridge and her pink office full of animated kitten portraits. You could visit other areas in specific parts of the plot, such as the ministry of magic or Sirius’ Manor. For me, this was the most magical game, with all those tangents to the books, even though so much was still left out.
I streamed Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix recently, and you can watch a bit of gameplay right here:
There were other games, such as Harry Potter Lego Collection or even the rest of the movies, but since I didn’t play any of those, I won’t include them here.
Despite being into the games and having had a lot of fun, none of these games satisfied my fan heart.
I didn’t want to play as Harry. I wanted to be another character, myself in that universe, alongside the crew, explore Diagon Alley, and every game I’ve played failed to deliver that experience. I wanted to find out my place in Harry Potter. Who would I be there? Who would I side with?
Then Pottermore (now Wizarding World) was released. It’s a website that was both a graphic adventure throughout the books and also a Harry Potter encyclopedia (yes, I still use this word!). Pottermore was directly produced by JK Rowling and even had the official Sorting Hat and Patronus tests; however, it felt bland.
I was sorted in Slytherin, shaking all my “gryffindorness” inside, as well as my perception of myself (yeah, I’m exaggerating, I know!). I had never seen myself as one of the bad guys. No, if I were ever in Hogwarts simultaneously as Harry, I would’ve been side by side with the crew, not Malfoy. I made another account and took the test one more time to make sure and was sorted in Ravenclaw. Ravenclaw felt even worse. I just accepted my Slytherin nature and realized being a Slytherin didn’t mean being bad. I took the responsibility of showing other houses Slytherin is a target because of a couple of idiots. Everybody keeps forgetting Wormtail was also a Gryffindor. I digress.
Even Pottermore didn’t open that magical door the way a fan needed.
Now is the time; we’re finally getting our hands on a harry potter game, the soon-to-be-released Hogwarts World. It’s an MMORPG taking place in Hogwarts, but then again, it’s years before Harry Potter.
The closest thing to the experience I expected that I’d played recently was Fire Emblem Three Houses (not Four). You can explore a monastery just like Hogwarts and manage your own house as you fight battles. Though FE3H includes these aspects, it still isn’t Hogwarts.
Such a universe was only possible because one person wrote it, and having this in mind made me want to create my own. When someone gives you a key to an extraordinary fictional world, believable people, and essential moral lessons, it is so much more than a gift. It’s a treasure. I also wanted to help expand other people’s perspectives on human nature. Share the love for writing and reading. That is why Harry Potter was for me much more than just the boy who lived. He was also the boy who taught us to believe not only in magic but also in ourselves, as well as the incomparable power of books.