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Initial Thoughts on “Hogwarts Mystery”


It took almost two decades, but I finally received my letter from Hogwarts. And if you download the app for Hogwarts Mystery, you can get yours too!

Hogwarts Mystery is one of two mobile games set in the Harry Potter universe. The other, Wizards Unite, has not yet been released. While the latter appears to be similar to Pokémon Go, the former focuses more on the story and the chance to see yourself as a wizard in whatever House you choose.

After selecting a look for your avatar, you set off for Diagon Alley, as Harry did, make new friends and enemies, practice spells, and brew potions. You get to choose what rewards you earn for completing certain objectives in class. Every avatar has opportunities to level up in three ways: Courage, Empathy, and Knowledge. How you respond to various questions determines how fast you level up in each category, and sometimes an answer will be locked because you don’t have enough Courage/Empathy/Knowledge to say it.

You’ll also discover that your avatar has a mysterious family past: his/her brother got expelled from Hogwarts and disappeared. It looks like this will be the story arc that carries over for all seven years at Hogwarts. Luckily, your avatar finds a best friend in Rowan Khanna, who supports you in your quest for answers and defends you from anyone who tries to mess with you.


I love her.

Rowan has been my favorite part of Hogwarts Mystery (outside of the wish fulfillment of going to Hogwarts). His/her gender changes depending on what gender you select, but I’ll refer to her as “she” for this review since that’s what I picked. She’s kind, funny, and loyal, and there’s something about her that just reminds me so much of the friends that I have in real life.

Unfortunately, I can’t hang out with my friends in real life while playing Hogwarts Mystery. I’d hoped that there would be some kind of multiplayer feature that allowed my avatar to interact with others. But so far, that doesn’t appear to be an option. Hopefully, it will come with an upgrade somewhere down the line, because I don’t want to imagine going to Hogwarts without my real friends by my side.

Hogwarts Mystery looks great, with fun, colorful graphics that remind me of the old Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets games that I used to play on my GameCube. There are times when my avatar’s facial expressions look awkward, but it’s not a deal breaker.

And speaking of those other video games, Hogwarts Mystery has some nice shout-outs to them as well. Your avatar will eventually learn the Flipendo spell, which never appeared in the books or movies, but was the go-to spell for just about everything in the video games. You’ll also learn how to brew Wiggenweld Potion, which Harry used to heal himself. It makes for a nice blend of the canon established by the books, movies, and video games, with something for every fan to love, regardless of how they were introduced to Harry Potter’s world. (Now, if they could just throw in a reference to A Very Potter Musical, I’ll be set.)

I’m enjoying the story so far. At first, I felt disappointed by the choice in setting because I wanted my avatar to be a random Hufflepuff having adventures during Harry’s years at Hogwarts. Now that I’ve actually started playing the game, I can admit that it was a good idea to place it in the time period between Voldemort’s initial defeat and Harry’s school years. This choice allows for an original story about your avatar and their friends, and we still get to interact with most of the teachers from the books, i.e. Professor Snape and Flitwick. Our avatar’s backstory has only been revealed in bits and pieces so far, but it’s intriguing.

I also like how we get to choose our House, rather than take another quiz. Granted, I never had a preference until Pottermore’s quiz put me in Hufflepuff. And if you like taking quizzes, you’ll find the Sorting Ceremony a little anticlimactic. But then again, doesn’t this tie into one of the themes from the books?  As Professor Dumbledore says in Chamber of Secrets: “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

So, the story’s great, the characters are wonderful, and the visuals look good. It’s a Hogwarts fan’s dream!

Except when it isn’t.

With a free-to-play mobile app, there will always be issues with micro transactions. After all, the developers have to make money somehow, and I don’t take issue with that. I do take issue with how the game prevents you from doing very much at any given time before you either wait for your energy bar to refill, or start paying.

