Hogwarts Legacy Lead Designer Used To Run Anti-Social Justice YouTube Channel

Hogwarts Legacy Lead Designer Used To Run Anti-Social Justice YouTube Channel
Screenshot: Warner Bros. / Avalanche Software
To sign up for our daily newsletter covering the latest news, features and reviews, head HERE. For a running feed of all our stories, follow us on Twitter HERE. Or you can bookmark the Kotaku Australia homepage to visit whenever you need a news fix.

Troy Leavitt is a lead designer at Warner Bros. development studio Avalanche Software currently working on controversial Harry Potter game Hogwarts Legacy. He also ran a reactionary YouTube channel focused on attacking feminism and social justice for over a year.

This information was first provided by Did You Know Gaming? contributor Liam Robertson, who highlighted the channel Friday evening on Twitter. An accompanying screenshot shows a small portion of Leavitt’s YouTube channel, with video titles such as “The Injustice of Social Justice,” “In Praise of Cultural Appropriation,” and “Are Thoughtcrimes Becoming Real,” the latter a reference to George Orwell’s dystopic sci-fi novel 1984. Right-wing commentators often use the book’s authoritarian “Big Brother” government as a comparison point in their criticism, likening the fictional surveillance state to real-world equality movements.

Among Leavitt’s other videos are lengthy defences of both John Lasseter, the Pixar co-founder who left his position at Disney in 2017 after allegations of sexual misconduct, and Nolan Bushnell, the Atari co-founder who Kotaku’s reporting found to have fostered a toxic work environment for women. In some of his videos, Leavitt expressed support for Gamergate, a movement that fostered harassment against women and other minorities in the gaming industry, and criticised Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes vs. Women series as an “uninformed fringe position.” Leavitt discussed his opinions on Gamergate in-depth during a 2017 interview, saying, “Gamergate, while painful at times, on the whole proved to be a good thing,”

Leavitt didn’t respond to Kotaku’s multiple requests for comment in time for publication.

A sampling of Leavitt's YouTube uploads. (Screenshot: YouTube / Troy Leavitt) A sampling of Leavitt's YouTube uploads. (Screenshot: YouTube / Troy Leavitt)

A veteran developer, Leavitt got his start as a consultant on games like 1996’s Twisted Metal 2 and 1997’s Jet Moto 2, eventually moving onto a long stint at Disney. He contributed to a variety of licensed games and directed several Disney Infinity expansions before leaving the company in July 2016.

Leavitt published his first video to his YouTube channel in September 2016, sharing a steady stream of content until his last upload in May 2018. It’s since accrued over 24,000 subscribers and 2 million total views. While the channel hasn’t been active recently, Leavitt’s Twitter profile still links to it, alongside his status as a Hogwarts Legacy developer. In one video, Leavitt claims that he made his employers at Warner Bros. aware of the channel after being hired at Avalanche Software in February 2018 and that they didn’t seem too worried about its content.

“Some of you have expressed that, due to my commentary on some game industry controversies and my sympathies for the Gamergate movement, that I might have a difficult time should I ever want to return to professional game development,” Leavitt said. “I’m happy to say that, even though I disclosed my YouTube channel to WB Games, it didn’t appear to be an issue for them. Not that they endorse anything that I’ve said, of course, but at least they seem more concerned with making good games than with pushing some kind of a social justice agenda, so there is hope.”

Warner Bros. declined to comment when contacted by Kotaku for a statement on Leavitt’s views and involvement with Hogwarts Legacy.

Hogwarts Legacy has already drawn concern from fans due to controversy around its source material. J.K. Rowling first established the Harry Potter universe, a multimedia franchise known today as the Wizarding World, with her 1997 debut novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The series has since gone on to spawn several more books, feature film adaptations, spin-offs, extensive merchandising, and even a stage play, making Rowling a multi-millionaire in the process. On the back of this notoriety, the British author has waged a tireless campaign against transgender rights, which in turn caused both the developers at Avalanche Software and players looking forward to Hogwarts Legacy to express concern over her potential involvement with the game.

In September 2020, Warner Bros. added a section to the official Hogwarts Legacy FAQ explaining that Rowling is not “directly involved” with the game apart from providing the rights to her Harry Potter franchise. When contacted by Kotaku around that time, Warner Bros. pointed us towards a statement the company gave to Variety in June 2020 concerning Rowling’s anti-trans statements.

