When Pottermore was announced last June, I, along with the rest of the Harry Potter loving universe, totally lost my shit. Like all things Harry Potter, I just KNEW that this was going to be AMAZING. Then I couldn’t get into the beta group and had to spend the next nine months reading reviews, searching for news of the public release, and seeing tweets from my friend’s little sister about how great it is to be a Hufflepuff. I mean, a Hufflepuff. HOW EMBARRASSING.
After the announcement that Pottermore would be available to the public in early April, I started checking the website daily. On Saturday when it finally opened, I felt like I’d finally gotten that Hogwarts letter I’ve been so eagerly awaiting for the past 15 years. Today, I was going to fulfill my destiny. Today, I was going to get sorted. I submitted my name for registration to Hogwarts.
Then I got an email saying I had to wait some more. What the hell? You make me wait almost
fifteen years TEN MONTHS for something, and then you’re like, “Oh here you go! LOLZ JUST KIDDING YOU WAIT MORE NOW HAHAHAHAHA.” Needless to say, I was not pleased.
Finally, almost a full 24 hours later, I got a new e-mail. At long last, my journey to Hogwarts had begun.
Pottermore is explored through interactive scenes from the story. You must move linearly through each book, with several new scenes per chapter. You can zoom in and out, bringing different things into focus and finding hidden aspects of the scene to collect and read about. My favorite part is that although characters are often pictured in the scenes, you never see their faces, reminding me of pre-movie times when all I had was my imagination to depend on.
As you pick things up, there are certain locked items you will discover–usually exclusive new content from J.K. Rowling. This might be a little more background about a character or some information about her writing process, and for less-than-rabid Potter fans, it’s probably not very interesting. But I have never been a less-than-rabid Potter fan.
In Diagon Alley, you must visit Gringotts and buy all your school supplies before moving forward. Most important: a trip to Ollivander’s! Once inside, he asks you a series of questions, some obvious (height) and some bizarre (which path would you choose? The one to the castle, forest, or sea?). And then at the end of the quiz, you get a wand, for the low, low price of 7 Galleons. Mine is pear with unicorn core, 12 1/4 inches, surprisingly swishy. Or as my roommate told me, “Your wand is gay.” Fine by me. Me and my Sassy Gay Wand are going to take the Wizarding World by storm.
The real star of Pottermore is the sorting, because while everyone has taken a million “Which Hogwarts House Are You” quizzes online, none of them have quite the stamp of authenticity. Unlike all those quizzes that that can be taken and retaken until the desired result is achieved, this one-shot opportunity feels like J.K. Rowling is personally placing the actual sorting hat on my head and telling me whether I will be spending the rest of my lunch periods at the cool kids’ table, or if I’ll be slumming it with the Hufflepuffs.
As much as I ridicule Hufflepuff, I really do respect all the houses. Y’all, last night I find out that my oldest friend is a Slytherin. This was mind-blowing news. In fact, my three best friends and I are like the Sisterhood of the Effing Traveling Pants or something because we all got sorted into different houses. So obviously I like people from ALL the houses.
That said, if I got sorted into Hufflepuff, someone was going to die.
Similar to the wand selection process, you’re asked a series of questions. Some of them are really weird. I had to answer “Heads or Tails?” for one of them. Heads or Tails?! How the hell should I know? JUST TELL ME THE RIGHT ANSWER SO I DON’T END UP IN HUFFLEPUFF! Luckily:
F**K YEAH GRYFFINDOR! Even better, FYA’s worst cook and best pen pal, Lee, got sorted into Hufflepuff. And now I can mock her forever and ever.
So, for purposes of child protection, you’re not allowed to pick your own username. I don’t really know why this applies to me, as I’m definitely not a minor, despite what the woman at the Southwest Airlines check-in thought that one time. When you register, you choose from five randomly generated usernames, each combining two Harry Potter-related terms and a long string of numbers. And they’re all awful. This is how I ended up with ScaleNiffler24731, the best of a horrible batch. “Pick a username you’ll remember!” the website offers cheerfully. Listen, Pottermore. I’M OLD. I cannot remember your lame username. At least let me log in with my e-mail address.
The ONLY positive feature is that, once you’re friends with someone, you can give them a nickname. But you’ll still have to communicate with them outside the Pottermore site to find out who the hell this EchoIce55598 trying to friend you is.
As you move through the world of Pottermore, you’re supposed to collect things–chocolate frog cards, text books, potions ingredients, a… hammer and nails? An alarm clock??? I definitely can’t use that alarm clock at Hogwarts, Pottermore. I thought these things would be necessary at some later point, that I’d have some task where I need to hammer something without magic, but this is not the case. Instead, I have a trunk full of crap I mostly can’t use. You can use the potions ingredients to make potions, but then you just have a potion sitting in your trunk, serving no purpose.