Your avatar has an energy bar, and mine currently has a maximum of 25 points. Whenever you take lessons, your character spends energy doing things like studying, talking to Rowan, collecting potions ingredients, etc. And these are all things that you have to do in order to complete the lesson and move forward. More than once, I have run out of energy mid-lesson and needed to put the game on hold until the bar refilled. It’s also not very exciting or fun to tap away at your phone while your character “does” things and nothing’s really happening.

The game becomes more fun when you get to do things that don’t cost energy, like bonding with Rowan over a game of Gobstones and trying to guess the right responses to heighten your friendship. I’ve only just learned how to duel, but that looks promising as well. You need to pick whether to assume an Aggressive, Sneaky, or Defensive stance against your opponent, and then select spells or healing potions to use.

There’s one other major issue that I have with Hogwarts Mystery: the lack of customizable options for your avatar. Although you can adjust the shape of the face, nose, and eyes, all avatars have the same body type. You only get a handful of options for hairstyles and such when you first start the game, and everything else needs to be unlocked by spending gems and coins. This includes glasses. Why do we need to pay money to unlock glasses? Lots of people wear glasses. Harry Freakin’ Potter wears glasses. It’s not going to matter to most people, but it’s one of my pet peeves when a game doesn’t give you that option right from the start.

Given time, I’m hoping that the developers of Hogwarts Mystery will iron out the issues with the gameplay and find other ways to profit off of micro transactions. The game has a lot of promise with good characters, an interesting story, and shout outs to the Harry Potter franchise in all of its forms. If you’re a diehard fan, you will have fun here. But it requires either a lot of patience or a lot of Galleons to get the most out of the experience.

On Fangirling and Carrying On

On Fangirling and Carrying On

…Or Fandom, Nostalgia and Coming Out as a Fanfiction Writer
By: Thia the Bard

A lot can come to mind when the word “fangirl” is used. You may see images of rabid teenage girls; nerdy girls gushing on YouTube; or perhaps even a book that was written by Rainbow Rowell in 2013. None of these give you a clear definition of what exactly a fangirl is, though, or why it is often said with a sneer. Well, let’s go to for an actual definition:

“Fangirl [fan-gurl]

Noun, Informal: Often Disparaging.

  1. An obsessive female fan, especially of something technological or from popular culture”

Wait… “often disparaging?” Well, ouch. No wonder I so often feel shame about admitting to being a fangirl. If I was not a fangirl, however, I never would have met some of my best friends. Without fanfiction and fandoms, my life would be very different.

I have been conditioned to feel shame for not only reading but also writing fanfiction. Yes, it is true. I, who am so totally cool, have written fanfiction. Not only have I written fanfiction, but I was also in an elite group of girls who wrote together. Before I go any further, though, I should probably explain what fanfiction is and why I would be hesitant to talk about it.

Fanfiction, or fanfic, is a fictional account written by a fan of a popular television show, book, movie or video game. Usually, it is used to explore themes that the original medium is not exploring. When I first started writing with my friends, it was back in the early 2000s, so we mostly wrote about what would happen if characters fashioned after us were placed in our favorite stories. Ah yes, back when original characters (OCs) were still considered novel and even encouraged.

Now, people groan at OCs, since so many of them have been written as “perfect” and/or overly magical versions of the writer. For example, my character in our Harry Potter fanfic was the daughter of Sirius Black, an American exchange student, with purple hair, who wore combat boots with her robes and ended up marrying Draco Malfoy. It didn’t seem so hard to imagine different endings for Harry Potter back then, since we were living in a magical time before the final book was published. The world was our oyster and the only thing that stood in our way was our imagination.

Our story starts, like all good adventures should, in a library. I had just begun volunteering in my high school library when a girl with curly red hair came in yelling to our librarian. I tried to hide behind a Scholastic Harry Potter display because I was new and shy (also, she was kind of intimidating, and would probably want it to be noted that she still is). I was spotted and it was discovered that I liked Harry Potter and we became friends. I hung out with her a little bit before she broached the idea of me writing with her and her friend. I looked them up online and read everything they had written. I was was more than a little nervous about the prospect of writing with two such talented people. At our first meeting, another author, who happened to be the main editor, looked me up and down like she was going to eat me for breakfast.

