By Natasha B.
I first heard of Pottermore in June 2011; naturally, I was overwhelmed and massively excited. I had no idea of what to expect, yet Pottermore still managed to disappoint me.
I waited in anticipation for the Magic Quill challenge and got an account on the second day. For my beta account I was sorted into Ravenclaw. For someone such as myself who had no friends they could truly relate to or who were “Potterheads” it was a dream come true. In those early beta days of no dueling, brewing for exorbitant amounts of time, and blaming “evil Slytherins for cheating” was the first time I really felt part of the fandom.
Ravenclaws had their own chat away from Pottermore, and the way to get the password was to answer a riddle. I have made friends from all over the world. I remember constantly re-matching people in duels, losing but continuing to rematch them, asking endless questions, having heated discussions about everything and anything, and watching “food fights” in the Great Hall. I remember being in awe of the “leaderboarders,” my (non-Potterhead) sister having to teach me how to duel, and proudly reaching 100 potions. I also remember the glitches of not being able to collect potions ingredients or objects, heating glitches on Potions, and eight-hour lags in the common rooms and Great Hall.
However, what I remember most is the sense of community that being a Pottermore beta tester inspired: the Facebook pages and groups, blogs, and Tumblr posts.
By the time Pottermore opened to the public I myself had changed a lot. I decided to open a new account on Pottermore since I no longer completely identified with the Ravenclaw description. Upon being sorted into Slytherin, I immediately felt like I belonged.
I did all-nighters during House Cup times to earn as many points as I could, I reached 600 Antidote Potions, and celebrated with the friends who had supplied me with ingredients to brew with. I remember the parties in our common room after winning House Cups, “dancing” with friends, posting April Fools’ Day jokes in the Great Hall, and the ardent happiness that surrounded all of this. I marked milestones (e.g., 30,000 points) with the same pride a mother would mark her baby’s.
However, with all these new changes occurring around Pottermore, Pottermore has not progressed. The duel glitches are even worse now, and every third spell of mine drops. In other duels my duel looks to be perfect, yet Pottermore does not count it to be. I am unable to brew most potions because Pottermore does not register my mouse clicks. There are trolls who report people with huge numbers of points or who look remotely helpful or encouraging in the common room. These people are automatically suspended or banned by Pottermore even though they have not broken the Pottermore Terms and Conditions. When we write to Pottermore we receive canned responses that most of the time are not related to our questions and are told to read the guidance on the very website we are locked out from. Even when we are able to read it, it raises more questions and answers none of our own.
My account was banned. I remember sitting in front of the computer screen, crying silently. I know many of you will be now taken aback that someone can have such an attachment to a computerized, non-animated object. However, I felt and still feel that my account is part of my integral identity. I am just as apt to look up when someone calls my Pottermore username as well as my real name, and I feel that some of my Pottermore friends are better than my real life friends. After crying, I began swearing, only to begin crying again. Pottermore had not given me any notice of this ban. I had been reported 25 times in the space of two hours. Why? Because I posted comments like this:
Several other Pottermore users have been blanket banned or suspended for similar “transgressions,” although Pottermore did not feel that we needed explanations to why we were banned or any customer service in particular.
Pottermore has changed. The community feel has been lost or segregated. There are more forums, Facebook groups, and blogs than ever. On these, there is the same feeling of community, but on Pottermore itself there is not. There are fights in the common rooms and violent or sexual role play. This is not what Pottermore was made for. We spend more time on these external sites than Pottermore itself. Is it the fear of having accounts suspended? Or is it just the general apathy of the Pottermore team that makes what could and should have been a great experience one for tears and despair?
We want to be free from the fear of having our accounts suspended or banned because of rouge trolls. We want to be able to embrace the spirit of what Pottermore should be but will never be able to be: a site where we can chat without serious moderation that doesn’t let you post numbers or some Pottermore usernames. As a friend said, “Moderation allows you to post about eating babies but doesn’t let you say ‘nice to meet you.’” We want to be able to encourage others, send out duels with no glitches and get replies, brew potions with no glitches and not have them disappear, and be proud of what we as Harry Potter fans have achieved and the legacy that has come about from us.
Today, when I think of Pottermore I think of the glitches and trolls, canned email responses, tears and laughter, and my friends. I love it, and I hate it, yet everyday I log back on. Why? My friends, my competitiveness, and my determination not to let a website beat me!