KIRSTI BUICK

If you think you’ve seen the last of Harry, think again. Potter-creator J.K. Rowling wants to give her fans more. On 31 July (the author’s and Harry’s birthday) this year, Rowling launched “Pottermore”, an interactive website that allows a virtual reading experience and that is also set to sell official eBook versions of the series.

Rowling was quick to announce that this is not another Potter book. The site will instead be home to over 18 000 words of previously unreleased original material. This includes background on characters and settings that Rowling has “been hoarding for years”.

The 31 July beta version of the site was only open to the first million users, who had to complete “The Magical Quill Challenge” to gain access. Fans had to answer seven questions in a week (one each day), after which they would receive an email promising them access to the site. Each day of the challenge corresponded to one of the seven books. Questions ranged from “how many owls are on the Eeylops Owl Emporium sign? Multiply by 49” to “what is the number of the chapter in which Professor McGonagall cancels the Quidditch match between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff? Multiply this number by 42”.

The beta users will be able to give feedback and suggestions to the site’s creators, thereby helping to shape the final product, which will be publicly launched next month.

According to Rowling’s press release regarding the site, “the storyline will be brought to life with sumptuous newly commissioned illustrations and interactive ‘moments’ through which you can navigate.” Upon entering, users will choose a magical username and travel through these various “moments”, eventually joining Hogwarts as Harry does. The journey begins atPrivet Drive, where users can explore Harry’s infamous cupboard under the stairs complete with spiders scurrying across the screen. Following this, they move on to the various locations of the first book, including Platform 9 ¾, the Hogwarts Express, Diagon Alley and Gringotts, where each user will receive 175 galleons. This online currency will allow users to buy items on their Hogwarts shopping list. Each new witch or wizard receives a personal trunk in which they can store trinkets such as magic beans and spell cards that are hidden throughout the site. At the wand shop, Ollivander’s, they are asked a series of questions to determine which wand best suits them.

Rowling has also designed an official Sorting Hat test to sort users into the various Hogwarts houses. Those not placed in Gryffindor are given access to exclusive material from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Fans are warned that the site is not a game. Although each user has his own profile, he doesn’t have an avatar. And while the site includes some animated features, such as Ron’s rat, Scabbers, lurking around the Hogwarts Express cabin, no World of Warcraft-esque graphics should be expected. Time magazineonline likens the site to a “digitised pop-up book rather than a graphic adventure game”. Rowling says this is because she wanted to keep the emphasis on the “literary experience”.

The billionaire authoress seems to have wanted to create more of a themed social-networking site than an interactive game. In her press release, Rowling said, “Just as I have contributed to the website, everyone else will be able to join in by submitting their own comments, drawings and other content in a safe and friendly environment. Pottermore has been designed as a place to share the stories with your friends as you journey through the site.”

Image: Gerhard Louw

 

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