“The events in the last several weeks have firmed our resolve as a company to confront difficult societal issues,” the company said. “Warner Bros.’ position on inclusiveness is well established, and fostering a diverse and inclusive culture has never been more important to our company and to our audiences around the world. We deeply value the work of our storytellers who give so much of themselves in sharing their creations with us all. We recognise our responsibility to foster empathy and advocate understanding of all communities and all people, particularly those we work with and those we reach through our content.”

Later that month, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment president David Haddad reportedly told employees during a private Q&A that Rowling was “entitled to express her personal opinion on social media.”

Many fans have expressed concerns over Leavitt’s involvement with Hogwarts Legacy since his YouTube history came up a few days ago, spurred on by the controversies already surrounding the upcoming game. Several users on popular gaming forum ResetEra have asked moderators to ban Hogwarts Legacy discussion altogether due to both Rowling’s influence on the franchise and Leavitt’s work as lead designer, a request moderators seem to be taking seriously.

Video games are made by massive teams of people with vastly different backgrounds, viewpoints, and opinions. Even as lead designer, it’s very unlikely Leavitt has single-handedly infected every aspect of Hogwarts Legacy with an anti-feminist agenda. That said, it’s obvious why folks might be wary of interacting with a game developed by someone with his beliefs, adapted from works that have been sullied by their creator’s own bigoted worldview. Harry Potter might not be my personal cup of tea, but I feel for those who have seen something they cherished growing up become such a minefield of intolerance.

Comments

  • If Disney and DC can continue to hire James Gunn despite his momentary firing for his pro-pedophile postings in the past with the support of those supposedly in support of justice, then I definitely don’t see an issue of someone posting critques of fascistic portions of the internet.

  • “An accompanying screenshot shows a small portion of Leavitt’s YouTube channel, with video titles such as … “Are Thoughtcrimes Becoming Real,””
    I’m surprised Ian would leave that one in the article, all things considered.

    • Have an upvote. Being publicly persecuted for wrongthink is the yellow patch of our time. I wonder when Kotaku’s warrior authors will realise that they have become the monster they set out to slay…

    • “But I feel for those who have seen something they cherished growing up become such a minefield of intolerance.”

      This was also pretty fuckin ironic coming from Ian.

  • And? Kotaku America staff are still promoting WOTC and MTG, a company that covered up their known rapist art director and still hasn’t compensated the co-workers that were raped. I find that far more concerning than “dude doesn’t like people faking social justice advocacy”.

    • Don’t forget the time Kotaku US posted cartoon child porn, Or the time Kotaku UK falsely accused Persona 5 of containing a song with a disability slur in it.

      • Yes, we can add all that to the list. Kotaku US has been platforming far more abhorrent individuals than anything this dude’s done.

        • And yet, here ya’ll are, contributing to Kotaku’s eyeballs, and profits, every single day, multiple times a day.

          It’s almost as if you’re looking for a subtle way to support what Kotaku is doing. Or maybe you just like being offended. Or maybe it’s a little bit of both?

          • Kotaku AU is not Kotaku US and has no say in what’s posted in their editorial department. Have you considered checking the URL before posting?

  • ” only ze approved opinions are allowed in ze game industry!

    If you do not tow ze party line, you will be sent to za gulag comrade! ”

    For a group that supposedly hates fascists, you sure do seem to love acting like them.

    • Oh and don’t try to claim you aren’t trying to cancel the dude, it’s quite clear you want him fired for wrong think. And attempting to do so in the middle of challenging times like the pandemic frankly makes you spineless cowards.

      • ^ This. It would be awful if someone had an intelligent, insightful and original opinion on social media in 2020/21. I mean, ‘social justice’ – perhaps THE oxymoron of the past decade…? If you want justice, turn to the law, if there isn’t one, then there’s a clear path to getting one implemented. If you don’t like it, don’t be a part of the human race and society. Perhaps there’s another country that suits you better…? (this is of course a general comment I’ve had my lawyers look at before I posted it and not in any way aimed at the above poster or anyone in this thread, Kotaku or the news gaming industry as a whole, in any way, shape or form! :).

