A Pottermore Review
I was super excited when I heard about Pottermore and sad that I didn’t make it into the closed beta, so I had to wait extra long to get to see all the pretty. Unfortunately, I ended up being fairly disappointed with something that I had built up so many expectations for…. Since I’m a video gamer as well as a book lover, I can’t help but evaluate Pottermore from both perspectives, so it’s entirely possible you will have a different experience if you have a different background. I would love to hear about everyone’s thoughts and make more friends! So without further ado, here is my Pottermore review!
First off, I’m in Slytherin house and my name is PotionMist9150, and feel free to friend me or send me messages, but you should probably comment first otherwise I might not see them right away! Next, let’s get down to the various elements of the site and what I thought of them :).
Something interesting that Pottermore does that I’ve never seen before is the semi-interactive chapter scenes. For each chapter of a given book there are one or two scenes that have about three layers. These are beautiful! There are cute effects if you move your mouse over various items and you can find items, ingredients and galleons to collect. There are also little bits of text from the books and extra information that Rowling wrote just for the site. Once you’ve moused over all the items, though, there doesn’t seem to be much more to do in each scene. Since the site is in beta, there are only scenes for the first book and the first four chapters of the second book that just came out, so you run through all the scenes fairly quickly.
The thing I look forward to most in all Hogwarts inspired games is the sorting! I can tell that Rowling put a lot of effort into making the sorting very realistic. You answer various questions using a fairly pretty interface and they make it clear that there is no redo if you don’t like your house. It is also very much not random. I was at first surprised and disappointed to get into Slytherin (icky bad guys!) but Rowling wrote a welcome letter from the Prefect that makes me understand much better why I was placed there. I completely believe that I would be placed in Slytherin and happy about it if I got to go to Hogwarts. Jenni Elyse has a really nice post about the sorting process and the message on her blog.
The wand selection had a similarly pretty interface and also asked some good questions that make sense to factor into a wand selection. I found the wand that chose me to not resonate as much as my house. My wand is 13 1/4 in, unyielding, Spruce and a core of Unicorn. I read some about the different meanings of wands, but again, just didn’t feel as connected. I also have yet to see your wand type actually playing any sort of role in the rest of the site.
One of the things that I loved about all the Harry Potter role playing games, that I played in when I was younger, was the community and the long term communication threads. As far as I can tell, Pottermore doesn’t want to encourage such drawn out communication, because the only way of talking to your house mates is by a chatroom that is frequently flooded with posts. There is no forum for long term threads, no message board, nothing. I understand that Pottermore is trying very hard to be very child safe, but this completely ruins any sense of community that I could have with my house or other friends on the site. There isn’t even a good way of asking for advice or help from your house mates. All of this serves to undermine the feeling of camaraderie that we are supposed to feel within our house, and is one of my main critiques of the site.
What to do now?
After you have finished going through the scenes that are currently available, there are a handful of things you can do: practice spells and duel, brew potions, play one of the couple of mini-games and chat in one of two chatrooms. The reason to engage in duels and potions is to earn house points. The reason to earn house points is to be the house with the most points. This is the place where I struggle calling Pottermore a game, and revert to a site. There is so much possibility in the rich world of Hogwarts to make a true game with much more interaction. I would love to go to classes and practice my spells for that reason. I would love to go out and forage for ingredients to brew potions to sell at Hogsmeade to buy something cool. As far as I can tell, this site has the same limitations as even the best book: once you read it, you can read it again, or talk about it, but not much more. Also as far as I can tell, once you use up all the galleons you found while going through the currently available scenes, there isn’t a way to get more to brew more potions. Am I wrong here? I would love to be missing some huge awesome mechanic of the site that would make it so awesome, so please tell me if I missed something!
In the end, the site is gorgeous and has a fairly nice interface, and some interesting new writing from Rowling, but once you’ve spent a few hours with it, it’s fairly repetitive to keep engaging in what is left to you. Pottermore is, however, still in beta, so I really hope that those locked buttons along the top are hiding the truly awesome reason behind all the brewing and dueling. We’ll just have to wait and see though!
Again, I know that my opinion deviates from the norm on this matter, so I would love to hear your thoughts on what you enjoy doing in Pottermore or anything else related!
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All images are screen captures of my play at pottermore.com and are copyrighted to Pottermore
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