You may have seen the growing number of articles about the Huggy Wuggy character from horror survival game Poppy Playtime. Similar the Momo Challenge stories, this is usually accompanied with a scary blue character with red lips and sharp teeth and warnings about the upsetting or harmful impact on children.
However, no evidence has been reported that links back to the game itself. Rather, warnings from head teachers and Police have led to misinformation about the content of the game and potential impact on children.
Most of the panic surrounds related content created on TikTok and YouTube that features the game characters in unsettling scenarios. One of these video included a song, Free Hugs, with lyrics “Cause I could just hug you here. Forever, forever. Till you breathe your last breath.”
If you are a parent or guardian concerned about this, it’s important to understand the game before you delete it from children’s devices. Rather than a knee-jerk reaction, it’s a chance to talk to your child about the content and then make an informed decision about it with them.
Poppy Playtime Age Rating
The game itself is a scary experience designed to thrill and unsettle. It has been rated as suitable for 13 year-olds by ESRB and for 12 year-olds by PEGI. This includes descriptors for Violence, Blood from ESRB and Moderate Violence and Horror from PEGI.
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The VSC Rating Board, extend the PEGI rating by stating “this game features a sense of threat and dread throughout as the player’s character explores an abandoned factory. In one intense sequence, the player’s character is pursued by a monster, including through a series of dark air vents. In another sequence, a heavy box is dropped onto a fantasy character, causing it to fall from a height. Blood appears on some pipes that the character strikes as it falls.”
This applies to the game itself rather than any fan created content. There are also unofficial fan made versions of the game on Roblox (Poppy Playtime Morphs) which do not fall under the remit of ESRB or PEGI as they are user generated content.
Forbes Innovation00:0401:12Trust Your Gut To TikTok? Not So FastWarn ExpertsTaking care to understand the actual source of potentially upsetting content is important for parents. Not only so we can ensure that the settings on our children’s social media and video accounts are appropriately configured, but to ensure we don’t over react to what is a popular game.
The real danger is that stories about Poppy Playtime and the Huggy Wuggy character spiral out of control like the Momo Challenge. We’ve already seen reports eager to connect the scary Huggy Wuggy character to children jumping out of windows or breath holding playground games.
This leads to a muddled response to actual concerns children have. Banning a child from a game they are enjoying because of a related video makes it much less likely for them to talk to parents if something genuinely upsetting happens online.
The real danger with this panicked response is that it separates parents from the gaming world of their child. Much better, is to use rating advice and to play the game ourselves. We can then be present in the gaming world of our children and provide informed guidance.
Poppy Playtime Creator
I spoke to Zach Belanger, President and CEO of Enchanted Mob who made the Poppy Playtime game. I asked who the game was aimed at. “Poppy Playtime was not created with the intention to target any specific audience. Bear in mind that this was the first game our studio ever created, and our main priority was to create something that we would enjoy playing ourselves. Beyond that, we have a passion for any content we create to be enjoyable by audiences of all ages. To us, it isn’t accurate to say that we created Poppy Playtime to be consumed by kids or adults, but rather our goal was simply to inspire and entertain anyone who decided to play the game.”
With this in mind, I wondered if the warnings from schools had come as a surprise? “The vast majority of the controversy we are seeing regarding warnings from schools about the Huggy Wuggy character are completely untrue and/or grossly exaggerated. One of the things we’ve read online is that Huggy Wuggy whispers creepy things into one’s ear while playing, but anyone who has actually played Poppy Playtime would know that Huggy Wuggy does not even have a voice in Chapter 1, so it’s impossible for him to have whispered anything.”
“As far as we are aware, all of these warnings from schools are originating from fan made content based off of our game, but if you want my personal opinion, I do not think that any of these videos should be cause for concern, and we appreciate all the hard work and dedication our fans are put toward creating content inspired off of Poppy Playtime.”
Huggy Wuggy Song Creator
The creator of one of the more popular pieces of fan content was Igor Gordiyenko who is TryHardNinja on YouTube. He created the controversial Huggy Wuggy song that has around 5 million views.
I asked what the inspiration for the song and reason for the lyrics. “I wrote the song inspired by the story and lore of Huggy Wuggy from the game Poppy Playtime. In the game the player investigates a toy factory in which all the employees disappeared and some of the toys that used to be developed there have become sinister killer monsters. Huggy Wuggy is one of the antagonist monsters in the game. The jingle in the game and game’s soundtrack has the lyrics, ‘He’ll squeeze you ‘til you pop’. I thought it would be creative to take the original jingle which mentions hugging forever and make it into a more obvious sinister version to be truer to his new sinister persona following the event the game.”
I asked what he made of the response to the song and the warnings that were appearing in headlines. “As a father, I completely understand the concern. I didn’t intentionally make the song to scare young kids. It’s a song based on a monster from the indie horror game Poppy Playtime rated for teens and up. My video is targeted to the same audience.”
“The themes and visuals of my song and video are true to the character’s lore, actions and depiction in the game. I am not trying to make an innocent character seem scarier than they are. Much like Chucky from Child’s Play, Huggy Wuggy is and always was a horror character. My song is for fans of the source material which is not for young kids.”
I asked him what he had done to ensure that younger children didn’t have access to the video. “As a YouTube creator I have done everything in my power to make sure the video is not served to kids younger than 13. Since the moment of upload the video has been marked “Not made for kids.” Since reports of the song being served on YouTube Kids started about a month ago I have been doing my own periodical sweeps of that platform and I have never found that video or song. I understand how my video being recommended to young kids would be concerning and inappropriate, but all evidence points to the previous reports saying that it’s on YouTube Kids to being false.”
What advice would he have for parents if they were worried about children finding the song and being upset by it? “As a parent, if even after making sure I’ve done everything I could to filter out this content and it still gets through, I would sit with my child and talk to them about what they saw, their feelings and reassure them that Huggy Wuggy is a made up character that can’t hurt them.”
Keeping Children Safe
Rather than warning children about specific dangers such as Momo or Huggy Wuggy, parents and professionals can better help children by teaching them good practices online.
Fostering an atmosphere of openness and transparency about online activity ensures that children can thrive. If you do notice them switching screens on their devices when approached or new numbers or email addresses on their devices it’s worth checking in with them.
Keep video games and YouTube watching in shared family spaces. In video games, you can also set-up restrictions on friends and accessing user generate content that may include Poppy Playtime themed add ons. Also, ensure you have Restricted mode on for your child’s account this content is not available to them.
If you are looking for younger rated alternatives to Poppy Playtime there are some good options:
- Luigi’s Mansion (ESRB E FOR EVERYONE)
- Obakeidoro (ESRB E FOR EVERYONE)
- Costume Quest (ESRB E10+)
- Subnautica (ESRB E10+)