I started feeling overwhelmed by my digital clutter and tried giving away my worldly possessions to friends. This plan quickly backfired:
As a Hogwarts student, you are given the option to purchase a toad, an owl, or a cat to bring with you to school. I bought an owl because I thought it would be useful, but it turns out that having an owl in Pottermore serves absolutely no advantage. Also, whatever animal you buy becomes your avatar, and you’re stuck with it FOREVER. If I’d know that, I would have bought toad. All the cool kids have toads.
Dueling is SUPER LAME, y’all. Basically, it’s the keyboard equivalent of one of those Chuck E Cheese games where you have have to hit the button as the light comes around. Actually, that makes it sound way more fun than it is. It sucks. Once you collect all the appropriate books, you have 10 spells in your arsenal. The only one worth using is Petrifcus Totalus, or you will definitely lose. Once you’ve mastered that spell, you’ll score consistently in the 138-142 range. There’s not really anywhere to go from this point. You can challenge a friend or a random opponent from another house, and if you win, you get 5 house points. If they win, you get nothing and the other house gets 5 points. Which is why I always challenge Hufflepuffs, who are constantly in last place for the House Cup. Challenging a Ravenclaw or a Slytherin will only lead to those houses getting more points if you lose. Seriously, Gryffindors of the world, stop challenging Slytherins and Ravenclaws. There is no advantage to beating one! Megan no h (Ravenclaw) has been challenging this idiot fellow Gryffindor over and over, and (s)he keeps accepting her duels despite the fact that (s)he never breaks 100. JUST STOP.
The other primary way to gain house points is by successfully brewing potions. I’m here to tell you that POTIONS CLASS SUCKS. Here is a short list of problems:
1. It’s really hard to manhandle those digital bottles.
2. There is a lag, so when you make potions too quickly, it thinks you haven’t added enough ingredients and tells you your potion is wrong even when you did everything right.
3. There is a time limit on potion making, so you can’t just take it slow, either.
4. All potions have two parts. Once the first part is completed, you have to let your potion sit for a specified amount of time, then brew the second part. Unfortunately, if you let the potion sit for too long, it will be ruined and you have to start over. This means that you have to actually sit there on Pottermore for an hour straight to successfully brew anything.
5. More expensive cauldrons mean shorter brewing time. I bought one of each, thinking I could have multiple potions going at once to save time. Turns out that no matter how many cauldrons you have, you can only brew one potion at a time.
6. If you mess up really badly, you ruin your cauldron and lose 5 house points.
7. If you succeed, you are stuck with a potion you do not need and cannot use (see Digital Hoarding).
I deliberately lost 5 house points and ruined a 15 galleon cauldron to bring you this screencap
Look, I’m not here to complain that despite having the most people, Gryffindor is in second to last place. We firmly established that my house is full of idiots during the dueling section. No, my beef is that at any given time, you have to add a +/- 2,000,000 point confidence range on either end of the tallies. Here are actual screenshots I took in ten second intervals last night, in chronological order:
It doesn’t even show Ravenclaw in a consistent lead over Gryffindor. I’ve seen the difference as low as 40,000 points and as much as 2 million. That’s quite the discrepancy! Seeing as the only way to lose house points that I know of is by screwing up potions REALLY BADLY, I’m pretty sure there’s some calculation errors happening here.
I always thought the Gryffindor common room would be, you know, cooler:
As it is, it’s just a repository for fascinating activity lists such as these.
Lack of Quests
I know I am harping on about digital hoarding, but I really want to USE my things. I keep thinking there’s a secret level of Pottermore I’ve yet to discover, where one has to solve puzzles and cure boils with a successfully brewed potion or cast a love spell or bludgeon someone with a rock cake OR SOMETHING. But I don’t think this level exists. Everything seems so pointless! The best part of all of Pottermore is when you have to figure out which potion moves you forward and which moves you back, just like in the book. I want more of this.
Basically, I want Myst, but set at Hogwarts.
Delayed Book Releases
Right now, the only book that’s available in the Pottermore universe is Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone. Everything else is still locked. And while I shouldn’t care that I can’t access later books because the first book was so lame, I totally care. I just want it to be MAGICAL. I devoured everything there was to do in Pottermore in the span of a day. I keep looking for something that I missed, because I know there must be something better.
I mean, it’s Harry Freaking Potter. It has to get better. Right?