In July of 2000, the world was at the height of Harry Potter mania. J.K. Rowling was about to release the fourth Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It was to be the first Harry Potter book released at the same time in both the United States and the United Kingdom. J.K. Rowling herself called it "a central book" and "the heart of the series." Rumors were flying that a major character would be killed off. The first Harry Potter film was to start filming in a few months.
Goblet of Fire was, in retrospect, a major turning point for the series—the book that took the series to new level of darkness and maturity. But returning to it with fresh eyes does more than merely contextualize it. It raises important questions about the sources of its plot and themes—themes that still resonate with adolescents and young adults today. Important questions like:
Did J.K. Rowling play Mario Party 2 while writing Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and incorporate it in the book?
Let's start with the book (spoilers ahead!). The Goblet of Fire introduced a lot of new things to the Harry Potter universe—the Triwizard Tournament, the Beauxbatons and Durmstrang schools, the first appearance of the Death Eaters, which is the scariest name J.K. Rowling could come up with for the wizard equivalent of Nazis. The plot culminates with the last challenge of the Triwizard Tournament, in which the champions from each school must navigate a large maze full of magical monsters, puzzles, and obstacles to reach the Triwizard Cup. Both Harry Potter and Cedric Diggory, another Hogwarts student, reach the Cup at the same time, and decide to touch it together, because Harry Potter is an insufferable moralist. It turns out to be a portkey, which teleports them to a graveyard where Lord Voldemort and his band of Death Eaters lie in wait. Voldemort has Cedric killed by one of his Death Eaters, and ends up challenging Harry to a duel. Good job, Harry.
Voldemort was ready. As Harry shouted, "Expelliarmus!" Voldemort cried, "Avada Kedavra!"
A jet of green light issued from Voldemort's wand just as a jet of red light blasted from Harry's — they met in midair — and suddenly Harry's wand was vibrating as though an electric charge were surging through it; his hand seized up around it; he couldn't have released it if he'd wanted to — and a narrow beam of light connected the two wands, neither red nor green, but bright, deep gold. Harry, following the beam with his astonished gaze, saw that Voldemort's long white fingers too were gripping a wand that was shaking and vibrating.
One of the central themes in Harry Potter, if not the central theme, is the duality of Harry and Voldemort—never more apparent than in this climactic duel, in which Voldemort casts a killing curse (Avada Kedavra!) and Harry casts a disarming curse (Expelliarmus!), each sending a beam of energy at the other. The beams lock in place, because it turns out both Harry and Voldemort's wand share feathers from the same Phoenix (which turns out to be Dumbledore's Phoenix, whoaaaa), and both Harry and Voldemort try to push their beam further against the other.
He concentrated every last particle of his mind upon forcing the bead back toward Voldemort, his ears full of phoenix song, his eyes furious, fixed . . . and slowly, very slowly, the beads quivered to a halt, and then, just as slowly, they began to move the other way . . . and it was Voldemort's wand that was vibrating extra-hard now . . . Voldemort who looked astonished, and almost fearful. . . .
One of the beads of light was quivering, inches from the tip of Voldemort's wand. Harry didn't understand why he was doing it, didn't know what it might achieve . . . but he now concentrated as he had never done in his life on forcing that bead of light right back into Voldemort's wand . . . and slowly . . . very slowly . . . it moved along the golden thread . . . it trembled for a moment . . . and then it connected. . . .
Harry wins and Voldemort's wand ejaculates out proto-ghosts of Cedric, Harry's parents, basically a whole cast of damn characters, which protect Harry and lets him escape with Cedric's body.
The episode marked a surreal and dark turn in the Harry Potter saga. But it's a familiar one to fans of another popular fantasy series of the same era.
Mario Party 2's Horror Land
A few months before the Goblet of Fire was released, a game called Mario Party 2 came out on the N64. It was the second of what would end up being one of the most popular series from the Mario franchise. For those unfamiliar with the Mario Party series, it's a lighthearted game that involves moving around on a board by rolling a dice, and playing silly minigames to collect coins, which are used to acquire stars. Whoever has the most stars at the end of the game wins.
Mario Party 2 introduced a huge number of new features to the Mario Party universe—new boards, new minigames, Battles, and Dueling. Each board had a theme. One such board, Horror Land, is set in a haunted forest, full of ghosts and graveyards and floating eyeballs. Each player is dressed as a wizard, complete with a wizard hat and robe. To win the game, players have to navigate a large maze, full of monsters, puzzles, and obstacles. Sound familiar?
In the ending cutscene of Horror Land, a Koopa find himself attacked by a Boo ghost, and Bowser turns him into a frog with a spell from his wand. The winner of the game comes to the Koopa's rescue, and a duel breaks out between Bowser and the winner.
They face off with beams of spells coming from their wands, pushing back and forth, until Bowser's beam is pushed back and he loses. The winner is then reunited with the rest of the group, victorious at last. Sound familiar?
The whole thing is eerily similar to the ending duel in the Goblet of Fire. Other scholars have noticed this as well.
That's the question, LucinaSmash. Must J.K. Rowling of love this game?
It's not implausible. Take a look at this timeline of events (click the magnifying glass to expand):
Unlikely? Maybe. Impossible? No. J.K. Rowling even has a history of playing video games. She recently revealed that she plays Minecraft when procrastinating:
. @Dere_He_Is Along with books bought for research that are too interesting to put down, 24 hour news and, of course, Minecraft.
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) January 19, 2015
One possible objection: Mario Party 2 was released before Goblet of Fire…in the U.S. only. It wasn't released in Europe until a few months after the book. The usual reason why games are released later in Europe than in the US is because the developer has to translate the game for multiple languages. Also, in the earlier days of video games, it was believed that Europe had a less receptive market to console games as opposed to PC games. This might or might not have been true by the time Mario Party 2 came out.
But imagine the following scenario: J.K. Rowling and her five-year-old daughter daughter Jessica at home in Edinburgh, playing Mario Party—when they hear that Mario Party 2 is coming out. Jessica is excited. J.K. is excited. She's still on a high from winning the Smarties Prize for the third time in a row for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. She's rich from just selling the Harry Potter film rights to Warner Bros. for a cool £1,000,000 (interestingly enough, Nintendo tried to buy the rights to Harry Potter in 1998 but were turned down as they weren't able to pitch TV and film, only video games).
Then she looks up the release dates and sees that Mario Party 2 won't be released in Europe for a whole ten months after the U.S. She's furious. Jessica is crying. A typical home situation for European gamers.
But J.K. Rowling isn't just any European gamer. She's a hugely wealthy celebrity. She has people who handle this for her. She calls her agent, and demands a U.S. copy of Mario Party 2. Her agent hand-delivers it? Oh, it doesn't work, because the US version is NTSC and her European N64 is PAL? No worries. She's J.K. Rowling She calls her agent, and demands a U.S. N64.
Finally, J.K. Rowling and her daughter sit down to play Mario Party 2. Jessica wants to play Horror Land.
A Final Thought
The Harry Potter series has also spun off its own line of video games, such as Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup and Lego Creator: Harry Potter, each vying to be the most mediocre Harry Potter game possible. If J.K. Rowling had let Nintendo create video games – with the power and ingenuity of their Mario and Zelda franchise, it's not hard to believe that they would do well with Harry Potter. Could Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire's mimicking of the Horror Land ending in Mario Party 2 be a subtle jab at Nintendo after she turned down their proposal to obtain the Harry Potter rights years earlier?
J.K. Rowling has not provided any comment at the time of publication.
@jk_rowling have you ever played mario party
— leon (@leyawn) April 8, 2015
Image by Sam Woolley.