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More Potter! J. K. Rowling Unveils a New Harry Potter Experience

By Leah Mackstutis • October 5, 2011 at 10:00 am


A user's home page reflects their Hogwarts House. | Photo by Leah Mackstutis

Many have suffered from serious withdrawal since July 15. It was an emotional day; for some, it felt like childhood’s end as the final installment of the Harry Potter film series came to theaters. While I’m sure many have recovered and moved on with their (perhaps more mature) lives, I won’t be so quick to close the book just yet. This summer may have meant the end of the series’ eight-movie run, but it also marked the beginning of J. K. Rowling’s newest project: Pottermore, an online extension of her seven-book series.

The site becomes open to the public at the end of October, when users can register and set up their accounts, but not all will be given immediate access. E-mails will be sent out to new users in waves to ensure that the site does not receive too much traffic, as this can cause technical glitches.

A number of fans gained early access to the site in its BETA period this summer, and I was lucky enough to have an obsessed Potter fan as a cousin to help me get in. After months of waiting for my welcome e-mail, I was finally allowed official access to the site just a few weeks ago, and I can say that Rowling has created not just an extension of her series, but an entire interactive world in her site. So far, Pottermore users can only explore the first installment of the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, but the rest of the series will be available eventually.

The site itself, just like the books, has a certain magical feel to it. Starting at the beginning of Stone, users can navigate through each of the seventeen chapters following a storybook-like trail. The chapters are then broken down into two to three scenes. Each scene contains vivid illustrations, collectable objects and coins (Galleons, as Potter fans will know), and exclusive content from J. K. Rowling about places, objects, and characters from the series.

The aspects of the site which I find most appealing are the interactive opportunities. Not only does this site contain lots of information; it’s a vivid experience of the Harry Potter world. Users can go through the same course that Harry did, starting at Number 4 Private Drive and ending with the end-of-the-year feast. They can buy their required school supplies, get sorted into Houses, and even take on Voldemort himself in the final chapter.

By far, the highlight of the site (at least for the first book) is the Sorting Ceremony. There must be a countless number of online quizzes to determine “Your Harry Potter House” with questions as simple as this: How would you describe yourself? A) Brave B) Smart C) Cunning or D) Loyal. Seriously? Who would check anything but A? Everyone wants Gryffindor because it’s Harry Potter’s House. No one would go anywhere near option D and risk getting placed in (dare I say it?) Hufflepuff.  The Pottermore quiz, however, was created by J.K. Rowling herself, so it is 100% accurate. No arguing and no cheating. Once users are sorted into their Houses, they have access to their common room and can begin earning House Points.

Some areas of Pottermore definitely still require improvement. My biggest complaint regards the glaring lack of sound and music, since these would greatly increase the experience quality. The site also experiences frequent technical issues (which are to be expected in the BETA period), but hopefully this doesn’t indicate what will happen when the site finally goes public at the end of October.

All in all, however, the site runs smoothly. There is, no doubt, room for expansion and improvement, but this will happen once the site is publicly launched and the remaining books are added. For now, however, fans can enjoy Pottermore for what it is: a fun, interactive way to help those still suffering from post-Potter depression.

For more information about the site and registration visit www.pottermore.com