Some Steam users have apparently begun branding Hogwarts Legacy with tags like "psychological horror," seemingly in protest of the views of original Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, and as something of a precursor to a traditional review bomb.
If you check the Steam store page for Hogwarts Legacy right now, there's a decent chance you won't see anything out of the ordinary. At the time of writing, the top tags are what you'd expect: magic, fantasy, open world, adventure, and RPG. The expanded list of tags is pretty standard too. The current bottom-most tag, dark, may have been added by disgruntled users, but from the amount of straight-up wizard murder in the game's latest trailers, it's not at all out of place.
But if we rewind the clock with the help of the trusty Wayback Machine internet archive, we'll see some, uh, stranger terms including: villain protagonist, capitalism, NSFW, World War II, and psychological horror, all appearing in the game's top 20 tags. It's been removed since, but a colleague of mine saw NSFW on the public top 20 tags just this morning.
"Tags are ordered on your game page by the amount of weight each has on your game, as a result of your own sorting in the Tag Wizard," Steam's partner documentation explains. "This can be modified over time as a number of players apply particular tags to your game."
You could argue that villain protagonist and NSFW are relevant in some way given the ominous connotations and imagery in some Hogwarts Legacy trailers, and maybe even capitalism what with the resource grind and all. But even that's a tremendous stretch, and I don't think there's another explanation for the appearance of World War II and psychological horror besides some kind of user coordination. This wouldn't be the first time Steam users added odd tags to a game – how often are brutal Soulslikes tagged as family friendly, and so on – but there's a pretty clear pattern here.
I was alerted to this trend by a viral tweet from the "Trans People Getting Common Ws" Twitter account, which includes a screenshot showing the "transphobic" and "transphobia" tags attached to the game. However, I didn't see either of these tags in the Steam page snapshots available on the Wayback Machine.
To the surprise of no one, tags like these have seemingly been (repeatedly) removed by the folks in charge of Hogwarts Legacy's Steam page. As the official Steamworks documentation explains, Steam prioritizes a game's top five tags but can account for up to 20, and Valve encourages developers to add plenty of relevant tags to make their game more visible to features like store filters, search results, and recommendations.
It's worth noting that the five tags I found are part of Steam's official tag library. Psychological horror is an obvious one; capitalism and World War II are under themes and moods; villain protagonist is listed as a feature; and NSFW is a rating. Transphobic and transphobia, the tags featured in the aforementioned viral tweet, obviously are not in the tag library, but users can basically add whatever custom tags they want. That doesn't mean Steam's algorithm will make those tags visible to others, but with enough submissions users can theoretically brute force write-in tags onto a game's top 20, and that might be easier to pull off when a game's user tag activity is low on account of that game being unreleased.
"Tags can be applied to a game by the developer, by players with non-limited accounts, and by Steam moderators," the Steam guide reads. "This allows the community to help mark up games with the terms, themes, and genres that help describe the game to others."
"Note that tags and their relative weights may change over time as members of the community apply them to your game," it adds, though I doubt this feature was built with a veritable tag bombing in mind. "While this tends not to fluctuate over time, you can revisit your tags and their weights using the Tag Wizard at any time." It would seem the weight of tags like World War II has indeed been revisited in this case. And yeah, I'm willing to wager that such tags weren't added to Hogwarts Legacy with their traditional context in mind by users hoping to improve the game's reputation.
Although she is not involved in the development of Hogwarts Legacy, GamesRadar+ acknowledges the role of J.K. Rowling in the creation of the Wizarding World, as well as her publicly-stated, harmful views regarding the rights of transgender people. If you’d like to offer your support to the communities affected by Rowling’s rhetoric, consider donating to the National Center for Transgender Equality in the US, or Mermaids in the UK.