What We Can Learn From the HasanAbi ‘Hogwarts Legacy’ Backlash
A few weeks ago, successful Twitch streamer and leftist commentator HasanAbi (a.k.a. Hasan Piker) floated the idea of streaming Hogwarts Legacy to his 30,000+ daily viewers. He said it would be a charity stream and would raise funds for an organization that helps the transgender community. However, Piker expressed doubt that this would be enough to justify the backlash he would get for engaging in this game. Because he regularly covers trans issues (including franchise creator J.K. Rowling’s transphobia), Piker knew there was an active boycott of this game. That was kind of the end of that conversation until February 6, when several events happened all at once. The game was released, and a 7.8 earthquake hit Turkey.
Put a pin in that second one because we’ll come back to it, and it’s relevant. Hogwarts Legacy‘s limited release (to streamers and some players) heightened the conversation about the ethics of playing the game. While there are conflicting reports on how involved Rowling was in the game, it’s understood that she will likely profit from the game’s royalties. She has continued to finance and platform transphobes pushing for life-and-death anti-trans legislation and has refused to take accountability for the bigotry in her stories, which is directed at many marginalized people.
Whether it was because of Piker or someone else, the conversation was reignited in the HasanAbi broadcast and spilled onto Twitter.
Hasan’s tweets and comments
This was due, in part, to the fact that Piker’s peers were streaming the game. Let’s clarify upfront that Piker stated that he is not looking to stream the game. However, many took issue with Piker’s stance when he said the only reason he’s not playing Hogwarts Legacy is that it’s “not worth” the backlash, and it’s “probably a mid-game.”
In Piker’s video on the topic, he attempts to poke holes in different elements of the boycott. Many of them are common excuses (other than outright transphobia) to play it that we’ve addressed. However, some were specific to his audience, which remains divided on the issue. The only contribution of value was the discussion around how Piker believes contemporary consumer-side activism is useless without counteraction or demands. The Hogwarts Legacy boycott was intended to show Warner Bros. Discovery that the failure of the Fantastic Beasts franchise was not a fluke. We don’t want to support Rowling, nor do we want to line her TERFy pockets. We want her work to be viewed as financially non-viable because we care about living trans people.
This came through in the video but not in the tweets or the Dexetro video—i.e., where most of the backlash comes from. Just looking at the tweets, Piker centers himself and comes off like he’s trying to justify it to himself because he wants to play the game. He’s since clarified a few times on stream that this isn’t the case. However, the damage has been done. You’d have to be—as Piker puts it—looking at the situation very charitably to see the moments when he communicated this more clearly. Alternatively, you’d have to be a subscriber of his official YouTube, of the HasanAbi Industrial Clips Complex, and/or have his stream on all day for this to come across. (I’m two of these.)
The Hogwarts Legacy HasanAbi backlash
Because Piker is such a huge figure online, the backlash is coming from every angle. There’s a mix of people who are genuinely disappointed and people who, as Kaceytron put it, harass him “for breathing every other week.” In addition to getting hate for being a political commentator and internet celebrity, Piker will always be criticized for being a wealthy socialist. This is not just a “Twitter problem” (a phrase I hate), but a problem that exists in all corners of the internet. (His editor Ostonox regularly engages with this too, for the memes.)
Piker has pointed to others correcting misinformation and people replying along the lines of “Well, I don’t care that isn’t fake, I still hate him.” People admit to impression-farming Piker to gain clout. For the unfamiliar, impression-farming is the act of posting for likes and attention. (Arguably, Dexerto does this, too, with Hasan—although this controversy was not one of those circumstances.)
These people are not worth platforming. Still, there were many responses in good faith and/or expressing genuine disappointment that Piker appeared to be centering himself as the victim in the situation.
While Rowling has created racist and sexist work, the real victims of this situation are not the people who can’t play the game—even with the best of intentions, like Hasan’s idea for a charity live stream. The people harmed are the trans people being unfairly framed as a menace once again. They are the ones with the most to lose because all of this benefits transphobes, especially those on—what Piker himself has called—”TERF Island,” a.k.a. the U.K. This is because Rowling uses her money to influence and finance real-world harm to people in the U.K. and abroad.
