‘Hogwarts Legacy’ and the Dream Game Phenomenon
Before I begin, I should address the elephant in the room: ‘Hogwarts Legacy’ and its inexorable association with the brand’s creator J.K. Rowling. To provide content, Rowling has drawn ire regarding her bigoted beliefs regarding transgender people (There’s an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to it. Yes, it’s that bad.) This page merely represents the tip of the iceberg of this issue, but to put it very lightly, it isn’t pretty. While the author does not have any direct input in the game’s design or direction, she still financially benefits from its success, which personally gives me pause as to whether I should purchase a copy of it when it releases.
While my singular purchase would only amount to a few dollars into her pocket, it’s still a tough pill to swallow to support a creator who embraces such a dangerous rhetoric, especially one that impacts some of my friends and the people I know. It’s an uncomfortable truth with the Harry Potter franchise as a whole and certainly puts a damper on what used to be one of my childhood favorites. That being said, this game is still relevant to the notion of the “dream game”. Historically, Harry Potter video games have been mostly middling licensed games that coincide with the release of the movies. (I have a sweet spot for the original PlayStation games.)While there are plenty of fantasy stories out there that are more enriching and complex than Harry Potter, the indelible nostalgia gives the series a distinguishable feeling of comfort food for many, myself included. I think the Chris Columbus films have generated a strong whimsical nature to the universe that people have since associated with the Harry Potter franchise.
So, barring its ugly associations, what makes ‘Hogwarts Legacy’ a “dream game” in the first place? For one, an open-world RPG that allows players to fully explore the Wizarding World is something that fans have been yearning for years. You get to decide which house you belong to, play Quidditch, attend classes and explore the dormitory, and fight an evil, yet questionably anti-Semitic villain! Not to mention there’s a morality system, so you could ally with the Dark wizards and decide to kill people or fight for the good guys. This means you could be an evil Gryffindor! If executed properly, ‘Hogwarts Legacy’ could be exactly what fans have been waiting for, which gives it the “dream game” label.
By their very nature, “dream games” are highly subjective and vary from person to person. My personal dream game would be a spiritual successor to ‘L.A. Noire’. A fully fleshed-out detective game set in a particular time period wherein there was a lot of social strife and instability in the background. It would be cool to see a Victorian-era detective game where players are tasked to find Jack the Ripper or some other serial killer. I would also love to see a return to the ‘Motorstorm’ series in some capacity or any arcade-combat racing series for that matter. A “dream game” does not even have to be an original title, either. A simple remaster to ‘Driver: San Francisco’ would be the most exciting thing Ubisoft could release for me. That, or a new ‘Rayman’ game. Whichever comes first.
“Dream games” to gaming enthusiasts could also be less personalized. ‘Elden Ring’, the massive open-world title developed by the legendary FromSoftware, felt like a dream come true for millions of fans of the Souls-like genre. In fact, ‘Elden Ring’ proved to be far more expansive than even the most optimistic fans were expecting, which probably helped the game sell over 12 million copies in about a month. It’s one of those rare moments where a game strongly resonates with millions of people and quickly becomes one of the best games ever released. A lot of times fans will never get what they truly want. As a Mets fan, I’m acutely familiar with this feeling, being incredibly close to seeing my team win the World Series in 2015 felt utterly surreal. For gamers, that kind of feeling must be present when a “dream game” is either announced or released. The feeling of disbelief and awe when something you couldn’t imagine happening comes to fruition in real life.
Context is key when referring to “dream games” as well. If the definition is used too broadly, then virtually any well-received game could be a “dream game”. I would still consider ‘Elden Ring’ a “dream game” largely because it was elusive to the public eye for years upon its announcement that so few people could imagine it ever releasing. Of course, it eventually did and it was exactly what people have been waiting for. Now, what of the games that were announced years ago but have never been seen in the public since? Would a game like ‘Cyberpunk 2077’ be considered a “dream game”? See, this is where execution must come into the picture. While a game could conceptually be considered a “dream game”, that dream dissipates when the game fails to deliver or highly underwhelms.
This is what happened to ‘Cyberpunk 2077’, which was positioned to be an epic sci-fi role-playing game from the critically acclaimed Polish studio CD Projekt RED. What resulted was a really glitchy and unfinished product that barely ran on the machines it was marketed to be optimized for. The dream became a nightmare for CD Projekt RED as the studio toiled away for well-over a year until the game reached a level of fidelity that was deemed acceptable. As with every entertainment product, a video game has to execute its concept well, otherwise audiences wouldn’t think too fondly of it. Fortunately for ‘Hogwarts Legacy’, it does not need to reach Game of the Year levels of quality in order to satisfy fans. If it’s a well-made RPG with a decent amount of depth in its gameplay and world, then it could easily be considered the best Harry Potter game yet.
Despite the connotations, “dream games” will almost always become a reality, which should give optimism to many fans. Even fans of the ‘Half-Life’ series got a new entry to the infamously dormant franchise via ‘Half-Life: Alyx’. Perhaps our own dreams, no matter how unrealistic or lofty, bear a grain of truth underneath the layers of fantasy. While nothing in life is a certainty, our deepest desires, even if they are related to something trivial like video games, should not be entirely ignored. Maybe one day we will get a sequel to ‘Kirby Air Ride’.