Friday, August 17, 2012

I am not a Slytherin

Have you tried Pottermore, the new official website of the Harry Potter books, which invites visitors to explore the stories "in a whole new way and discover exclusive new writing from J.K. Rowling"? Well, I have, and I can tell you it's complete rubbish.

It's an interactive website that is intended to enhance one's reading of the books. Each chapter of each book (right now, only the first book and parts of the second are ready) is done up in Flash, users encouraged to click around to uncover bits of writing from J.K. Rowling, ranging from encyclopedia entries to behind-the-scenes info. In practice, it feels like it just summarizes the books. I haven't read them in a few years, but I remember the stories well enough that slowly trudging through this buggy website chapter-by-chapter (and Pottermore forces you to go in order; you can't jump around to whichever parts might interest you) feels pointlessly redundant, adding nothing of value to my appreciation of the fiction. If you were actually reading the books alongside the website, maybe it would be more fun, but, on the contrary, I have to imagine it would feel even more redundant, not to mention cumbersome, having to switch back and forth between book and website all the time. It might work better if the Pottermore content were directly integrated into digital versions of the novels, so that you could click around to explore further as highlighted terms catch your interest during your reading. Still, although that works for Wikipedia, I don't think that's any way to read a novel. I don't even like interrupting myself to read the footnotes in annotated editions.

Pottermore also features a social network game component. As you read along through the chapters, you also progress through your own journey at Hogwarts, eventually opening things up for you to compete against other users in . . . I don't know what, because I didn't get that far. To start, you have to select from one of a handful of usernames that the site makes up for you. My options were uniformly stupid. I suppose users are not permitted to create their own names because Pottermore needs to be kid-friendly, and they certainly wouldn't want kids exposed to perverts with all manner of wiener names. Anyway, after that comes the "fun stuff," as you eventually receive your own wand and get sorted into one of the four houses at Hogwarts. The site determines these according to a bunch of personality quizzes. For example, during the sorting, you may be asked, "How would you like to be known to history: The Wise, The Good, The Great, or The Bold?" In this particular case, it's totally transparent which house each choice represents, so if you wanted to increase your odds of getting into Gryffindor, you would of course choose "The Bold." But other questions are less obvious or one-to-one, and, in any case, I tried to answer every question honestly. In this case, I chose "The Good," obviously corresponding to Hufflepuff, even though I would personally be embarrassed to end up in Hufflepuff. A lot of the questions I did not have immediate responses to (because I didn't particularly care one way or another), and I might well have chosen differently were I asked again. For example, asked whether I preferred "Dawn" or "Dusk," I chose "Dusk" simply because the sun has been way too hot lately.

After over an hour of slogging my way through Pottermore, including one instance of the site locking up my computer, to finally reach the sorting ceremony in chapter 7, I was ultimately informed that I belonged to Slytherin.


Along with getting your wand, getting to find out your house is the only remotely exciting part of Pottermore. And after all that buildup, my waiting patiently, playing by their infantile rules, having to read through summaries of stories that I already knew all too well, finally my reward for all that was to be told that I was a bad person. And this from a website obviously aimed primarily at kids! Why is Slytherin even a possibility? What devoted Harry Potter reader would ever dream of getting sorted into the house for jerks? You might as well tell them they've been sorted into hell.

For a moment there, I was tempted to open up a second Pottermore account, so that I could retake the sorting quiz, gaming it so it would let me into Gryffindor. But then sense took back hold of me, as I realized what madness that would have been. Pottermore had already taken so much from me. I was not about to let it take any more. Nice try, talking hat, but you don't get to tell me where I belong.

1 comment:

Czardoz said...

Should have titled this post, "Potter-no-more."