A horror game character from ‘Poppy Playtime’ named Huggy Wuggy has been raising concerns amongst parents, police and safeguarding professionals.
WARNING: This contains images and details some people may find disturbing. This should not be shared with young children.
Last year, we carried out an Online Safety Review on the game Poppy Playtime. Now, one of the most popular characters from the game, Huggy Wuggy, has reignited safeguarding concerns due to reports of online challenges and disturbing content featuring the character.
Who is Huggy Wuggy?
Poppy Playtime is a PC horror game that involves an unnamed protagonist investigating a mystery in an abandoned toy factory. As the player, you roam around the factory and collect VHS tapes to solve the mystery of what happened. You must solve puzzles while trying to survive the “vengeful toys” left behind.
“Huggy Wuggy” is one of the game’s most popular – and visually disturbing – characters. It’s a giant, horrifying blue creature with bulging eyes, wide red lips, and long limbs who actively follows you around as you try to complete the game. He appears in the dark unexpectedly to try and catch you. If you get caught, Huggy Wuggy bears his wide and sinister grin and eats you.
Huggy Wuggy Warnings
Although Poppy Playtime was released last year, there has been a recent surge in the creation of Huggy Wuggy-related content, alongside reported playground-style challenges based on the character.
The Dorset Police Cyber Protection Officer has recently released a statement, warning parents that children may be viewing graphic fan-made videos that are popping up on platforms such as YouTube and TikTok.
Some created videos feature songs alongside animation, designed to be upsetting and ‘creepy’. Others feature jump-scare animations. The videos appear across several popular platforms, in particular on TikTok and YouTube. The hashtag ‘huggywuggy’ has over 2.9B views on TikTok.
Due to the name of the character, these videos are often ‘slipping through the net’ of platforms’ safeguarding measures like content filtering and age-restrictions.
Police have also reported that some schools have seen children recreating scenes in the playground, hugging and whispering “nasty things” in the recipient’s ear. Our researcher’s found no further details on these reports at this time.
New Game Release Expected
One potential reason for the recent increase in content and popularity may be that a second version of the game is rumoured to be released very soon. A new trailer has been released, alongside ‘teaser’ clips and many fan-made videos on YouTube discussing the potential changes.
Amongst the information that developers have released, is the addition of new characters, including Mommy Long Legs and Kissy Missy. Like Huggy Wuggy, these new characters have arguably ‘innocent’ names that may sound child-friendly but could be visually disturbing and upsetting for children.
The thrill of danger – Similar to watching horror films, children and young people can say they were brave enough to play (or watch someone else play) the game and survive to the end.
A sense of community – Groups of friends may play collectively to see who can survive the longest or solve the mystery first. There is also a high-level of community involvement around games, which can make someone feel like they are a part of something if they are isolated or lonely.
Sense of urgency – The heightened anxiety that comes with playing horror games, such as the feeling of being chased, makes players want to solve the mystery of the game that much faster.
Breaking the rules – If young children or teenagers feel they shouldn’t play or watch something, the chances are they will want to do it even more. They may also feel peer pressured to take part in something they would never seek out on their own time if all their friends are doing it.
What are the risks?
There are multiple risks that can arise from children and young people being exposed to frightening content before they are prepared.
Added anxiety and stress – Children and young people are still growing and learning. They may not be at a level of emotional maturity that would be able to process frightening content, even if it is intentional. Horror games could hamper that growth by creating unnecessary anxiety and stress.
Intrusive thoughts – Everyone has the ‘thing that goes bump in the night.’ If children play this game or watch it, the Boogeyman could easily be replaced with characters like Huggy Wuggy. This could cause children to lose focus or sleep and could interrupt family rest cycles.
New fears – The manipulation of child-friendly items into threatening characters exploits the sense of security a child would feel around these things. They may suddenly be terrified of something that had never been a worry before.
Every child is different. Some may genuinely enjoy the horror genre and not struggle with any lasting feelings of fear or panic from playing a game. However, if it causes a child to be stressed or anxious, they may:
Find it hard to focus or concentrate
Have a change in appetite
Experience sleep disturbances or nightmares
Appear suddenly angry, irritable, or teary
Be worried or anxious, which can physically manifest in fidgeting
Have new fears
If the child in your care comes across something scary or disturbing online, they should:
what they are doing and turn off their screen/switch off device
to take a breath and try to stay calm
about something else that makes them happy
to an adult they trust about what they saw and how it made them feel
Our Top Tips for helping the child or young person in your care
If your child hasn’t mentioned Huggy Wuggy or Poppy Playtime, don’t name it. You may pique their curiosity which in turn could lead to them searching out the content for themselves on platforms they might have access to.
If you hear a child in your care mention Huggy Wuggy, pause and remain calm. It could be that they have overheard conversation about in school or online, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have viewed content or have a full understanding of who Huggy Wuggy is.
Ask them about the content they enjoy watching online, and if anything they’ve seen has ever made them or their friends upset or scared.
If they have seen anything upsetting, reassure them that they are safe. It’s important children know they can come and speak to you without fear of judgement. If necessary, ask them to show you the video or game, and follow appropriate reporting procedures if you are concerned.
If you see content on social media or in the news regarding Huggy Wuggy or Poppy Playtime, think before you share it publicly. It may be more helpful to share a credible article with practical advice privately, e.g. through private messaging.
Use our Trusted Adult Resources to teach young people about the importance of seeking help if something worries or upset them.
If your child is having nightmares or is anxious about something they’ve watched, it’s important to have a conversation about expressing their feelings. You can use our emotions journal to help your child express complex emotions.