By KENDRA BURDICK
“Huggy Wuggy” started out as a character for a children’s game rated for ages eight and above, but was recently updated to 12 and older due to concerns about disturbing uses of the character online.
Melonie Aunclair, a sixth grader attending Moore Middle School, says, “It’s hard to not think about your fears when toys around you remind you of them.” (KENDRA BURDICK/ Ethic News photo)
It all began with a horror PC game released in 2021 called “Poppy Playtime.” In this game, the player is investigating an old, abandoned toy factory and the objective is to retrieve VHS tapes and survive revengeful children’s toys.
Huggy Wuggy—a large creature with wide lips that showed rows of sharp teeth and bulging black eyes with long limbs— is the most recognized character from the video game. He’s a toy that follows the player around in the dark and getting caught by him means being eaten by his sharp teeth.
When the developers realized the amount of attention the character received from players, they converted the character into a children’s plush toy.
According to the news site “Parents,” the character’s high exposure resulted in “kids [who] were offering to hug classmates and whispering vulgar things in their ears and reenacting the game on the playground.”
Another place kids can get exposed to the character is through YouTube and TikTok. Deal Parochial Primary School fears the videos aren’t getting filtered because “Huggy Wuggy” doesn’t strike them as being a bad thing due to the name.
Some TikTok features make fan art with the game’s theme song, “Free Hugs,” in the background. However, other TikToks display images like Huggy Wuggy and his sharp teeth racing towards the camera.
Common Sense Media says, “While there’s no graphic violence or gore… the horror nature of the game will likely be too scary for younger audiences.”
A recently released statement by the Dorset Police Cyber Protection Officer warns parents that children may be viewing graphic fan-made videos that are popping up on platforms such as YouTube and TikTok.
“The manipulation of child-friendly items into threatening characters exploits the sense of security a child would feel around these things,” says Common Sense Media. “They may suddenly be terrified of something that had never been a worry before. Horror games could hamper that growth by creating unnecessary anxiety and stress.”
Children are exposed to the character through YouTube and TikTok, and children that get scared from the game, videos, and toys are prone to have problems, such as anxiety.
What had started as a PC game character turned out to be a character that many children fear.