KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — First graders Eliana, Parker and Grady have all heard of a video game character named Huggy Wuggy.
Parker described him as, “blue, his head is shaped like a heart.”
“Oh, and he hugs you until your head pops off … and then he eats you,” Grady added.
If that doesn’t sound like a character meant for children, it’s because Huggy Wuggy, who debuted in 2021, is part of a horror and survival video game for adults called “Poppy Playtime.”
MOB Games released Chapter 1 of “Poppy Playtime” in 2021 and it was instantly popular, which has led to spinoff videos on YouTube, TikTok and other apps featuring the characters in the game.
The creators of these spin-off videos have come up with their own interpretations of how the character might act or what he might say. Creators are writing songs in the voice of Huggy Wuggy, including one with the lines, “sharp teeth leave you bloody … hug me till you die.”
These videos, and the ideas they represent, have trickled down to the playground. Parker, Eliana and Grady said they and their classmates have played games where they acted out what Huggy Wuggy might do.
There are no reports of anything violent happening as a result of these games. The students have primarily focused on giving hugs, but Parker said he has had nightmares featuring the blue, long-legged, sharp-fanged character.
“My mom saw it and she was all serious about it. … She looked it up because I had a nightmare. … I didn’t know it was about Huggy Wuggy because it was on a game, on Roblox there was this creepy guy, but I didn’t know who what it was, until the next day I went to school and everyone explained who he is,” Parker said.
“Children have very active imaginations — monsters in the closet, monsters under the bed,” said Hannah Reed, a child therapist at Wedgwood Christian Services. “Giving that monster a name and a face, while also turning hugs into something that are bad or scary or dangerous … children need physical touch, comfort, warm support, and a character that turns hugs into something that could hurt you or kill you is a problem.”
Reed said it’s important not to dismiss a child’s fears about a character like this or anything else, but rather you should validate how they’re feeling and approach topics like these with curiosity.
“Say, ‘Yea that sounds really scary, I wouldn’t want that for you either. What can we do to maybe protect you and make you feel more comfortable and confident?’” she explained.
She also recommended doing more investigations into the closet monsters and under the bed to help children know you support how they’re feeling and will be there when they’re scared.
“Minimizing a child’s feelings is generally going to make them go, ‘OK, well maybe I shouldn’t talk about my fears as much because they really don’t understand me,’” she said.
Elements of the Huggy Wuggy character have appeared on places many parents feel are safe for their children, including YouTube Kids and Roblox, although in most of those cases, he is in a nonviolent form.
“Ultimately, your child is going to encounter things online that you wouldn’t want them to as a parent. No matter what, I think an important baseline is to just engage in conversations with your child, really cultivate and foster that relationship so the child does feel comfortable coming and talking to you about the scary thing they saw on YouTube,” Reed said.
Indie developer MOB Games originally released “Poppy Playtime” in October of 2021 on PC and released a mobile version of the game in March of 2022.
Zach Belanger is the CEO of MOB Games, and was quoted in an interview with FOX2now saying “Poppy Playtime” is suitable for players aged eight and up. The App Store currently lists the game as 12+, while the Google Play Store rates it for teens.
When asked if they felt the game was okay for them to play, Eliana, Parker and Grady all said, “No!”
MOB Games announced on Twitter the company has partnered with Studio 71 to create a feature film called “Poppy Playtime,” which will include the viral character Huggy Wuggy and other characters in the video game. The company said it’s still in development stages and there is no date yet for when that movie will be released.