        And likening this crap to 1984 is not correct – it’s more like the Russian proletariat at the turn of the century going to civil war brandishing the 888 slogan. 100 years later we’ve come full circle and most wage-slaves work 10-14 hrs days of their own free will ffs! In 1984 BB or the government was controlling people predominantly, here they just give us the sandbox & go at it other full bore! Ok, maybe it’s a little like the novel in the way that they got us to turn on each other for smaller & smaller crap, without even taking up our legal rights first & foremost. If you can’t get justice in a courtroom, let’s resort to the new box of justice (to go with the 3 or 4 the yanks typically adhere to): the smear-campaign box! Or should it be called the rotten fruit box, which tends to splatter everyone once you start throwing it around and taking justice into your own hands…? Why do we have employee rights, bodies such as Fair Work Act, libel/defamation laws, criminal laws for inciting to riot/violence, 99 shades of sexual harassment workplace laws (see what I did there? 😉 and all manner of other protections in our country, if no one even bothers to start there & see if they can get, you know, actual REAL justice??? :-/

        And all this Farcebook crap – as much as I despise the entire SM scene & have never used it or Twit-ter (who’d the biggest twit?), I completely support their standpoint, if not the way they’ve gone about making it. If we allow these dinosaur media cartels to start back-taxing the news, NO news of any kind will be free soon! Not even gaming news. We’re at the point where we now have to pay to get Covid or bushfire or other disaster news online from the big publishers, what next, will they take a dollar off every monthly ISP sub payment to fund their monopolies? Kinda like the music cartels tried to tax blank CD sales back in the 90s lol!

        I’m over all of it, gettin too old for this shit. Might be time to plan for remote working early retirement to somewhere like Thailand, where no one can understand anything I say or won’t give a shit if they did, where at least no one sues you for speaking your mind (as long as you don’t criticize the king as that’s in their constitution, in which case they just shoot you, ahem).

    • Imagine thinking Sarkeesian wasn’t a garbage human! (those 2 things don’t have to be mutually inclusive/exclusive ;).

    • I dunno, Gamergate might be having a point again when Kotaku US is promoting MTG’s “Hogwarts” themed set of cards (to spite “terfy” JKR according to the author) and then publishes this article defaming a Harry Potter/Hogwarts developer the next day. We sure this isn’t cash for comment? It lines up awfully conveniently when the Hogwarts dev has been happily minding his own business working for a living.

  • I see Kotaku has failed to see its target audience yet again – what a stupid article trying to get someone fired. Nice work.
    Things like this just prove his point entirely.

    • Given that’s this is pretty much the normal editorial line for Kotaku, what specifically do you think is Kotaku’s target audience?

      I mean, let’s accept that there’s a fair few alt-right comment section regulars who feel personally victimised every time a social justice article is published. And sure, that’s no doubt driving Kotaku to publish even more of the same in order to encourage repeat readers, and extra ad impressions, but what makes you think that this is somehow Kotaku’s target audience?

      No doubt the constantly offended are just dying to tell us in comments how offended they are, but seriously, would you keep returning to the site simply to be offended without even letting us all know about it? Kinda defeats the purpose, don’t you think?

      So I’m thinking that perhaps the actual target audience is perhaps all those other readers who don’t feel the need to tell us every single time a social justice article is published how offended they are at having to read social justice articles.

      Just a thought.

      • Serious question Angry. You keep saying “alt-right”, etc etc… But where does alt-right start for you?? Is it just after Mao?

        I mean… You quite enjoy these “alt-right” hit pieces, yet you never once question why Kotaku hasn’t written a hit piece on Disney, after publically thanking the CCP and a local government for allowing them to film Mulan in basically the same region as the Uyghur concentration camps… I think that would be a slightly better hit piece than this…

        But I spose because Disney love their hypocritical virtue signalling, and the CCP align with your idealogical beliefs, you and half the writer here at Kotaku are happy to turn a blind eye… Because those pesky privileged white males are always sneaking around the corner

  • Ian Walker you need to check your privilege.

    No this isn’t a dig at the joke that this became, this is a legitimate request that everytime politics and stuff comes up and we get into cancel culture which this is facilitating, what are we looking at for the end game here?

    You personally disagree with his views, awesome. Does this guy deserve to lose his job, have his named tarred and feathered over it? no.

    Have you watched his videos? do you know the guy personally?

    I’ve met him, he’s a nice guy and he’s one friendly person who will have a polite conversation with you and great discourse, you won’t always agree with everything he’s saying but he’s never once advocated for hatred, a lot of his views are also second hand twisted.

    Watch a bunch of his videos and have an open mind and be aware that one form of political views are not the only answers, then come back and tell us if you still think he should be cancelled?

