This article may lack focus or may be about more than one topic.(December 2017)
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An emote is an entry in a text-based chat client that indicates an action taking place. Unlike emoticons, they are not text art, and instead describe the action using words or images (similar to emoji). To emote is to display emotions openly, especially while acting.
Emotes were created by Shigetaka Kurita in Japan, who's original idea was to create a way of communication using pictures. Kurita would draw pictures of himself for inspiration for the emotes he created.
Nowadays emotes are a language of their own, emotes have progressed far past their original counterparts in 1999.
In most IRC chat clients, entering the command "/me" will print the user's name followed by whatever text follows. For example, if a user named Joe typed "/me jumps with joy", the client will print this as "Joe jumps with joy" in the chat window.
<Joe> Allow me to demonstrate... * Joe jumps with joy again.
In chat media which do not support the "/me" command, it is conventional to read text surrounded by asterisks as if it were emoted. For example, reading "Joe: *jumps with joy*" in a chat log would suggest that the user had intended the words to be performed rather than spoken.
In MMORPGs with visible avatars, such as EverQuest, Asheron's Call, Second Life and World of Warcraft, certain commands entered through the chat interface will print a predefined /me emote to the chat window and cause the character to animate, and in some cases produce sound effects. For example, entering "/confused" into World of Warcraft's chat interface will play an animation on the user's avatar and print "You are hopelessly confused." in the chat window.
With this being said, emotes are used primarily online in video games, and even more recently, on smartphones.