Last July the permanent home of the wizarding world of Harry Potter opened with few invitations and a lot of chatter – what was this website, Pottermore, and what (if anything) was it going to offer to the fans of Harry, Ron and Hermione? Invitations to join Pottermore were slow and those who finally got them were not exactly sure what to do with them. But now, almost a year later, Pottermore is open for everyone- and it seems to have opened a world of information, social networking, recreation and a little bit of fun.
After signing up for Pottermore (which incidentally won’t let you use your photo or real name in order to protect all the kids who are participating) you have to wait for your invitation to explore. Sometimes this takes less than an hour and sometimes it takes a few days. But once inside, you can explore 17 chapters of the first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Everyone in Pottermore has a gateway which is your home base. From here you can explore, shop, duel, brew potions and network with your friends. The colors of your gateway will correspond with the house you are in, and your avatar (mine is an owl) will be the animal you buy as your pet in Diagon Alley. The buttons at the top take you into other experiences (such as shopping on Diagon Alley or seeing who is winning the House Cup in the Great Hall). The main part of the screen shows your progress through the first book.
As you follow the chapters you’ll progress like Harry did- after living in Little Whinging Hagrid arrives and whisks you off to Diagon Alley where you visit Gringotts, buy your school supplies and are fitted for your wand by Ollivander. Your wand chooses you after a series of questions and then you catch the Hogwarts Express at Platform 9 and 3/4. Once you arrive you are sorted by the hat- much like your wand fitting, your house is determined by your answers to a series of questions, some funny and some not.
As you go through the story you’ll stumble across little bits of “extras” by J.K. Rowling- little explanations about the origin or basis of characters and items. These extras are a truly fascinating peek into the world of Harry.
As you explore each chapter of the book you can find hidden objects to collect. There isn’t any real skill to collecting them, the only way to do it is to zoom in and out of the images (that correspond with the much loved story) and see what your can find. Here I found a chocolate frog in the bathroom with the mountain troll during the Halloween feast.
When you find an item you collect it in your trunk. Right now there isn’t much you can do with this collection, besides giving the items to your friends as a gift, but I suspect that as later chapters open you might need some of these things to continue through the story. Navigation through Pottermore is mostly handled with the arrow buttons you see at the bottom of the page and anytime I got truly stuck I used Google to help me figure out what to do next. I hope the next chapter is a little more intuitive.
As you continue through the first book you get to go to potions class, where you learn how to brew a potion. You can go back to potions at any time (through your gateway) to earn House Points for the House Cup. I wasn’t very good at potion brewing (it was timed!), but thats ok- it was still fun!
As you continue through the story you are shown how to cast spells. Once you learn how you can duel other players for House Points, but the first time you just need to unlock the door to continue along in the story- no points are on the line.
You can’t really call Pottermore a game- other than potions and spells there is no real skill involved (and the skills for those are just practice makes perfect) but it is more of an experience. You get snippets of new information and real Harry Potter die hards will enjoy the experience of shopping Diagon Alley, getting sorted by the Sorting Hat and earning points. Although Pottermore really just enhanced the Harry Potter experience for me, I found myself wishing it had a little more to it- but I have the feeling it will grow more interesting as each “book” is revealed. For now I look forward to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets opening up- and until then, I’m off to brew some potions.
Daisy is a lawyer married to a lawyer (insert lawyer jokes here) living in a small condo in a big city with a new baby and beagle. She breaks up the legal-speak by blogging about life in Chicago, which is filled with escapades of urban living. In the summer she enjoys patio dining and in the winter wonders what she was thinking when she moved here. You can read more from Daisy on her blog, Just Daisy.