More Harry Potter
The rumors are true. An official Sorting Hat exists, and any discerning internet traveler may be sorted into one of Hogwart School of Witchcraft and Wizardry’s four reputable houses. There is celebration and derision throughout the webiverse, and a more-than-occasional worry the Sorting Hat is mis-sorting people. “But I’m a Slytherin! How can I get Hufflepuffed??” People haven’t referred to it as “Hufflepuffed”, but they should.
Welcome to Pottermore
I’m talking, of course, about “Pottermore”, the new (and apparently permanent) online home for J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter universe. The site launched officially on April 14, 2012, revealing to those not included in the initial beta test the site that many speculated was a fancy ploy to sell e-books. While there is an already wildly successful e-book selling service, there is far more to Pottermore — and after being granted a rather jejune codename (I am SpiritChestnut23798), the user is transported to the apparently ever-expanding home to Rowling’s musings and notes on character and background details, as well as several subplots that were not included in the novels. The devil is in the details for any discerning fanperson, and every element to every chapter is dissected and elaborated upon to provide sometimes a greater context for, and sometimes a method to the madness of the prolific wizarding world of Harry Potter.
But enough about the words, right? You want to know what you get to DO. Do I get a wand? When do I get sorted? Do I get a #$%^ing owl or what? Indeed, eager nerd, you get to do all this and far more, going step-by-step through the first book while learning spells, brewing potions, and having yourself some wicked wizard duels, all while earning house points for the rather competitive site-wide House Cup. Yes, you get your very own Gringotts account, and your acceptance into Hogwarts apparently grants you a generous 500 Galleon scholarship that allows you to buy all the bat spleens and flobberworm mucus you can fathom. While the majority of this can hardly be described as “universe enriching,” don’t be surprised if your Potter-fanatic colleague (school or work) experiences a decrease in productivity. This stuff is addicting.
Yet, with all of this information and interactivity, Pottermore never feels self-indulgent. Since the release of The Philosopher’s Stone back in 1997, Rowling (and Scholastic, the series’ publisher) have aimed to start the HP experience well before a single book begins. With Pottermore, the series will do what it seems all successful media in the interactive age must: live on and keep adding intelligently. This expanded Harry Potter universe is truly a gift to the fans, led by an author who continuously reveals herself as much the visionary we expect her to be.
Currently, only the first book is available on Pottermore, which could lead to some unfortunate fraying of the current crop of over two million devotees. Whether the next chapter’s release is a matter of careful timing or playing catch-up, the excessively interesting universe needs further access to stay ahead of fan’s expectations. Perhaps the Ravenclaws will ultimately make the best Pottermore players, as a certain nerdy patience and precociousness is pretty much required for any long-term exploration of these details. Or maybe I’m just bias because that’s where the sorting hat placed me.
Regardless, Pottermore exists in a engrossing incarnation whose only flaw is the need for continued adventures. As for me, the great SpiritChestnut23798? I’ll just be wandering the halls of Hogwarts — reading the intriguing yet mostly innocuous details while leaving silly comments about nearly every factoid on the message board — sometimes thoughts, sometimes questions, all usually tweeted as well. My favorite thus far? “@gsundt: On Professor McGonagall: Do you think she ever gives herself baths in cat form, then has hair balls in human form? #Pottermore”
Note: I’m usually a movie critic. But there ARE Harry Potter movies. And I suspect Pottermore is the beginning of a potentially wildly influential trend of true consumer interactivity for both books and movies. Hence, my review.