Remember back a year or two ago when everyone was clamoring to join Pottermore and almost every post on every social media outlet was bragging about where they got sorted and asking people to friend them? Remember how great it felt to finally get into this digital Hogwarts, get sorted, get your wand, and finally traverse Diagon Alley in a way Harry Potter fans never thought would be possible? Remember how all of this got really boring after the first day because, after doing all the preliminary assigning, there really wasn’t anything to do except duel and brew potions ad nauseum? I remember, and there’s a pretty good chance a couple of you, dear readers, do too. So maybe Pottermore wasn’t everything we Harry Potter fans were waiting for, but what can I say? We have high expectations. Honestly, probably nothing would have been able to live up to the things we were imagining and had been imagining ever since we came to terms with the fact that we would never be getting our Hogwarts letters. However, all may not be lost.
Pottermore was, at its core, more about the books than the wizarding world it created or even the school it made so popular. Which is fine; expected, even. However, today’s web crush takes a more intensive approach to the Harry Potter universe, especially concerning Hogwarts. Harry Potter fans, hold onto your wands, because I have an important announcement: Hogwarts is here.
The first thing you’ll probably notice about Hogwarts is Here is that its site looks suspiciously like any other website trying to sell its school. Personally, it made me think of the college application process, except that Hogwarts is Here has a more put together page than many of the colleges I looked at. Secondly, and more importantly, onlookers will see that yes, this is kind of like Pottermore, but unlike Pottermore they tell you exactly what you’ll be getting into. Whereas Pottermore advertised itself as being some ambiguous “live in the Harry Potter universe” experience, Hogwarts is Here lets you know right off the bat that this site is about the Hogwarts experience. The school experience, that is—meaning that you’re going to learn. I can appreciate that kind of openness. And honestly, I think that makes for a much more realistic experience.
One of the aspects they kept from the book is the ability to sort yourself into any of the four houses. Yes, in the novels the Sorting Hat may have had an idea where to put a student, but at the end of the day, it was the student who had the final say. I’d much rather have a sorting process set up like this than some arbitrary multiple choice questionnaire that seems to ignore some very vital components to one’s personality. Other than this, Hogwarts is Here provides students with online editions of all the textbooks we’ve come to know and love—although I’m sad that I don’t need to pet my Care and Keeping of Magical Creatures textbook to open it—which are used to complete assignments that are actually graded by professors (a.k.a: the super fans who run the site). Each course is taught through a nine week period with all the tests and quizzes we graduates thought we had graduated from. It’s amazing what we’re willing to re-submit ourselves to for our beloved nostalgia.
A big draw of the Harry Potter fandom is how large the fandom actually is and how closely we’re connected by our love of this series. While Pottermore certainly gave users the scope of how large the fanbase is, it didn’t offer much in the way of bringing fans closer together. There was no sense, after getting sorted, of community or closeness. Gathering house points felt like an individual thing, so far separated from everyone else, and even being a member of a certain house felt somewhat inconsequential. However, at Hogwarts is Here, since there are actual lessons and tests like a real school, it gives enrollees an opportunity to bond over certain subjects, or even a specific professor. Users aren’t just usernames and numbers, they’re fellow students who might be struggling with their lessons or who could possibly have a better grasp on something than you do. There’s a sense of community here that Pottermore would never be able to achieve.
Additionally, Hogwarts is Here fully recognizes the limitations of their medium. Really, the internet can only get people so far in terms of communication and social interaction. So to aid with this, Hogwarts is Here has several resources that allow fans to find meet-ups of fellow students in real life. Whether you’re into Quidditch or are a looking to join a (hopefully) local branch of the Harry Potter Alliance, Hogwarts is Here has the tools to help you out.
If you’re a fan of Harry Potter who was disappointed by the experience Pottermore provided, I urge you to try Hogwarts is Here. Its different take of the Hogwarts experience may, ultimately, still not be what you’re looking for, but it’s an interesting approach run by devoted fans. If nothing else, you might learn something.