Interactive Magic – A Quick Discussion About the Harry Potter Videogames

by Andrew Lee and Robert Lanto

With “The Sims: Makin’ Magic”, coming soon to a store near you, we figured it’s time we talked about the Harry Potter video games. As it stands, Electronic Arts is already re-releasing an updated version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Is it just us or does anyone else find that a little strange? The game just came out two years ago and they’re already re-releasing it? Is it really going to be that different from the last version? But, enough of that; we’re not going to discuss that today (since we can only pass judgment once we’ve actually played it). Our purpose here today is to talk about stuff that we (and hopefully you, too) would like to see in the Harry Potter video games. Well, not just anything; we’re talking about interactivity with the game world.

First of all, “The Sims: Makin’ Magic” will let us do something that we probably won’t be able to do in the Harry Potter games: create havok with the main characters. Sure, collecting the full set of Chocolate Frog cards and learning spells is interesting, but we can have Harry running off with Hermione, Ron owning a pet dragon and Malfoy getting the dreaded guinea pig disease (true “Sims” fans will know what we’re talking about). This is something that we’d like to see translated into the Harry Potter games. As it is, the games basically follow the story of the book they’re based on; but, what if they allow room for variation? Take The Philosopher’s Stone, for example. What if Ron survived the game of chess? What if Ron and Hermione accompanied Harry into the Philosopher’s Stone room? What would happen? What would Voldemort tell Ron and Hermione? What would Hermione see in the Mirror of Erised? From Chamber of Secrets–What about Ron and Harry fighting the basilisk together? Or having a chance (though minute) to save Hermione before she’s attacked (or preventing the attacks if you’re fast). It’s these possibilities that make a little variation just so interesting.

Let’s take it up a notch. Part of “The Sims” was relationships between characters. Now, let’s translate that into the games. What if we wanted Harry to sweep Hannah Abbot off her feet? Look at the possibilities: maybe she could join your party at some points during the game, give Harry advice and items on occasion, maybe she would fall deeply in love with Harry or reject him and leave him with a broken heart. Taking it a step further than that, with the player controlling Harry’s destiny, we could set things between him and Cho right (or wrong, if you feel like it) or have him compete with Ron for Hermione’s heart. The player could walk the fine line and maybe have Malfoy hate Harry less (or more). Okay, we’re not talking about changing the world here–the Dursleys would still loathe Harry, Snape would still be the meanest teacher and Filch would still be a strict enforcer of the school rules–but at least the games would let us see some alternate scenarios.

Okay, here’s a long shot for a Harry Potter game: what about points where we can play as Ron or Hermione? For example, in Chamber of Secrets, when Hermione has to steal the components of the Polyjuice Potion from Snape’s office, why not play as her for a bit? Lead her through the halls, steal the components, and get back in time so Snape doesn’t notice her disappearance. How about playing as Ron sneaking through the hallways to get a few snacks from house-elfs in the kitchen?

See, Harry Potter video games don’t have to be limited to another retelling of the story. We can have the teams that make the games ask J.K. Rowling for loose outlines of what would happen if… and then implement them into the games. After all, why not let the player create their own story, instead of just replaying the same one over and over?