The verb to emote has been around for more than a century; backformed from emotion, it means “to express (excessive) emotion, especially in a play, film, or other entertainment.” It first appeared in print in the early years of the twentieth century, originally in the United States. What’s new(ish) is the noun emote as it’s used in online gaming, or, as the activity is now known, esports (pronounced ee-sports, not ess-ports). This emote evolved from emoticon, a blend of emotion and icon that originally (in the 1990s) referred to static combinations of keyboard characters like ;-).
Today, emotes are often animated, semi-realistic figures created with computer commands.
A do-it-yourself emote for the online game Fortnite.