Mary Beth Sallee
Reporter, Hart Co. News-Herald
What comes to mind when you hear the words Huggy Wuggy? Perhaps a cuddly bear? Maybe a cute, new character from a cartoon?
Huggy Wuggy is a character in Poppy Playtime, an online survival horror video game published by developer MOB Games.
Poppy Playtime allows players to become a former employee who revisits an abandoned toy factory 10 years after its staff has disappeared. In first-person perspective, players make their way through the factory by solving puzzles. Along the way, players also encounter various enemies, including the infamous Huggy Wuggy.
In the game, Huggy Wuggy is the mascot of the former toy factory. What seems to be an innocent, fuzzy blue stuffed animal of sorts, Huggy Wuggy has rows of sharp teeth and is malicious towards players. Other toys/enemies in the game are malicious towards players as well.
Zach Belanger, CEO of MOB Games, was quoted in a TV interview as stating that Poppy Playtime is suitable for players who are ages 8 and older. However, on the App Store, the iOS version of Poppy Playtime is listed as being for children aged 12+. On the Google Play Store, the video game is rated Teen. The PC version of Poppy Playtime does not have an ESRB rating or age restriction, although similar games are rated Teen.
The website for Common Sense Media, an organization that provides age-based ratings for media and its suitability for children, gave Poppy Playtime a suggested age rating of 12+. The average parent rating on the website listed the video game as being for ages 13+.
According to Common Sense Media, “While there’s no graphic violence or gore (in Poppy Playtime), there’s also no shortage of blood splatter, often eerily close to the remains of various toys. There are also frightening scenes when the player is getting chased down and potentially killed by Huggy Wuggy.”
Although the video game itself has been well-received throughout the gaming community, much of the controversy with Poppy Playtime, or more specifically its main character Huggy Wuggy, has involved fan-made videos that can be found on various media platforms such as YouTube and Tik Tok.
Although these videos at first seem “kid-friendly”, they actually include Huggy Wuggy participating in adult-themed content. Some videos also include Kissy Missy, another character from Poppy Playtime.
The videos include but are not limited to stabbings, decapitations, murder, offensive language, and cartoon representations of alcohol use.
In one video, a cartoon character tells another cartoon character, “My hugs don’t hurt one bit. You’ll be dead before the pain comes!” This is followed by a character squeezing another character until they turn blue and pass out.
Other videos feature photos and animations of Huggy Wuggy along with music. Although many of the videos at first feature upbeat music with seemingly kid-friendly lyrics, the songs soon turn sinister. In one particular video, the lyrics included: “You’re not alone. Give me a hug and your flesh and blood. Tell me, do you feel so loved? Secrets to hide…Take a deep breath. I’ll squeeze you to death.”
“It’s very disturbing to know this kind of content is out there and so easily accessible to children,” said Nina Knight, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) with Lifeskills, Inc. “I think it’s important for parents to have conversations with their child about what they are watching and, if they do come across these types of videos, to process their thoughts and feelings with them. Remind them they are safe and that the content in the video is not real.”
Unfortunately, many fan-made videos featuring Huggy Wuggy are also sexual in nature. One video shows a female character being drugged. After the female character passes out, it is understood that she is sexually assaulted. In that same video, a video of the sexual assault is seen by the female character’s husband, who in turn believes the female character has committed adultery. The husband then hits the female character and divorces her.
Due to Huggy Wuggy’s innocent-like name, many of these concerning videos are not being blocked by firewalls or parental filters on media platforms. Content including Huggy Wuggy can also be found on the online gaming platform of Roblox.
Various schools around the United Kingdom have also reported children pretending to be Huggy Wuggy and recreating a game in which one child hugs another and then whispers sinister things into the other child’s ear.
As always, parents are urged to monitor their child’s use of YouTube and other media platforms. Research all video games and its characters before allowing your child to play or watch.