    • I’ve never understood ppl only watching/listening to other ppls who agree with them or who they ‘like’. How does that challenge your world views, core beliefs or critical thinking in any way? It doesn’t. It can’t. I guess perhaps most of us are just sheep waiting to the herded, a mob waiting to have a mentality painted over it and the rest rebels without a cause.

      ‘Don’t be of a party spirit’ the Bible says. As a life-long individual who is also a socialist at heart mind you, I’m yet to see evidence to the contrary, more’s the pity. Oh brave new world…

      • Tru dat. Evidenced never more so than on Kotaku.au where 80% of the comments regulars return every single day in order to read articles such as this one that they vehemently disagree with.

        Well, props to the lot of you I say. Well done for being so open-minded.

    • “Check your privilege”, seriously? Is it possible for one argument to lose any more credibility in the first sentence than trotting out that tired, clichéd alt-right talking point? I guess, props at least for failing to also drop “woke” and “SJW”, so there is that, I guess?

      Still, I’m curious to know how it’s presumably perfectly okay to make offensive comments, but it’s not okay to critique those comments. The lot of y’all so-called ‘free speechs’ advocates really need to grapple with the idea that critiquing someone else’s free speech is itself an act of free speech. That’s kinda the point of the whole exercise, letting ideas argue themselves out in the court of public opinion.

      It’s hardly like Ian Walker has the ability to get anyone sacked. Only someone’s employer can do that, and only after hearing the arguments. If someone is indeed later sacked because their employer decided that they were actually a wanker, well, that’s just free speech’s end-game at work, eh? Doing its job. People listed to each side of the issue and came to a conclusion.

      Freedom of speech is literally the opposite of freedom from criticism, despite you’re implication to the contrary. And Troy Leavitt is hardly some poor, powerless first year graduate incapable of defending himself without intervention from the Kotaku peanut crowd.

    • And yet, here you are. Unlike, say, your yawns at the next gripping instalment of Snakatu, jpegs of crappy reviews on Steam, or 50MB cosplay dumps. But thanks for enlightening us with your thoughts.

      • Fuckin hell, angora, have a look in the mirror, mate. How many replies do you want in the same thread, and in basically nearly every thread, that are the exact same whinging you’re complaining about? You live on this shit as much as they do.

  • I prefer my headline:
    Sites like Kotaku used to be full of games journalists, not political/social commentators co-opting gaming websites in order to do harm to anyone they see as not thinking ‘correctly’.

    Maybe a little wordy… But just automate that shit and have it cut off at a random word and it’d fit right in.

  • Ian,
    Read the comments above carefully and ask yourself, ‘Am I the problem here?’ Maybe it’s time for you to let go of all your hate and accept the fact that we are all different. Kotaku writers have become so full of pissy rage and theatrical indignation that they have forgotten what they are meant to cover on these pages – games. Sure, games are made by people, and people aren’t all perfect, or as nice as you want them to be, but you’ve got to move past that and just accept what you can’t change. The world took a while to catch on but everyone is now wise to the cynical virtue signalling that has diluted arguments such as yours. Stop. Just stop.

    • Give it a hot minute. The angry sycophants will be here shortly spouting their hypocritical rhetoric from their sky high horses donned in their shining white armour.

      • I’d like to see how when Kotaku US, as I pointed out above, is constantly promoting a company that allowed a serial and self confessed rapist to act as their art director and have countless victims. There is no moral high ground for that alone. They can’t pretend to care about social justice when they’re still promoting a company that was (and likely still is) actively allowing harm to come to their female workers.

      • If one is looking for examples of shining white knights ready to jump in at the first hint of criticism to pile on in defence of yet another privileged white guy, well, one hardly needs to look further than the Kotaku comments section, that’s for sure.

        • The “privileged white guy” in this article isn’t hiding the crimes of a confessed rapist, nor continuing to promote a company that still hasn’t compensated the women involved in those crimes after knowing about the aforementioned rapist.

          • Best part is this from an earlier comment: ““Check your privilege”, seriously? Is it possible for one argument to lose any more credibility in the first sentence than trotting out that tired, clichéd…”

            Allow me to fix a couple words for Angryfish.

            ““privileged white guy”, seriously? Is it possible for one argument to lose any more credibility in the first sentence than trotting out that tired, clichéd…”

            There we go. Hope you wiped away the froth from the corners of your mouth, and refilled that moisturiser bottle next to your PC Angryfish.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!