by Ashley Ngu:
Potterheads unite! “What’s a Potterhead?” you ask? Simply put, we’re fans of the Harry Potter series. We’re people who waited for their Hogwarts acceptance letter, would try out for their school Quidditch team, would gladly choose OWLS or NEWT exams over the SAT, or have secretly re-assigned their high school teachers as Hogwarts professors. And we’ve been waiting for access to Pottermore since the day J.K. Rowling announced its release.
Pottermore is an official Harry Potter website that exists as a combination of online games, a community fan site and a source of additional Potter content. As of now, only material from the first book is available, with the other six pending release in the near future. I was lucky enough to gain an inside look into Pottermore before it opens to the general public in October. Below is a more detailed account of the world within Pottermore. Beware of spoilers!
[pullquote]Pottermore is an official Harry Potter website that exists as a combination of online games, a community fan site and a source of additional Potter content.[/pullquote]
The journey begins with Chapter One of Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone. Each chapter of the book is presented in a series of key Moments, which are important scenes from the book that are brought to life in Pottermore. The first of these Moments brings me to Privet Drive, which contains little animations like smoke rising from a chimney and a cat waving its tail. Hidden throughout the scenes are various hidden collectibles: a teacup, a prefect’s badge, chocolate frog cards, a Bertie Botts Every Flavored bean and shiny Galleons.
Included in these Moments is the never-before-seen material written by J.K. Rowling herself. These texts are scattered throughout the Moments and include extensive history on supporting characters like Vernon and Petunia Dursley and Professor McGonagall, information about wizarding culture, and reasoning behind names. One such excerpt reveals that other options for Neville Longbottom’s last name were Sidebottom and Puff, and that Draco Malfoy could have been a Spungen or a Spinks. This type of intriguing and often humorous content should be enough incentive to sign up for an account.
[pullquote]One such excerpt reveals that other options for Neville Longbottom’s last name were Sidebottom and Puff, and that Draco Malfoy could have been a Spungen or a Spinks.[/pullquote]
At Diagon Alley, I open a Gringotts account and am given 500 Galleons to spend on books, supplies, and of course a wand. Clicking from shop to shop, I purchase everything on the school list, from books like “One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi” to a set of glass vials. Unfortunately, first-year students aren’t allowed to have broomsticks, so Quality Quidditch Supplies is closed off. Several other inaccessible stores will be unlocked in further books. At Eeylops Owl Emporium and Magical Menagerie, various kinds of owls, cats and toads are available for purchase.
Finally I enter Ollivander’s wand shop. There are seven questions to answer to be matched with a wand. The questions inquire about height, eye color, whether you were born on an even or odd day, what quality you most pride yourself on, which of three paths you would take at a deserted crossroads, what you most fear and which of several magical artifacts you would take from a chest. Each question has several answers, each with their own beautiful illustration. With the answers of short, dark brown/black, even, imagination, towards the forest, isolation and the bound up scroll, I was paired with a wand that was english oak, unicorn core, ten inches and surprisingly swishy.
Another notable experience is the Sorting. There are 200 different sorting questions, but users are asked to answer seven that are randomly chosen. Questions range from what you are most looking forward to learning at Hogwarts, to what power you would like to have, or even “What would you do?” questions. In true spirit to the real Sorting Hat, the eighth question asks for your own opinion between two houses. After answering my questions, I was given the choice between Gryffindor and Ravenclaw, and eventually chose the former.
The community aspects are another important part of the Pottermore experience. After the Sorting, students are able to earn points for their House in the competition for the House Cup (Slytherin and Ravenclaw are battling for first place as of now). And if you’ve ever wished chemistry class was potions class then brewing potions is for you! Using ingredients bought from the Apothecary, users can brew potions such as the Sleeping Draught or the Forgetfulness Potion, to earn points for their House. Another chance to earn points lies in is wizard dueling, where students can challenge other players across houses.
As the website is still under development and testing, there are minor areas that could be improved upon such as the lack of background music, sound effects and the level of interactivity in events such as Quidditch. Word on the street is that the Pottermore team is working on adding more components in response to feedback from beta users. But, all in all, Pottermore is a satisfyingly magical experience and I absolutely cannot wait for the other six books to be unlocked. Alohamora, anyone?