Midway through the week, #ThankYouHasan started trending on Twitter. It’s unclear if the hashtag was for people showing general support because Piker’s name is usually trending due to backlash (manufactured or not), either for not broadcasting Hogwarts Legacy,or for his ongoing efforts to provide relief to Turkey.
Turkey fundraiser and growing backlash
On the morning that reviews and early access of Hogwarts Legacy went live (and the Piker conversation re-entered the larger discourse), a 7.8 earthquake hit Turkey. There have been over 100 aftershocks. This disaster decimated highly populated areas of Turkey and Syria. Although Piker was born in the U.S., he spent the majority of his life, pre-college, in Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul. While Piker confirmed that his family is safe, there remain a lot of unknowns about the total loss of life. The current death toll is at 23,000 lives and rising. Piker immediately began a charity live stream (that’s currently ongoing) and has, at the time of this writing, raised over $1.2 million via a Twitch livestream. (The American dollar is stronger than the Lira, so this is up to 18 times more valuable on the ground.)
Piker’s response would have been crass no matter what was happening. That’s part of the draw, as well as the parasocial relationship, which stresses both the audience and streamer. However, watching a place you lived for about half of your life experience an incredible amount of suffering likely didn’t help matters.
As the week continued, Piker became more coherent about those initial tweets that received the most backlash. On February 9, Piker reacted to a Ben Shapiro video on the Hogwarts-HasanAbi controversy. Between cathartic dunks on Shapiro, Piker stated that he didn’t regret the statements. He said his perspective is of a streamer talking over a trans person, not an ally talking over a trans person. Piker stated:
[I was aiming to] take the narrative and shift into a direction that was positive because it was inevitable that [Hogwarts Legacy] was going to be successful. But it doesn’t matter. We have a disagreement in how to protest in that regard and everyone got very upset. And that’s okay. That’s not going to change my convictions. That’s not going to change my mentality. I’m not going to be a ‘why I left the left‘-type motherfucker because I have a backbone.
In an effort to combat the daily accusations of being a grifter, Piker went on to repeat that it’s more financially rewarding to be transphobic online. He said he understands why people are mad at him (especially trans people and marginalized people), considering that everything is against them. This includes 13% of his audience which self-identified as trans in a past survey.
The way this controversy has been covered
Jessie Earl (a.k.a. Jessie Gender) and others have suggested to Piker that he stream another game— particularly an indie game made by a trans creator—to raise money if that’s really the goal. Piker has already pushed back against many of the alternatives offered by Earl. However, she said something that perfectly encapsulates the core issue with this whole controversy. This “controversy” includes how quickly the narrative villainized trans perspectives. While unintentional, this formed around Hasan’s response and Girlfriend Reviews’ livestream of Hogwarts Legacy:
[This] frames the discussion in terms of building resentment against the marginalized, against trans people. It frames trans people as the aggressors in this entire situation. As if we’re the hateful, hurtful ones, when in actuality we’re the ones being harmed in all of this. In fact, it’s also very important to point out that one of the biggest right-wing disinformation campaigns about transgender people is that we’re “all bullies trying to control what you say or do!”
Earl then showed clips of Tucker Carlson, Dave Chappelle, and Christopher Rufo saying this exact thing to millions of people. These are clips Piker has even discussed on his stream in the past. Earl made it clear that she doesn’t think these streamers are doing this intentionally, but that it’s happening regardless. Another person contributing to the wider dialogue around this (and not at Piker) is YouTube creator Kat Blaque. Like Earl and even Piker, she made it clear that playing this game does not make someone transphobic. Blaque and Earl both called attention to the fact that this conversation has turned into one about trans people being “annoying” and “pushy.”
I’ve been screaming into the void for over a decade—for most of my life—on YouTube about transgender issues. And the one thing I have for sure come to understand is that society at large does not give a fuck about us.
(featured image: HasanAbi screencap)
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