I was in an HMV store with my dad when we bumped into my godmother who we hadn’t seen for a while. I was 9 years old then and it occurred to her that my birthday was coming up. “Is there anything you’d like, dear?” I knew the answer before the question escaped her lips. I had been eying that game the whole time we were at the store. Shyly, I pointed at the box next to me. And that was how I attained my guiltiest pleasure to date, Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup.
Much of Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup‘s gameplay is a highly repetitive affair. Every match gives you the same thing: you start off the game trying to score goals, doing special moves when available, and stealing the quaffle (the ball) whenever needed. All this is done to build up your team’s half of the snitch (a tiny golden ball with wings that flies really fast) bar. Once the two halves of the bar meet, you go into the high-speed snitch chasing sequence where you go head-to-head with the other team’s Seeker (player who’s responsible for catching the snitch). Catch the snitch, get 150 points and end the game. Don’t catch the snitch, hope your team scored enough to still beat the other team.
The video below should give you a little bit of an idea what the game’s like:
Video from YouTube user: GotnelFHD
Throughout the game, the commentary lines are recycled, the cutscenes for moves are recycled, there is no substitution system for players, there are no penalties to be given, the AI doesn’t change — so it’s like you’re playing the same team over and over again — and guess what? You have to do this for 18 agonizingly tedious matches for every World Cup team playthrough, in addition to the three Hogwarts tutorial matches needed to unlock the Word Cup in the first place. And for extreme masochists out there, the game offers this all over again in four difficulty levels.
Despite the mind-numbing nature of the game, however, I was enchanted by Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup as a kid. The Harry Potter series was a huge part of my life during my late-primary to early-secondary school days, and because I was so into sports at that time, J.K. Rowling’s fictional sport of Quidditch became the fantasy that I longed to be real. Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup was the closest I could get to actually playing it, so I found myself creating exciting scenarios in my head while playing the game. I didn’t mind that it was the same thing over and over again, because that single fact gave me leeway to be creative in my own imagination. (Of course, I never really thought about this back then. All I knew was that I was having lots of fun.) I got so addicted to the immersion I created for myself that I spent hours every day playing the game. I even reached the point where I managed to get all the collectible in-game Quidditch cards except for the rarest one. I only stopped when I found my save file had been written over by a guest who played the game on my computer. I remember sulking for days.
I never realized how bad the game was until I decided to play it again sometime last year. Now at the age of 19, I was hoping to get all the collectibles this time around, so I could soothe the completionist in me and finally finish the game. But close to the end of my first World Cup playthrough, I became so terribly bored I uninstalled the game from my computer.
Annoyed, I had to wonder why my younger self had such bad taste in games. Deep inside, though? I knew the first half of the playthrough made me feel like that 9-year-old kid again. As much as I hate to admit it, I did enjoy the game much more than I should have. I really can’t bring myself to rule out the possibility of playing Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup again just to feel that ecstatic jolt of imagination go through me. But that’s a secret that we’ll keep between us, right?