When you think about Nintendo’s adorable new simulation game Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a muscular man probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But that’s how Chinese gamers have been referring to it recently.

Nintendo’s latest game in the popular Animal Crossing franchise has been disappearing from online platforms, including ecommerce and video sites, without any official reason. To get around the censorship, vendors and players started using code names to refer to the game on shopping sites and social media platforms. One of the more popular names is “Macho Man Picking Up Tree Branches.”

Vendors on Alibaba sites Taobao and Xianyu, a used goods platform, have been using the Macho Man name to sell in-game items. Some creative sellers even offer paid services to help players tend their virtual gardens and islands, removing weed and watering plants.

(Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba.)

The code name has become so popular that people are even using it on microblogging site Weibo, where discussions about Animal Crossing aren’t even banned. A hashtag that includes the game’s actual name has more than 490 million views.

A search for Animal Crossing generates no result on Alibaba’s Xianyu, but in-game services can be found if you search for “Macho Man Housekeeping.” (Picture: Xianyu)

While people have been left to speculate about Animal Crossing’s disappearance from China’s internet, some gamers blame the wave of protest art made by Hong Kong gamers. Others think it has more to do with China’s strict controls on games.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons isn’t officially available in China, where Chinese authorities have only approved three Nintendo Switch games for sale. That means all the game cards people have been buying online have been brought in from other countries by scalpers looking to profit off the game’s immense popularity.

It’s not clear who coined the new code name for Animal Crossing. But one of the most circulated screenshots shows a Taobao vendor referring to the game as “Macho Man Picking Up Tree Branches” when a buyer asks about it.

Gathering tree branches is one of the most common activities players need to perform on their virtual islands. The “macho man” reference could have to do with Chinese netizens’ habit of using the name in reference to cute things online.

Nintendo’s family-friendly simulation game lets players maintain their virtual island and visit their friends’ islands. (Picture: Nintendo)

The “macho man” association with Animal Crossing might go back to Chinese memes joking about the game’s popularity. One includes the slogan, “Join Animal Crossing. Even macho men are intoxicated.” (It rhymes in Chinese.)

Some also say the name is related to fan art of the Animal Crossing character Isabelle and Doom Eternal’s protagonist Doomguy. The pair are extreme opposites who are often depicted together because both games were released on the same day.

But “macho man” has long been used on China’s internet for humorous effect on content considered cute.

A search for “macho man must see” on Bilibili, for instance, brings up many videos of cute babies and animals. On the videos, users post comments like “macho man is pleased” and “macho man is crying.”

But if you’re thinking of doing the search yourself, know that it’s not all babies and puppies. It also predictably brings up some videos of scantily clad women.