We added two other people to our group during the next school year. We shared a love of Harry Potter, anime, music and Anne Rice. The confidence and security I got from not only writing but also from just being with these girls was astounding. By the time I graduated, our group had grown and we had become a family. They are the first people I go to when I have a problem. They are the ones that I share the most jokes with. I am certain I would not be who I am without them. I didn’t fit in; not in the greater school or in my family at the time. I cannot discuss fandom without thinking of them. That is why I am always baffled by the flippant way that some people discuss fandom and “fangirls.” Fangirls are my family. Fangirls have saved my life.

I have been thinking about how true that last sentence is since I picked up Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell a few years ago. That book brought back so many memories; memories of my high school days, but mostly memories of college. I was a lot like Cath; so much so that I had to put the book down multiple times. At one point, a friend of mine found me with my head down, arms over it and the book slewn nearby. It was almost too much to be thrown back to that place during my Freshman year when I could hardly navigate my way through the dark and choppy waters of new adulthood.

Thankfully, I met other fangirls. I made friends with people who loved musicals and fantasy; girls who marathoned Lord of the Rings; girls who had long discussions about the values of different Hogwarts houses and where we belonged; girls who wanted to be Jedi or Superheroes; girls who loved horror movies and zombies as much as I did; and girls who loved talking history and politics.

These girls were there when I was given news that changed a lot for me. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety during my first semester. I was scared, mostly, because of the concerns of the councilor. She was very worried by the results of my test and, in a flurry, scheduled me to talk to someone. She even cleared some time to talk to me right then and there because she was that worried about me.

I had always known there was something. I wasn’t a happy kid, but I was good at faking it. Now, I couldn’t. Now, there was a real diagnosis and a very concerned professional staring at me. My friends banded around me instantly. No one said I was faking it or just told me to get over it. The fangirls became shields, shoulders to cry on and distractions, depending on what I needed. I would not have made it through this time without them. Therapy was difficult. Collage was even more so. If not for the support of fangirls and fandoms, I would not be typing this article.

I have met new fangirls since then. Some are coworkers, who have become friends and people with whom I can gush about books. Some are gamers, who have helped me evolve into a person I could never have imagined. I met two of them at a New Year’s Eve party. I walked in with a college friend to find an intimidating redhead and her good friend (who was her main editor) while I tried to find a corner to hide in. Sound familiar? Yes, I laugh about it a lot. I wasn’t even there for a half an hour before we got into a conversation about fandoms and they had decided I was their friend. Later, they invited me to take a role in their group about women gamers (hint: you know them as Crymson Pleasure and Vanri the Rogue), which has led to so much growth.

I have a lot of fangirls who are my friends. I am lucky enough to be in a lot of fandoms. I was there when people thought that Draco Malfoy was going to be a Vampire or that Ron Weasley was the Seer*. Fangirl and Carry On, also by Rowell, had me in tears recently because of these fandoms; the memories of these fandoms; the magic of fanfiction; and how friendship and love really are more powerful than anything.  They helped me through school, they help me with depression, they helped me when my mother lost her battle with a whole slew of painful things I have gone through. I have shining memories of creating worlds and communities, some of which have been left unfinished (so sorry, Gundam Wing fanfic).

In short: fanfiction and fandoms made me a fangirl. Being a fangirl gave me ideas and worlds that I never would have had before. Being a fangirl gave me friends that I have needed in order to continue on my own adventure. Without fandom, I would never have made it to this point. Without these shiny magical things, I would never have been able to carry on.

This article is cross published with the West Chester Public Library

*PS. Ron totally should have been the Seer, but that could be a whole other article.